In the past, federal policy on scientific cooperation was strongly geared towards Europe and North America. Since 2008 the Federal Council has added a new component to this policy, with a strategic concentration on non-European countries with strong potential for scientific and technological development.
During the 2017–2020 period, the Federal Council will continue to give high priority to international cooperation with foreign partners in the fields of science and innovation. In doing so, the government will employ three main instruments: bilateral programmes, pilot activities and the swissnex Network.
During the 2013–2016 period, nearly 500 joint research projects were funded in bilateral programmes with researchers from the BRICS countries, Japan and South Korea. Switzerland was able to increase its visibility abroad as a leading nation in the field of ERI, and facilitated cooperation with strategically important countries beyond Europe’s borders. The focus was placed on scientific excellence, common needs and shared funding of research activities adhering to Switzerland’s international ERI strategy, adopted by the Federal Council in 2010.
During the same period, regions which show very promising development potential according to the criteria of this international strategy were explored, and individual pilot projects were funded. The leading house model – in which Swiss higher education institutions manage the programmes – proved once again to be a particularly useful and effective way of establishing valuable contacts and of experimenting with new instruments in research cooperation. Around a hundred pilot activities with new countries and regions received support between 2013 and 2016, as did projects financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation under its mandate to develop bilateral activities, notably with Argentina and South East Asia.
Objectives for 2017–2020
Bilateral cooperation programmes with the BRICS countries, Japan and South Korea will continue to receive support during the 2017–2020 period, operating on the same principles. Periodically the SNSF will launch calls for joint research projects in agreement with partner organisations in these countries (link). Scientific relations with countries explored during the previous ERI period are still at an early stage, and these will be developed where there is added value for Switzerland.
In agreement with swissuniversities, six leading houses have been appointed to manage the bilateral programmes:
- North Africa and Middle East: University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland (HES-SO)
- Sub-Saharan Africa: Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) in collaboration with the University of Basel
- Latin America: University of St Gallen (HSG)
- East and South East Asia: ETH Zurich
- Russia and CIS: University of Geneva
- Indian sub-continent and Iran: Zürcher Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften (ZHAW)
These institutions have been commissioned by SERI to act as leading house, with the following strategic objectives:
- Contribute to the development of scientific cooperation between Switzerland and high-potential countries in the designated region by developing cooperation instruments which meet the interests of the Swiss scientific community;
- Promote knowledge among Swiss researchers of the high-potential countries in the designated region by sharing contacts and expertise from the designated region with Swiss ERI players;
- Ensure that the interests of the Swiss scientific community are represented among potential foreign partners in the designated region.
CHF 14.35 million has been earmarked for all the bilateral programmes managed by the Leading Houses in the 2017–2020 period.