Funding and Implementation Regulations
The Funding and the Implementation Regulations provide the legal basis for all funding schemes of the SNSF. In their revised form (FR2016 and IR2016), they have been in force since 1 January 2016.
Rules that apply to all funding schemes and procedures are governed by the Funding Regulations of the SNSF. They are based directly on the Federal Research and Innovation Promotion Act (RIPA).
The Implementation Regulations contain detailed provisions that set out how the principles stipulated in the Funding Regulations are implemented for all funding schemes. Since 2 October 2019, new provisions regulating the employment of staff have been in force.
1a) What do the Funding Regulations and the Implementation Regulations regulate?
Principles and rules that apply to all funding schemes and procedures are governed by the Funding Regulations of the SNSF, which are based directly on the Federal Research and Innovation Promotion Act (RIPA). The Implementation Regulations contain more detailed provisions which also apply to all funding schemes and explain how the rules set out in the Funding Regulations are implemented. Provisions that are specific to individual schemes are governed by special regulations and call documents, such as, for instance, the Project Funding Regulations or the Sinergia Regulations.
1b) Which regulations has the SNSF revised and when will the new regulations enter into force?
The fully revised Funding Regulations of the SNSF entered into force on 1 January 2016. They have been brought into line with the also fully revised Federal Research and Innovation Promotion Act (RIPA). In parallel to the Funding Regulations, the SNSF also revised the General implementation regulations for the Funding Regulations, which also entered into force on 1 January 2016. Please take note of the following points with regard to the application of the new Regulations:
- Project funding will be governed chiefly by the old Funding Regulations (FR2007) and the old Implementation Regulations (IR2015) until 1 October 2016. Details and exceptions are set out in the FAQs published on the web page describing the changes in project funding.
- Sinergia is being re-positioned and new regulations will be issued also for this funding scheme in time for the next call of 1 June 2016. The new Sinergia Regulations will be based on FR2016 and IR2016 apply to.
- There will be a transition phase in which some of the changes will not yet be reflected in the SNSF's systems, hence older versions of the forms and regulations will apply to proposals under evaluation and ongoing grants. It is therefore stipulated in the transitional provisions (Clause 13.2 IR) that a number of changes will only enter into force in the course of 2016.
1c) Which rules will apply during the transition phase?
The following rules apply during the transition phase:
- The SNSF will apply the new provisions only to pending procedures and ongoing grants if they do not disadvantage the researchers.
- If rights assigned to grantees on approval of funding are not in accordance with the new Regulations, these rights will nonetheless remain in force.
- When submitting your application, please take note of the links in mySNF to the specific requirements for the chosen funding scheme and the help texts.
1d) Which changes are not applicable as yet?
Up to now (May 2016), the following changes have not yet been implemented and will not be applicable for the time being:
- Grants enabling researchers to complete their research projects (Clause 4.2, existing rules apply to supplementary grants in accordance with the texts in mySNF)
- New agreement with grant administration offices and written agreement for projects without any official grant administration office (Clause 5.1)
- Changes with regard to requests for the reimbursement of additional personnel costs (Clause 6.4)
- Modified employee categories (Clause 7.2)
Until September 2016, changes to the requirements for applicants (chapter 1) will apply only if the new rules are or have been expressly referenced in the relevant call documents and mySNF help texts.
Costs are regarded as eligible and may be claimed in applications once they are officially mentioned as eligible costs in the forms on mySNF. Eligible costs not considered for the grants because they could not be claimed in the application forms for the relevant proposals may nonetheless be debited to the grants as of 1 January 2016, provided the grant as a whole is not exceeded. The SNSF does not, however, reimburse such costs as additional costs.
2a) Do I have to be employed at a research institution in Switzerland in order to be eligible to submit a proposal to the SNSF?
Not necessarily, although it is generally the case. Written assurance of employment at a research institution in Switzerland is enough. Subject to certain conditions, researchers working abroad or at institutions with international sponsors may submit a proposal. Self-employed researchers are also eligible (see FAQs 2 and 3)
2b) Do I have to be employed for the entire duration of my research project?
Yes, unless you are self-employed, or you have a tenure track position, e.g. a temporary assistant professorship. In such cases, the SNSF may approve grants that last longer than the period of employment.
2c) In what form do I have to provide confirmation of my employment status?
Applicants generally confirm their employment status at a research institution based in Switzerland or closely associated with Switzerland in the form of a self-declaration. For certain funding schemes, the SNSF may ask for specific documents that confirm the applicant's employment status. If only an assurance of employment has been given, or if the employment relationship has not yet started, written confirmation or the employment contract will generally need to be submitted.
2d) Do I need to have a minimum FTE or work-time percentage as a researcher in order to be eligible to submit a proposal to the SNSF?
Yes, the research work, along with any academic teaching activities, must correspond to at least 50% FTE (being employed as a visiting lecturer is not regarded as an employment relationship and is therefore not counted). Researchers devoting less than 50% of their time to science are eligible to submit an application if their scientific research and teaching activities are normally carried out as part of another professional activity (this applies in particular to clinicians as well as employees at museums and archives).
2e) Are self-employed researchers eligible to apply for funding to the SNSF?
Self-employed researchers who earn an income through their research work are eligible if they can provide written evidence that their research activities are their main source of income and correspond to at least 50% FTE. The research work must be carried out in Switzerland or closely associated with Switzerland. This is the case if the research work and corresponding income are subject to Swiss law.
2f) Are retired persons eligible to apply for funding?
In principle, eligibility to submit applications to the SNSF ends with the conferral of emeritus status or with retirement. However, an exception can be made if the retired person or person with emeritus status is employed by a research institution at a minimum of 50% FTE (Article 10 of the Funding Regulations).
3a) Which research institutions does the SNSF recognise?
The SNSF policy in this regard is consistent with the Research and Innovation Promotion Act (RIPA): it recognises, in particular, cantonal universities and federal institutes of technology (ETHs), universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education; further accredited higher education institutions and other institutions of the higher education sector; the research institutions of national importance supported by the Confederation as well as, under certain conditions, the federal administration and non-commercial research institutions outside the higher education sector. The latter must not pursue any commercial goals and their research quality and standards must be comparable to those of higher education institutions. Institutions with international sponsors are eligible if the institution has its registered office in Switzerland and its basic financing is mainly Swiss, or if the applicant is employed at a legally independent Swiss branch of an institution that has its registered office abroad.
3b) Can I apply for funding to the SNSF if I am employed at a research institution abroad?
If all of the research work or parts of it are conducted abroad, researchers are eligible to apply provided they are employed at a minimum of 50% FTE by a Swiss institution under Swiss law for the duration of the proposed research project. In addition, the research project must be administered in Switzerland and the applicant must have a Swiss delivery address. The relevant institutions abroad must not pursue any commercial purposes and must carry out their research work independently.
4a) Eligibility to apply depends on the date of the doctoral degree, but precisely which date is meant?
If the date on which the doctoral degree was obtained is relevant for eligibility, the date of the viva voce or the date on which the doctoral thesis was officially accepted will be the crucial date.
4b) Can I apply to the SNSF even if I don't have a doctorate?
In principle, you can. At least three years working as a researcher as your main source of income after graduating from a higher education institution may be deemed comparable to a doctoral degree.
4c) If eligibility to apply is linked to a specific time period - for example, number of years after obtaining one's doctorate - is it possible to extend this period?
The SNSF may extend this period by at the most one year on request if applicants are able to cite good reasons this. The following reasons are accepted: maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave; work incapacity due to illness or accident; care duties; services for the general public, particularly military or civilian service; continuing education, particularly internships, clinical work and mandatory participation in a doctoral school before starting one's dissertation.
5a) What is the difference between an applicant and a project partner?
Applicants are responsible for the proposed project and the grant (if awarded) in scientific and administrative terms and they make a substantial contribution to the project. It was they who came up with the research idea and the research plan was developed by them; they are also entitled to include the grant in their CV as one of their scientific achievements. They are also responsible for organising and staffing the project, personnel management, outcomes and output.
Project partners make an important scientific or methodological contribution the project. However, they are not responsible for the research proposal in scientific or administrative terms and may not refer to the grant as their own accomplishment.
5b) Can I submit an application to the SNSF if I am already working as an employee in an SNSF-funded project?
Not during the same period of time. For the SNSF, an applicant is a person conducing independent research who applies for a grant to finance his or her own research ideas. Project employees, however, are not scientifically independent, rather they work on a research project that was devised by another person. These two roles are incompatible, therefore the SNSF does not consider applications that would result in a person having them in parallel. If you fulfill all requirements, you can apply for a project grant of your own if the start date is after your period of employment in another researcher's project. However, you may apply for a career grant that starts prior to the end of your employment in a project if you terminate your employee status before starting your own grant (should it be approved).
6a) What do I need to consider when preparing the budget for my research project?
You need to include a realistic budget in your research proposal in order to cover the project costs, which should be subdivided according to the pre-defined budget items. Only costs that are eligible for the relevant funding scheme may be claimed and only costs that are project-specific. The cost estimates must always be proportionate and economical.
6b) Which costs are eligible?
Costs for personnel, social security contributions, materials, use of infrastructures, open access publications, conferences and workshops, collaborations, career measures and gender equality measures. The SNSF may limit the range of eligible costs in individual funding schemes.
6c) When does the SNSF reduce the budget of an approved application?
Costs that are not eligible are deleted by the SNSF and costs (or cost components) that cannot be justified or are out of proportion are reduced. Budgets may also be reduced due to thematic overlaps with other grants or relative to the quality of the proposal. These cutbacks can take the form of an overall deduction or of cuts to specific budget items.
6d) What do I have to pay attention to when using the awarded budget?
If the application is approved, the SNSF generally awards a total amount for the research project (total budget). Grantees are obliged to use the total budget to achieve the objectives set out in the approved research plan. Transfers between budget items are possible and do not require any authorisation from the SNSF as long as the grant as a whole is not exceeded. Significant changes to the budget or to the use of financial resources in the course of the research project need to be approved by the SNSF, however.
6e) Do the eligible costs also include the salaries of the applicants?
The applicants' own salaries are generally included under eligible costs only in the career funding schemes. The specific provisions governing these funding schemes apply in this regard.
6f) Which costs incurred by project partners are eligible?
The cost of services provided for the research project by project partners may be charged to the grant in accordance with the SNSF rules for eligible costs. The salaries of the project partners and their employees, however, are not eligible for funding.
6g) Are the costs of computing time and cloud computing eligible?
Yes, and costs for data acquisition or access to data are also eligible. However, the costs must have been incurred specifically for services provided in the context of the approved research project. Any general expenses for servicing or maintaining infrastructure are not included.
6h) Are data storage and access (open data) costs eligible?
On the effective date of the Implementation Regulations, the principles governing the eligibility of costs for storing data collected or generated in the context of SNSF grants and for making it available in recognised scientific data repositories (open data) of the Funding Regulations are still in preparation. The SNSF intends to issue the relevant provisions in time for the 2017-2020 ERI period.
6i) Which infrastructure costs are eligible?
Only direct costs for the use of infrastructures linked to the execution of the funded project are eligible. This does not include general expenses for the servicing and maintenance of the infrastructures.
6j) Are travel costs and expenses in connection with conferences and workshops eligible?
Organisation and travel costs for conducting conferences and workshops that are in line with the objectives of the SNSF-funded research project are eligible. Upon request, the SNSF may also award grants to cover the costs of conferences that are not conducted in the context of an SNSF-funded project (independent conference grants, Annex 3 of the Implementation Regulations).
6k) Are the costs of research collaborations with third parties eligible?
The costs of research collaborations with third parties, e.g. researchers with a thematically similar project, can be charged to the grant if they are directly linked with the research project. The collaboration should be proportionate to the size of the research project and conducted by researchers employed in the project. Specific personnel, research and travel costs are eligible. Personnel costs outside the scope of the SNSF project and for non-scientific staff are not eligible, however.
6l) Where can I find provisions on supplementary costs that may be eligible for, e.g., a gender equality grant or a grant for career measures?
These provisions are included in the relevant Annexes of the Implementation Regulations: "120% support grants" in Annex 4, mobility grants for doctoral students in SNSF projects in Annex 5, "Research time for clinicians" in Annex 6, the "Gender equality grant" in Annex 7 and "Grants for exemption from teaching duties" in Annex 8.
7a) I would like to conduct my research project together with applicants working abroad. How should I proceed?
If the partner abroad does not bear any responsibility for the project or make a substantial contribution, you can claim collaboration costs for your project or assign project partner status to your partner abroad. If the partner abroad is supposed to be co-responsible for the project or if you developed the research idea together with them, there are two options for cross-border collaboration - Money follows Co-operation Line and the Lead Agency process. Please refer to the special SNSF web pages devoted to these topics.
7b) I will be starting in a new job abroad before I can complete my ongoing project. What will happen with my SNSF project?
When you move abroad, your project can be transferred to the same place, provided you continue to meet the eligibility requirements for applicants. What is more, your project can still be administered in Switzerland. You need to apply to the SNSF for both of these measures.
8a) In order to conduct my research project successfully, I need the right staff. Which staff categories does the SNSF recognise?
The following employee categories are recognised by the SNSF:
- Doctoral students
- Other employees who make a specific contribution to the research project; these include employees with a degree who do not intend to do a doctorate; employees with a doctorate who are not included in the postdoc category due to their period of employment and time window; technicians; auxiliary staff. No career measures may be requested for employees.
8b) For how long can I employ staff members in my research project?
The maximum period of employment funded by the SNSF is:
- four years for doctoral students
- five years for postdocs
The relevant start date for calculating this period is:
- For doctoral students, the day of registration for doctoral studies
- For postdocs the date of the viva voce or of the official acceptance of the thesis
8c) Can the relevant start date be adjusted when calculating the maximum employment duration?
On request, the relevant start date can be postponed by at the most one year for calculation of the employment duration if one or more of the following reasons apply:
- Maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave;
- Inability to work due to illness or accident;
- Care duties;
- Services for the general public, particularly military or civilian service;
- Continuing education, particularly internships, clinical work;
- Compulsory participation in a doctoral school before starting work on the doctoral thesis
8d) Can a temporary position in industry or the private sector be a reason to adjust the start date for calculation of the maximum employment period?
If the position in question includes aspects of continuing education and boosts the person’s academic career, it is possible to postpone the start date for calculation of the employment period by at the most one year in accordance with the item "Continuing education, particularly internships, clinical activity" mentioned under 8c.)
8e) Can the maximum employment duration be extended?
If delays occur during an ongoing employment relationship due to the reasons set out 8c, the time window for the maximum employment duration may be extended by at the most one year upon request.
8f) Is there any rule with regard to the number of FTEs that employees in an SNSF-funded project need to work?
For doctoral students a minimum work-time percentage of 60% FTE is compulsory: this "protected time" is to be devoted exclusively to the doctoral thesis. If the doctoral student is employed at a higher percentage than the protected time of 60%, he/she may devote no more than an additional 20% to other tasks within the institute. No restrictions apply to the other employees in this regard. However, applicants are expected to employ postdocs at 100% FTE should this be requested by the postdoc. Postdocs funded by the SNSF may devote no more than 20% FTE to tasks within the institution that do not directly affect their scientific qualifications.
8g) Is there a maximum funding period and can it be extended?
The maximum grant duration is four years. If required, the SNSF can at the grantee's request extend the grant by at the most one year so that it covers a period of continued salary payments in case of maternity, adoption, illness, accident, military service or other services.