BRIDGE Discovery: Turning research into applications for the economy and society

© gettyimages

The Discovery projects completed to date under the BRIDGE funding programme have all made good progress towards potential applications: this is the conclusion reached by an external evaluation commissioned by the SNSF and Innosuisse.

Innosuisse and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) have been collaborating on the BRIDGE programme since 2017. The programme bridges the gap between basic research and applied research and subsequent implementation in society and/or on the market. It supports researchers in rapidly transforming their findings into products or services. The programme consists of the two funding lines Proof of Concept (PoC) and Discovery. Proof of Concept is aimed at young researchers, while Discovery is aimed at experienced researchers across all disciplines.

Now the SNSF and Innosuise have had the Discovery scheme evaluated by the research institute KMU Forschung Austria in Vienna. The aim of the study was to analyse the results and impact of 13 Discovery projects that had been completed by mid-2023. The projects lasted 3.7 years on average and were each supported through funding amounting to around 1 million Swiss francs.

The evaluation concludes that all projects have taken significant steps towards potential applications thanks to the public funding they received. Almost all completed projects are being continued. Without the funding, most of the evaluated projects would not have been carried out at all – or only on a much smaller scale.

However, due to the complexity of the research projects, the expectation is that the first economic effects will not be seen until two to five years after the project is completed.

Different methods of implementation

According to the evaluation, three basic paths - or a combination thereof - are recognisable in the implementation of the projects. They lead to different implementation and utilisation options: the projects either result in the establishment of a spin-off derived directly from the research, the implementation takes place via an existing industrial partner, or the technology is licensed out.

Successful knowledge transfer is crucial in BRIDGE Discovery projects. According to the study, it is particularly beneficial if the project team is aware of the different expectations of researchers and industry and takes both perspectives into account. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary project management skills and entrepreneurial expertise are also necessary for successful knowledge transfer.

No substantial changes necessary

The BRIDGE Discovery scheme meets expectations in relation to the funding objectives. The scheme is clearly positioned between the two funding portfolios of the SNSF and Innosuisse. According to the study, there is no need to make any substantial changes to the offer in the coming funding period. There is room for improvement in the communication of the programme with regard to more specific funding objectives, the offer of supportive accompanying measures, and the time between project submission and decision.

The results confirm that the programme meets a need of researchers and bridges a gap between basic research and science-based innovation. BRIDGE is an important strategic instrument in the collaboration between Innosuisse and the SNSF.