International Research Collaboration and Networking

International collaboration in the area of research is a major priority for Switzerland. It is involved in numerous international research organisations and programmes and engages in bilateral research cooperation with selected priority countries. The swissnex science network promotes Switzerland's international position as a centre of research.

People talking behind a glass door of a swissnex branch.
swissnex is the Swiss global network for education, research and innovation. © swissnex

Its international networking makes Switzerland one of the most attractive and successful research environments; around half of all PhD students and professors in Switzerland hail from abroad. International research cooperation is a major priority and as such is fostered by Switzerland, which is involved in numerous international research organisations and research programmes.

Groundbreaking research projects

CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) is headquartered in Geneva. It is one of the world's largest and most renowned research laboratories, performing research in fundamental physics using particle accelerators. It seeks to understand the composition of the universe and the laws that govern it. CERN is well known for its contribution to the birth of the World Wide Web in 1989 and for its Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator which led to the discovery of the Higgs boson. 

The global information technology company IBM (International Business Machines Corporation) has maintained a renowned research laboratory near Zurich since 1956. Researchers from this laboratory were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986 and 1987. In 2011, IBM Research Zurich, together with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), opened the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Center.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) leads the Human Brain Project – an ambitious European research project that aims to simulate brain activity on a computer with a view to better understanding how the brain works. Some 135 institutions, most of which are European, are involved in the project. The total cost of the project comes in at just under EUR 1.2 billion.

Almost all Swiss higher education institutions are involved in space research. The varied projects range from astronomy to human physiology and climate research. The resulting products are equally diverse, ranging from structures to optical, mechanical and electronic assemblies, scientific instruments and ground equipment. Switzerland is a founding member of the European Space Agency (ESA), contributing approximately CHF 170 million each year, and is particularly involved in Earth observation programmes.

Cutting-edge research means international networking

In education, research and innovation, Switzerland is officially represented abroad by science counsellors at Swiss embassies and swissnex – which together form part of a global network of diplomatic scientific representations. The mission of swissnex is to support Swiss universities, research institutes and research-oriented start-ups in their internationalisation efforts, and actively participate in the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent. The Swissnex representations are located in major global urban centres of innovation: San Francisco, Boston and New York, Shanghai, Bangalore, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and Osaka.