International research collaboration is high on Switzerland’s agenda. Switzerland is involved in numerous international research organisations and research programmes and fosters bilateral research collaboration with selected priority countries. It also has its own international knowledge network, Swissnex, which promotes Switzerland’s reputation as a research nation abroad.
International Collaboration and Networks
The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, has its headquarters outside Geneva and is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. CERN’s main fields of research are theoretical physics, the fundamental structure of the universe, and the fundamental laws of nature. CERN is famous for its part in the “birth” of the internet in 1989 and for its Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator which led to the discovery of the Higgs boson.
The multinational corporation IBM has operated a major research institute just outside Zurich since 1956. Researchers from the institute were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1986 and 1987. In 2011, the IBM Research Institute, together with the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ) opened the Binnig and Rohrer Nanotechnology Centre.
The Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) leads the prestigious European research project “Human Brain Project”. Its goal is to simulate brain function in a computer with a view to achieving a greater understanding of how the human brain works. Some 135 institutions, mostly based in Europe, are involved in the project. The project cost is nearly EUR 1.2 billion.
Almost all Swiss tertiary education institutions are involved in research projects in the field of space travel. The many different projects range from astronomy to human physiology to climate research. Many different products have also been developed in this context: Structures, optical, mechanical and electronic construction groups, scientific instruments and ground equipment are just some examples. Switzerland is also a co-founding member of the European Space Agency (ESA), contributing approximately CHF 170 million per year, and is especially active in Earth observation programmes.
As regards education, research and innovation, Switzerland is officially represented abroad by embassy counsellors and science consultants from Swissnex, a network of diplomatic scientific representations. The purpose of Swissnex is to help Swiss universities, research centres and research-based start-ups expand their international activities. There are now five Swissnex knowledge outposts worldwide: Boston, San Francisco, Shanghai, Bangalore and Rio de Janeiro.