In order to meet global challenges, Switzerland pursues an active foreign policy, focusing in particular on science, research, education and innovation. The FDFA works to ensure that Switzerland is recognised as a centre of excellence in these fields and is able to put its strengths to good use. To this end, it promotes programmes that facilitate collaboration between Swiss and foreign researchers.
Multilateral cooperation in research
States generally lack the resources to carry out the largest research projects on their own. They therefore often work together on large-scale projects. Switzerland participates in numerous international science programmes and is a member of key intergovernmental organisations active in research and technological development. The best-known of these is CERN (the European Laboratory for Particle Physics) in Geneva.
Switzerland's participation in European Research Framework Programmes
International scientific exchanges are critically important for Swiss higher education institutions and the nation's innovative capacity. Since 2017, Switzerland has participated as a fully associated state in the EU's Horizon 2020 programme.
Bilateral cooperation in research
Swiss universities and research institutes collaborate with partner institutes worldwide. Scientists and institutes pursuing similar objectives often decide to work together.
Switzerland has established bilateral partnerships and launched specific programmes to promote scientific cooperation with selected priority countries and regions. The FDFA supports the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) in the management of the network of science attachés and Swissnex outposts. This innovative network monitors science policy in targeted countries and promotes scientific exchanges with them.
Science diplomacy serves Switzerland's foreign policy interests. International scientific cooperation promotes international, multilateral and bilateral relations. Because science is neutral and apolitical, it can help strengthen relations between states. The FDFA is careful to take available scientific evidence into account in its diplomatic activities, particularly at the multilateral level.
Against this backdrop, the FDFA also supports platform projects aimed at strengthening International Geneva and facilitates collaboration between researchers, international organisations, civil society and the private sector, for example through the Science Policy Interface Geneva which was launched in 2018.
Polar research – a field in which Switzerland is a leader – requires close cooperation among scientists. The work carried out by polar scientists contributes to our understanding of developments in the North and South Poles and the role played by the Arctic and Antarctic regions in the global climate. The FDFA represents Switzerland at the political level in various Arctic forums and ensures Switzerland's participation in the Arctic Council, in which it has had observer status since 2017.
Every year, Swiss embassies invite qualified candidates to apply for scholarships from the Federal Commission for Scholarships for Foreign Students (FCS). These scholarships can be used for research internships and doctoral or post-doctoral research at Swiss universities, federal institutes of technology and universities of applied sciences. In a number of countries, the FCS also offers arts scholarships for master's programmes at Swiss universities of applied sciences.
Research in the context of development cooperation
As part of its development cooperation activities, Switzerland also promotes research and innovation in developing countries and countries in transition, either bilaterally or multilaterally.