Science and Research

Switzerland's above-average expenditure on science and research pays off: the country has the world's highest per capita number of scientific publications and patent applications. High educational standards, excellent infrastructure and stable legal and political conditions all combine to create an environment conducive to world-class research.

Clear skies over the ETH Zurich main building.
ETH Zurich is ranked among the top 20 universities in the world by various higher education league tables. © ETH Zürich

Switzerland attaches great importance to science and research, providing more funding as a percentage of GDP than the majority of OECD countries. This is not the only reason why world-class research has taken hold so deeply in Switzerland. Excellent international networking, high educational standards, stable political and legal conditions, outstanding infrastructure and societal appreciation make this possible.

The appealing and successful Swiss science and research landscape attracts researchers from all over the world: around half of all doctoral students and professors come from abroad. Many of the universities based in Switzerland are ranked quite high, internationally. Yet most research and development does not take place at public institutions, but rather at private companies.

Switzerland's outstanding international academic networking is indispensable for its top-notch research landscape. The country is home to pioneering international research projects, including CERN. It also plays a prominent role in applied technology development research.

Facts and figures on science and research in Switzerland

  • Switzerland is among the countries with the world's most dynamic research activity. Swiss funding for research and development amounted to around 3.4% of GDP in 2021. Such spending levels place it among the countries with the highest such percentages. In the OECD, it comes in at 6th place in this regard.
  • As a sum, Switzerland spends around CHF 24.6 billion on R&D. Private companies finance (73%) and conduct (53%) the largest share.
  • Switzerland's share of the global volume of scholarly publications is around 1%. Per capita, Switzerland is one of the world's most prolific countries, with a 2018–22 average of 8.8 publications per 1,000 inhabitants.
  • Academic publications from Switzerland are highly regarded internationally: their impact is well above the global average. In the period from 2018 to 2022, Switzerland came in third on the global ranking list of all scholarly publications – after the UK and the Netherlands.
  • In the IMD World Talent Ranking and the INSEAD Global Talent Competitiveness Index, Switzerland regularly takes first place.
  • In an OECD comparison of registered patent families, Switzerland, as a small country, performs modestly. Yet in terms of patent applications per million inhabitants, Switzerland is the world's most active country: in 2020, it had 155 patent families, just ahead of Japan.
  • In the 2023 Global Innovation Index, published by Cornell University, the INSEAD business school and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Switzerland has come in first each year for over ten years.
  • The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) promotes research in all scientific disciplines, from history and medicine to engineering, on behalf of the Swiss Confederation.
  • The Swiss Innovation Agency Innosuisse supports applied research, knowledge- and technology-transfer and the founding of start-ups. In 2022, 374 innovation projects entailing collaboration between universities and companies were approved with federal government funding of CHF 181.4 million.
  • Thanks to their achievements in the natural sciences, the two federal institutes of technology (ETH Zurich and EPFL) have earned an excellent reputation worldwide. The involvement of researchers and lecturers from outside Switzerland has a long tradition at both institutes: around 60% of the teaching staff come from abroad.
  • The federal institutes of technology are among the top 20 in international university rankings, and seven out of the twelve Swiss universities are among the world's 200 best universities.

Science and Research – Organisation and Funding

Marketable innovations as well as fundamental research – the private and public sectors divide science and research among themselves.

International Research Collaboration and Networking

Research at the highest level: CERN, with its Large Hadron Collider, and the ambitious Human Brain Project are two outstanding examples.