There is an increasing need for large-scale infrastructure in scientific research. Scientific advances and ongoing scientific inquiry call for more advanced technologies, more sophisticated equipment and more powerful computing centres. Whether it is high-performance computers, data banks or facilities designed to unlock the secrets of matter, research infrastructures are costly. It is therefore important for Switzerland to coordinate the construction of these infrastructures at national and international levels and, above all, to select those that are indispensable in the immediate future for cutting-edge research. This selection of new infrastructure projects is at the heart of the report entitled ‘Swiss Roadmap for Research Infrastructures’.
SERI produces the Swiss Roadmap for Research Infrastructures every four years. This report serves as a basis for preparation of the research infrastructure section of the Federal Council Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation. The next Roadmap will be published in the spring of 2023 and will therefore be used for the ERI Dispatch for 2025-2028. The 2023 edition will be the fourth time this report has been produced, following the 2011, 2015 and 2019 editions. SERI is coordinating the drafting process, which will take place in three phases.
At Swiss level, the 2023 Roadmap will present the new national infrastructure projects that Swiss cantonal universities and research institutes within the ETH Domain intend to build between 2025 and 2028. In addition, the report will include information on the status of the national infrastructure projects covered in the 2015 and 2019 editions. At international level, the 2023 Roadmap will show the international infrastructures that Switzerland is already involved in and which new participations are planned.
Process steps and timeline
The 2023 Roadmap process began in April with a preparatory phase leading to the publication of the thematic roadmaps of research communities by the Swiss Academy of Sciences (SCNAT). This stage of the process - a novelty compared to previous editions of the Swiss Roadmap - is intended to inform decision-makers (i.e. university management) of the needs of the various research communities for new research infrastructures.
In Phase 1, swissuniversities and the ETH Board will select infrastructure projects falling within their area of responsibility. The selection criteria include the innovativeness of the infrastructure, a minimum cost of CHF 5 million over four years and planning status. The selected projects will be eligible for Phase 2, in which the SNSF will conduct a scientific review of the proposed new national infrastructure projects. The review criteria are mainly project excellence and accessibility. In Phase 3, swissuniversities and the ETH Board will ensure that the projects are financially viable and can be implemented by the cantonal universities and research institutes within the ETH Domain.
Only projects that have successfully passed all three selection and review phases will appear on the Swiss Roadmap. The aim of this process is to select priority infrastructure projects. In this way, cantonal universities, which are responsible for funding and construction, can provide research communities with the research infrastructures they need.
The 2023 Roadmap process offers the possibility of federal funding of research infrastructure - a departure from the past. With this extraordinary funding, cantonal universities will be able to apply to SERI for federal subsidies if the proposed infrastructure costs are at least CHF ten million and if the project in question relates to a particularly costly area within the meaning of the Higher Education Act (HEdA). The federal subsidy will amount to a maximum of 50% of the costs over the first four years.
The Roadmap 2023 will also include an international component to examine the importance of Swiss participation in European infrastructure networks. In most cases, these infrastructures are already on the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). This means that their scientific quality has already been demonstrated. It will therefore be necessary to assess how the participation of Swiss researchers will help advance the given field in Switzerland. In the 2023 Roadmap process, the SNSF will take a stance on the importance of Swiss participation in these international infrastructures.
Strategic planning instrument
The Swiss Roadmap for Research Infrastructures does not contain funding decisions. Instead, it serves as a strategic planning instrument (for the ERI Dispatch), detailing long-term needs for national research infrastructures and the importance of Swiss participation in international infrastructure facilities and networks.
Cyrille Girardin, SERI
Scientific Advisor, National Research Section