National Research Programmes (NRPs)
As an instrument of the Swiss Confederation, NRPs provide a mantle for coordinated research projects that pursue a common goal. Their objective is to gain actionable, bottom-up knowledge that can be used to solve current problems facing society, policymakers and the business community. Calls for proposals are published inviting suggestions for topics. The Federal Administration makes a selection and mandates the SNSF to carry out the research programmes.
Selection of NRPs
Periodically (approximately every 2 to 3 years), interested parties can submit proposals for new research programme topics to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). The SERI drafts programme proposals on the basis of these submissions and then commissions the SNSF to conduct feasibility studies. Based on the findings of these studies, the SNSF goes on to prepare the calls for proposals. At the request of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), the Federal Council judges the merits of these calls for proposals, defines the budgets and commissions the SNSF to implement the NRPs.
The Programmes division of the National Research Council is responsible for conducting the feasibility study. The main aim of the study is to determine:
- whether research can deliver a relevant, practice-based contribution to solving the problem in question;
- the research capacities that are available in Switzerland or would need to be developed in Switzerland;
- whether the topic is already being researched at national or international level;
- whether an NRP is a suitable instrument overall for addressing the relevant topic;
- the approximate budget and timeframe required for the NRP in view of the specific questions being investigated.
Call for proposals
If the findings of the feasibility study are positive, the Programmes division will prepare the call for proposals for the suggested programme. The division will consult external specialists and, for instance, also hold hearings for stakeholders.
Once the call for proposals has been approved by the Federal Council, it will be published in the electronic media.
All higher education institutions and universities of applied sciences as well as all Swiss research centres of relevance for the NRP are informed about the call.
As a rule, NRP projects are selected by a two-stage process comprising submission and evaluation: In an initial stage, research groups are invited to submit brief project outlines (approx. 5 pages) providing the evaluation board with the envisaged “bricks” to build a coherent programme. The two main evaluation criteria are the scientific quality of the projects and how well they fit the programme objectives.
In a second stage, detailed research applications (approx. 20 pages) are submitted. Following a meticulous scientific evaluation involving experts from outside Switzerland, the applications will be submitted to the Research Council for approval or rejection.