Annual report 2023

© CC BY-NC-ND / Alexander Nikolas Walzer, Fabienne Meier

1800 new research projects and 347 fellowships abroad

The SNSF selects and funds the best and most innovative projects in a competitive process. This helps to ensure the high quality of Switzerland as a centre for research. In 2023, we approved funding for around 1800 new research projects. We also decided to finance 347 fellowships abroad. 

The SNSF invested a total of 961 million francs in its regular research funding schemes. It used a further 235 million for extraordinary transitional measures due to Switzerland's continued non-association to the EU funding programme Horizon Europe. 

Learn more about our activities in 2023: 

  • Foreword by the SNSF Board

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    Creating the future  

    Prediction is a difficult thing to do, especially when it concerns the future. If this old joke were taken too seriously, no work involving foresight or preparation would ever get done. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to suppose that scientific research and funding will face increasingly rapid change over the next few years, and the SNSF needs to be ready for this. 

    Artificial intelligence, the verifiability of results and their possible misuse, climate and geopolitical challenges, interdisciplinarity, budgetary pressures, conflicts of interest –  the list of challenges to be overcome is not merely long, it is constantly changing and becoming longer. How do we prepare to meet them? By becoming even more agile while also enhancing our skills and the time and attention devoted to these themes. 

    This is why our reorganisation project Governance and Organisation 2024 (GO 2024) is so important. A new structure is taking shape based on the new Statutes approved by the Federal Council in June 2023: the Research Council will have increased strategic competencies, the new Foundation Council is leaner and more agile, and the Delegates Assembly will provide the SNSF's partners with a new body where they can contribute more effectively to the debates about optimising research funding.

    Scientific research itself involves foresight and preparation: its endeavours and findings very often respond to existing problems, while also forming a basis for solving the often unexpected crises of the future. In an era characterised by growing crises, investing in the work of researchers in Switzerland – irrespective of topic or discipline – means amassing skills and knowledge to face the threats, both known and unknown, that lie ahead. 

    Investing in science should also entail acceptable framework conditions for those who dedicate themselves to its service. The SNSF makes every effort to create such conditions, within the constraints of the financial resources and tasks allotted to it by the federal government. We are also going to collaborate more intensively with our partners and the political realm as part of a joint and collective effort to foster the research of tomorrow. 

    The pressure on public funds being experienced everywhere is also having a noticeable impact on scientific research. An increasing number of outstanding key projects cannot be funded by the SNSF, and the budgetary forecasts for education, research and innovation (ERI) in the next few years give cause for concern.  

    Yet tomorrow’s research will, more than ever, attract or create the businesses, goods and services that underpin the economic health of Switzerland, forming a vital element of its prosperity and peace. Abraham Lincoln, that great visionary whom history has so often proven right, summed it up in these words: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Let us therefore create our future instead of enduring it. 

    Jürg Stahl
    President of the Foundation Council

    Matthias Egger   
    President of the Research Council

    Angelika Kalt   
    Director

  • Research funding – key figures

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    ​Funding approved in 2023

    In 2023, the SNSF approved 961 million Swiss francs for new projects, fellowships abroad and publications (excluding Open Access journal articles) under its regular funding schemes. Of this amount, 579 million Swiss francs went to project funding that allows experienced researchers to develop their own ideas. We approved 198 million francs for the work of research groups in programmes and 138 million for early-career researchers in career funding schemes.    

    Once again, Switzerland was not associated to the EU’s research and innovation programme, Horizon Europe, in 2023. That is why the SNSF continued to implement the transitional measures for Swiss early-career researchers and established researchers, as mandated by the Swiss government. In total it approved 235 million francs for this purpose. Once more, this included the budget for the Eccellenza funding scheme.  

    During the year we evaluated 8202 funding applications and approved 2906. The lion's share of the money was used to finance approximately 1800 research projects in Switzerland. We also awarded 41 million francs for 347 fellowships that enable early-career researchers to conduct a research stay abroad. With other grants, we supported measures under the Scientific Exchanges scheme and the Open Access publication scheme for books and book chapters. In addition to the 2906 approved applications, we financed approximately 1500 Open Access journal articles with a total of 4 million francs via the portal of our partner ChronosHub.

    In 2023, 35% of the newly awarded funds went to life sciences, 32% to mathematics, natural sciences and engineering, and 26% to the humanities and social sciences. We used 7% for interdisciplinary projects under the Sinergia programme. These were the final Sinergia grants. We have now integrated the Sinergia programme into our project funding in order to combine interdisciplinary and collaborative research within our largest funding instrument.  

    The SNSF approved 709 million francs for projects at universities, 335 million for institutions in the ETH Domain, and 79 million for universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education. Additional grants and supplementary measures amounted to 16 million francs last year. They include grants for researchers with childcare duties, for example. 

    The new funds approved in 2023 will result in an overhead of approximately 130 million francs, which will be transferred directly to the higher education institutions to compensate for their indirect research costs. 

    Approved grants: Detailed key figures 2023External Link Icon

    Ongoing projects 2023

    At the end of 2023, 5697 SNSF-funded projects were ongoing. They involved 21,106 researchers from higher education institutions and other institutions, 39.7% of them women. Most projects run for several years. The share of female researchers leading a project was 32.9% This corresponds to an increase of 1.2 percentage points compared with 2022.  

    Detailed interactive key figures for 2023 and the key figures for previous years are available on our Data Portal at data.snf.chExternal Link Icon.

  • Insight into our activities

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    Research and its environment are constantly evolving. In line with its strategy, the SNSF seeks to address these changes sufficiently early and thus contribute to shaping them – with the help of its partners in the areas of training, research and innovation. That is why, in addition to evaluating grant applications and funding projects, the SNSF carried out a multitude of other tasks in 2023. We provided the impetus for a wide variety of research that strengthens our national and international networks and achieves greater public visibility. Here is a selection of the activities carried out in 2023: 

  • Bodies

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    Foundation Council

    As the SNSF's governing body, the Foundation Council ensures that the SNSF stays on mission. It supervises the activities of the bodies of the SNSF. Based on a recommendation from the National Research Council, it endorses the main pillars of the SNSF's funding policy and, in particular, the multi-year programme. The Foundation Council is responsible for approving the financial statement and the annual report. 

    42 honorary members, 45 per cent women, 55 per cent men 

    President/in

    Jürg Stahl

    Vice President

    Prof. Maria Schönbächler, representative of SCNAT

    Representatives of scientific organisations 

    Cantonal universities > Basel: Prof Torsten Schwede. Bern: Prof Daniel Candinas. Fribourg: Prof Katharina Fromm. Geneva: Prof Dominique Soldati-Favre. Lausanne: Prof Franciska Krings. Lucerne: Prof Gisela Michel. Neuchâtel: Prof Etienne Piguet. St. Gallen: Prof Thomas Markus Zellweger. Ticino: Prof Benedetto Lepori. Zurich: Prof Stefanie Walter.  

    Federal Institute of Technology > Lausanne: Prof Harald Brune. Zurich: Prof Sabine Werner. 

    Universities of Applied Sciences/Universities of Teacher Education > Prof Horst Biedermann (PH SG), Prof Maria Caiata Zufferey (SUPSI), Prof Jürg Kessler (FHGR), Prof Isabelle Mili (IUFE Geneva), Dr Christine Pirinoli (HES-SO), Prof Jean-Marc Piveteau (ZHAW), Prof Falko Schlottig (FHNW), Prof Sebastian Wörwag (BFH).  

    Academies > Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences: Prof Antonio Loprieno. SAHS: Prof Claudine Burton-Jeangros. SAMS: Prof Georges Thalmann. SATW: Prof Konstantinos Boulouchos. SCNAT: Prof Maria Schönbächler, Prof Marcel Tanner. 

    Government-appointed members 

    Prof Cesla Amarelle, Dr Gregor Haefliger (SERI, until 4.5.2023), Dr Laetitia Philippe (SERI, from 16.10.2023), Dr René Imhof (F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG), Monika Knill (Canton of Thurgau, Dept. of Education and Culture), Dr Anja Isabella König (Novartis Venture Funds), Ulrich Jakob Looser (BLR&Partners AG), Jürg Stahl (Swiss Olympic), Natascha Wey (VPOD). 

    Coopted members 

    Dr Rachel Démolis (actionuni), Dr Christophe Dessimoz (SIB), Prof Denis Duboule (University of Geneva and EPFL, free cooptation), Prof Michael Hengartner (ETH Board), Dr Erna Karrer-Rüedi (Eos Entrepreneurs Foundation), Dr Thierry Strässle (ETH Domain), Dr Pascale Vonmont (Gebert-Rüf Stiftung, free cooptation), Dr Stefanie Wyssenbach (swissuniversities). 

    Executive Committee of the Foundation Council 

    The Executive Committee prepares the agenda of the Foundation Council and directly supervises the activities of the National Research Council and the Administrative Offices. It elects the members of the Research Council and – together with the president of the Research Council – the Executive Management of the Administrative Offices. The Executive Committee also approves the service level agreement with the Swiss government. 

    15 honorary members, 53 per cent women, 47 per cent men 

    Jürg Stahl (President); Prof Maria Schönbächler (Vice President); Members: Prof Horst Biedermann, Prof Harald Brune, Prof Daniel Candinas, Prof Denis Duboule, Prof Katharina Fromm, Dr Gregor Haefliger (until 4.5.2023), Dr Laetitia Philippe (from 16.10.2023), Dr Anja Isabella König, Prof Franciska Krings, Prof Jean-Marc Piveteau, Prof Torsten Schwede, Prof Dominique Soldati-Favre, Prof Chr. Pirinoli, Prof Stefanie Walter, Prof Sabine Werner.  

    Internal Audit

    T+R AG, Gümligen BE.

    Compliance Committee

    Prof Franciska Krings (President); Prof em. Walter Reith, Prof Dominik Hangartner, Dr Rita Pikó, Ingrid Petersson.

    National Research Council

    The National Research Council is the scientific body of the SNSF. It is responsible for evaluating grant applications and making funding decisions. The eight-member Presiding Board heads the Research Council and monitors the quality of funding decisions. It advises on science policy issues and develops the SNSF's funding policy. 

    92 honorary members, 38 per cent women, 62 per cent men

    President

    Prof. Matthias Egger

    Presiding Board > Prof Matthias Egger. President Division I: Prof Laura Bernardi, Deputy of NRC President. President Division II: Dr Bernd Gotsmann. President Division III: Prof Matthias Peter. President Division IV: Prof Dimos Poulikakos. President Specialised Committee Careers: Prof Gabriele Rippl (until 30.6.2023), Prof Stuart Lane (from 1.7.2023). President Specialised Committee International Cooperation: Prof Anna Fontcuberta i Morral. President Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research: Prof Andreas Mayer. 

    Division I: Humanities and Social Sciences > Prof Laura Bernardi (President); Prof Peter Auer (Vice President); Prof Roberto Caldara, Prof Véronique Dasen, Prof Paulo de Assis, Prof Julia Eckert, Prof Christiana Fountoulakis, Prof Julia Gelshorn, Prof Daniel Gredig, Prof Madeleine Herren-Oesch, Prof Ben Jann, Prof Wassilis Kassis, Prof Thomas Keil, Prof Simona Pekarek Doehler, Prof Gabriele Rippl, Prof Dominic Rohner, Prof Frank Schimmelfennig, Prof Konrad Schmid, Prof Martin Spann, Prof Danièle Tosato-Rigo, Prof Birgit Watzke, Prof Markus Wild (until 31.12.2023). 

    Division II: Mathematics, Natural and Engineering Sciences > Dr Bernd Gotsmann (President);  Prof Donna Testerman (Vice President); Prof Rémi Abgrall, Prof Natalie Banerji, Prof Jeffrey Bode, Dr Marc Bohner, Prof Joachim Buhmann, Prof Philippe Cudré-Mauroux, Prof Manfred Fiebig, Prof Karl Gademann, Prof Fabrizio Grandoni, Prof Ravit Helled, Prof Anne-Marie Kermarrec, Prof Frédéric Merkt (until 30.9.2023), Prof Jean-François Molinari, Prof Daniela Rubatto, Prof Bettina Schaefli, Prof Stefan Schmalholz, Prof Olivier Schneider, Prof Adrian Signer, Prof Vera Slaveykova-Startcheva, Prof Thomas Südmeyer. 

    Division III: Biology and Medicine > Prof Matthias Peter (President); Prof Claudia Kühni (Vice President); Prof Anne Angelillo-Scherrer, Prof Mohamed Bentires-Alj, Prof Melanie Blokesch, Prof Kirsten Bomblies, Prof Mirjam Christ-Crain, Prof Roberto Coppari, Prof Bart Deplancke, Prof Dominique De Quervain, Prof Olivier Devuyst, Prof Laurent Excoffier, Prof Thomas Flatt, Prof Michel Gilliet, Prof Monica Gotta, Prof Fritjof Helmchen, Prof Christoph Hess, Prof Anthony Holtmaat, Prof Brenda Renata Kwak, Prof Kaspar Locher, Prof Oliver Mühlemann, Prof Adrian Franz Ochsenbein, Prof John Richard Pannell, Prof Carlo Rivolta, Prof Federica Sallusto, Prof Peter Scheiffele, Prof Isabelle Schmitt-Opitz, Prof Margitta Seeck, Prof Matthias Stuber, Prof Verdon Taylor.  

    Division IV: Programmes > Prof Dimos Poulikakos (President); Prof Nikola Biller-Andorno (Vice President, until 31.12.2023); Prof Anastasia Ailamaki, Prof Uschi Backes-Gellner, Prof Manfred Max Bergman, Prof Dominik Brühwiler, Prof Annalisa Buffa, Prof Mira Burri, Prof Eleni Chatzi, Prof Anna Fontcuberta i Morral, Prof Gudela Grote, Prof Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Prof Denis Jabaudon, Prof Stuart Lane, Prof Martin Lengwiler, Prof Andreas Mayer, Prof Bert Müller, Prof Henning Müller, Prof Nicolas Rodondi, Prof Rainer Wallny.  

    Specialised Committee Careers > Prof Gabriele Rippl (President until 30.6.2023, Vice President from 1.7.2023); Prof Stuart Lane (Vice President until 30.6.2023, President from 1.7.2023); Prof Anne Angelillo-Scherrer, Prof Julia Gelshorn, Prof Monica Gotta, Prof Ben Jann, Prof Christian Matter, Prof Federica Sallusto (until 31.12.2023), Prof Jess Snedeker, Prof Donna Testerman.

    Specialised Committee International Cooperation > Prof Anna Fontcuberta i Morral (President); Prof Madeleine Herren-Oesch (Vice President); Prof Manfred Max Bergman, Prof Véronique Dasen, Prof Michel Gilliet (until 30.4.2023), Prof Brenda Renata Kwak, Prof Carlo Rivolta (from 1.5.2023), Prof Daniela Rubatto, Prof Thomas Südmeyer. 

    Specialised Committee Interdisciplinary Research > Prof Andreas Mayer (President); Prof Rainer Wallny (Vice President); Prof Roberto Caldara, Prof Olivier Devuyst, Prof Anthony Holtmaat, Prof Frédéric Merkt (until 30.9.2023), Prof Vera Slaveykova-Startcheva, Prof Markus Wild (from 1.1.2023).  

    Gender Equality Commission > Prof Michèle Amacker (President); Prof Yvonne Benschop, Prof Sébastien Chauvin, Prof Michelle Cottier, Prof Stephen Curry, Dr Jasmine Lorenzini, Prof Ruth Müller. 

    Research Integrity Commission > Prof Nadja Capus (President); Prof Bart Deplancke, Prof Olivier Devuyst, Dr Claudia Ellenrieder (from 1.4.2023), Milva Franceschi, Dr Sarah Glaser, Prof Gudela Grote, Danielle Jeanneret (until 31.3.2023), Dr Ladina Knapp, Sophie Kohli (from 1.4.2023), Dr Daniel Krämer (from 1.6.2023), Prof. Stuart Lane, Dr François Lavergne (from 9.6.2023), Dr Vanja Michel (until 31.5.2023), Prof Jean-François Molinari, Eva Moser (until 31.5.2023), Dr Margot Mütsch (from 1.6.2023), Dr Barbara Schellenberg (until 31.3.2023), Dr Amalia Sofia, Dr Cornelia Sommer, Prof Thomas Südmeyer, Dr David Svarin, Prof Danièle Tosato-Rigo. 

    Further information

    107 evaluation panels, consisting of about 1180 honorary members in all, lay the groundwork for the Research Council's decisions. 

    As at 31.12.2023

    Administrative Offices

    The Administrative Offices support and coordinate the activities of the Foundation Council and the Research Council. They are responsible for all administrative matters as well as for the SNSF's national and international networking activities and communication. The implementation of the selection procedures is its core task. 

    359 employees (306 full-time positions), 61% women, 39% men

    Executive Management > Director, Chief Executive: Dr Angelika Kalt. Chief Finance, Infrastructure and Services Officer (CFO): Céline Liechti. Chief Information Officer (CIO): Sébastien Stampfli. Chief Operations Officer (COO): Dr Thomas Werder Schläpfer. Chief Research Development Officer (CDO): Dr Laetitia Philippe (until 30.9.2023).  

    Heads of Staff Divisions > Human Resources: Karim Errassas. Communication: Christophe Giovannini. Strategy: Dr Katrin Milzow. Legal Department: Dr Kaspar Sutter. Management Support: Dr Anna Brandenburg.  

    Heads reporting to CFO > Finance: Andreas Kilchenmann. Facility Management: Yves Flohimont. 

    Heads reporting to CIO > IT Research Funding Services: Laurence Krpoun-Meylan. IT Management & Administration Services: Dr Frank Neidhöfer. IT Enterprise Business Services: Dr Frank Neidhöfer. IT Client, Platform & Core Security Services: Michael Sägesser. IT Service Desk: Bruno Tanner. IT Information & Collaboration Services: Peter Tomasini-Monjoe. 

    Heads reporting to COO > Projects: Dr Simona Berardi Vilei. Grant Management: Dr Michael Hill. International Cooperation: Dr Laure Ognois. Careers: Dr Marc Zbinden.  

    Heads reporting to CDO > Long-term Research: Dr Jean-Luc Barras. Thematic Research: Dr Pierre Willa. Gender Equality in Research Funding: Dr Jasmine Lorenzini. 

    As at 31 December 2023

  • Financial statement

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  • Outlook

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    In the coming years we will continue to implement our strategy for 2021–2028, which is based on four strategic priorities: “We promote diversity in research”, “We shape the future of research”, “We convey the value of research” and “We strengthen the competence of the SNSF”. Our primary tasks for 2024 are the following: 

    Promoting diversity in research 

    The SNSF has made many changes to its evaluation processes in recent years. In 2024 it intends to examine some of these innovations, such as the standardised CV and the unified evaluation process. Furthermore, it will continue to consider how to promote use-inspired research and fund careers in the universities of applied sciences and universities of teacher education, taking account of the results from the evaluation of the Practice-to-Science funding scheme.  

    The SNSF will also continue to organise and develop training courses for members of its evaluation panels. Meanwhile, the PRIMA leadership programme will run once again. This enables women researchers holding a PRIMA or Eccellenza grant or an SNSF Starting Grant to participate in various workshops and networking and coaching events.  

    Shaping the future of research  

    In the Open Science domain, the SNSF is continuing to promote Open Access to publications and Open Research Data (ORD). As of February 2024, the SNSF has ceased funding Open Access articles in special issues. The growing number of special issues and their internal processes encourage the culture of “publish or perish”, which is contrary to the SNSF’s funding policy and values. Angelika Kalt, the Director of the SNSF, became President of the ORD Strategy Council in 2024. This organisation’s mission is to develop a common vision for the future ORD landscape in Switzerland.  

    Furthermore, the SNSF wishes to see research results applied faster and more widely in all parts of society. To this end, it launched the Implementation Networks programme in 2022 and chose four projects in 2023. If this pilot phase is a success, the programme will continue to run for the next few years. In 2024 the SNSF is also organising the annual meeting of the Global Research Council in Switzerland, in cooperation with its Ivorian counterpart FONSTI. The Global Research Council is composed of the heads of research funding agencies from around the world. It aims to ensure high-quality, efficient collaboration among its members and promote the sharing of data and best practices.

    As in previous years, supporting the next generation of researchers continues to be an important priority for the SNSF. Against the backdrop of the political debate on the working conditions experienced by young researchers, the SNSF has studied the situation and worked out possible measures. At the end of 2023, the Research Council Presiding Board held in-depth discussions on how to use career and project funding schemes to support the up-and-coming generation.    

    Conveying the value of research

    The SNSF applies this strategic priority through schemes such as Agora as well as a variety of science communication activities, including press releases and the Horizons magazine. The public consultation on the ERI Dispatch 2025-2028 underlined the importance of communicating comprehensibly and convincingly about why basic research, and the SNSF itself, matter. In 2023 the SNSF therefore intensified its efforts in this direction, conducting a more systematic analysis of the content and outcomes of the research it funds. This work will continue in 2024, and the SNSF will also step up its discussions with politicians.  

    Moreover, in collaboration with the Research on Research Institute, the SNSF is contributing to the international knowledge base about research funding. The aim of this work is to boost the use of research results and support the development of the funding portfolio. 

    Strengthening the competence of the SNSF

    In order to prepare itself as fully as possible for the challenges ahead and continue to carry out its tasks efficiently, the SNSF is undergoing a reorganisation known as the GO2024 project. The SNSF’s new Statutes have been in force since 1 January 2024, and the newly elected, smaller Foundation Council has now commenced work. During the course of the year, the Delegates Assembly – a new body representing the interests of researchers and scientific organisations – will be set up, and the Regulations of the Foundation Council and the Research Council will be adopted.

    Meanwhile, the new SNSF Portal will host further schemes and processes. The current system, mySNF, will continue to operate in parallel for several more years.

    Working towards Switzerland rejoining Horizon Europe? 

    In 2023 the SNSF continued to implement a number of transitional measures owing to Switzerland's non-association to the Horizon Europe framework programme. The Federal Council also adopted the draft mandate for negotiating with the EU. If these negotiations get underway in 2024, researchers in Switzerland will be able to participate in the ERC Advanced Grant (AdG) 2024 call. This transitional arrangement will apply to all Horizon Europe calls from the 2025 programming year onwards, provided that a corresponding agreement between Switzerland and the EU has been signed by then. If the present non-association status persists, the federal government plans to continue the transitional measures for researchers from Switzerland.  

    Federal contributions until 2024

    According to the current planning for 2021-2024, the SNSF will receive CHF 4,615 million from the federal government over this period, subject to changes in the federal government’s annual budget decisions and possible additional contributions. This amount does not include the transitional and complementary measures for Horizon Europe. The contributions take account of the extraordinary increase in 2023 (CHF 50 million) and the reductions in the 2021-2024 planning contributions in 2023 and 2024.  

    in CHF million

    2021

    2022

    2023

    2024

    2021-2024

    Projects, careers, programmes, infrastructures, science communication, service provision

    988.8

    998.8

    1'067,2

    1'042,1

    4'096,9

    Indirect costs of research institutions (overhead) and supplementary tasks

    119,0

    135,1

    144,1

    141,4

    539,9

    Total

    1'107,8

    1,133.9

    1,211.2

    1'183,5

    4'636,4