Implementation Networks: first four projects selected

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Making research results more accessible and usable for society are the objectives of Implementation Networks. The SNSF launched a pilot call in August 2022 to test this new scheme, resulting in the financing of four projects.

Drawing on the knowledge produced in SNSF projects, Implementation Networks will guarantee the maintenance of existing communities and networks and act as a catalyst for the development of new ones. "The networks aim to stimulate cooperation and exchange between diverse actors and communities, thereby contributing to intensifying and speeding up the application of research results in the public sector, politics, the economy and society at large," says Pierre Willa, Head of Thematic Research at the SNSF. They should also contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, which depend on such collaboration.

36 proposals evaluated

In August 2022, the SNSF launched the pilot call for a new funding scheme that supports such networks. The call was open exclusively to existing and former research projects funded in the context of the r4d programme or a National Research Programme (NRP). The aim was to test the new scheme with researchers involved in applied projects and programmes that already include some sort of implementation or valorisation through links with other stakeholders. An independent review panel, composed of experts from science and practice, reflecting the transdisciplinary character of the scheme, evaluated the proposals.

A total of 36 proposals from a large variety of disciplines were submitted. The SNSF selected four projects for funding. The budgets amount to 450,000 francs per project for a duration of three years. Two projects have an international focus: the first plans to contribute to the consolidation of an emerging international network aiming for an agroecological transition of the food systems in West Africa. The second project wants to bring to the level of international governance a trading system that supports sustainable food systems and equitable outcomes. The two other funded projects establish national networks. One works towards the implementation of animal health concepts associated with lower antimicrobial use and greater wellbeing among veal calves on Swiss farms. The other plans to test the ability and applicability of a specific group of biologicals to promote plant growth and agricultural sustainability.

Better definition needed

Overall, the first pilot call of the implementation networks can be considered a success. It raised strong interest within the community of contacted and eligible researchers. "The idea of the pilot call was to test this new scheme in view of developing it and refining it further," explains Pierre Willa. "The principal lesson learned is that the networks need to be better defined from the outset and the specifics of the scheme need to be clearer." The large variety of proposals submitted demonstrate that there are different interpretations of what an implementation network is and how it should benefit society.

These networks offer great potential for strengthening interactions between researchers and non-scientific actors, thereby contributing to the implementation potential of research. As the SNSF states in its Multi-Year Programme 2025-2028, the new funding scheme will be continued if the pilot testing is successful. “We now intend to develop it with a view to future calls,” says Pierre Willa.