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Policy background

Research in Switzerland is regulated by the Law on Research dated October 1983 and other regulations specific to an area of science in the country and its regions (Cantons). The current national research strategy in Switzerland is set out in the Federal Act on the Promotion of Research and Innovation (RIPA). The general purpose of this document is to:

  • Encourage science-based research
  • Support the analysis and exploitation of research results
  • Ensure the cooperation between research bodies
  • Ensure the economic and effective use of federal funding for scientific research

Transport research in Switzerland is based on the national research policy and transport research policy and planning documents.

Institutional framework of transport research

Political responsibilities for research and higher education are divided between the central state (Confederation) and the regional authorities (the Cantons). The Confederation is responsible for direct funding of research and for coordinating research activities, while responsibility for higher education is shared by the Confederation and Cantons. Federal research policy is designed and implemented by the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) while government agency research is designed and implemented by the 'Steering Committee'. The Swiss National Science Foundation is the key funding institution for research. The Swiss Science Council (SSC) is the main advisory body to the national government on education, research and innovation.

Transport policy is conceived and developed by the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication (DETEC). Various offices in the Department detail the policy including:

Authorities and specialised agencies also contribute to developing transport policy and are important in transport research. These are:

  • Service for Public Transport Accident Investigation
  • Railways Arbitration Commission.

Transport research can be funded in several ways:

  • through the general research framework;
  • through dedicated transport research programmes;
  • international funds;
  • financing from the private sector.

The two main funding agencies are the Swiss National Science Foundation, which supports fundamental research, and the Swiss Innovation Agency, which promotes innovation. The National Science Foundation is a private foundation funded by the Confederation through the State Secretariat for Education and Research. The Innovation Promotion Agency is under the Federal Department of Economic Affairs. Research is funded through the National Research Programmes, where topics are selected through a bottom-up process. Interested groups can submit proposals for new research projects to the State Secretariat for Education and Research, and the Federal Council decides which topics and programmes to fund.

All projects funded by the Federal Administration are part of the national ARAMIS information system.

Funding Sources and Support Initiatives - Current ongoing national programmes:

  • BRIDGE: A joint programme conducted by the SNSF and Innovation Agency that offers new funding opportunities for researchers who wish to develop an application or service based on their results
  • National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs): NCCRs are established researchers in Switzerland who wish to pursue a long-term research project on a theme of strategic importance
  • Sinergia: A programme that promotes the interdisciplinary collaboration of two to four research groups that propose breakthrough research
  • Spark: The aim of Spark is to fund the rapid testing or development of new scientific approaches, methods, theories, standards, ideas for applications etc.

International research and cooperation programmes and partnerships of the European Union that are relevant to Switzerland are:

  • r4d programme: A programme aimed at researchers in Switzerland and in developing and emerging countries who wish to execute a joint research project on global issues
  • SPIRIT: A programme that facilitates knowledge exchange between Swiss researchers and researchers in selected countries that are receiving development assistance
  • European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST)
  • European Research Area cooperation Networks (ERA-Nets)


(Last updated: 01/09/2023)