Science and Research in Switzerland – Facts and Figures

Switzerland is not only one of the world’s most innovative research nations, but also one of the most competitive.

Rolex Learning Center of the EPF Lausanne
The Rolex Learning Center at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne was opened in 2010. It contains one of the most important collection of scientific works in Europe. © EPFL

  • Switzerland is one of the most dynamic countries worldwide in terms of research activity. Switzerland invests close to 3% of its GDP in research and development (R&D). It is also among the countries with the highest spending on R&D in relation to GDP (8th in the OECD rankings).

  • In monetary terms, Switzerland spends CHF 18.5 billion on R&D. The private sector accounts for most of the funding and execution of this work (61% and 69% respectively).

  • Swiss researchers produce roughly 1.2% of all scientific papers published worldwide, putting it in 17th place in international rankings. If we consider the actual number of papers produced in proportion to the country’s population, Switzerland comes top of the class, with an average of 3.9 publications per 1,000 inhabitants. These papers are highly acclaimed internationally: in terms of impact, Switzerland exceeds the global average of 17% and takes third position after the United States and the Netherlands.

  • In 2016, there were 892 patent applications per million inhabitants filed by Switzerland with the European Patent Office (EPO).

  • In the 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Switzerland was ranked first for the eighth time running.

  • Switzerland ranks first in the Global Innovation Index 2016, published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

  • The Federal Council has tasked the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) with conducting research in all scientific disciplines, ranging from history to medicine and engineering. The Swiss Innovation Agency, Innosuisse (formerly the Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation) supports applied research, the creation and long-term market entry of start-ups, and knowledge and technology transfer. In 2017, federal subsidies totalling CHF 132.1 million were used to fund 414 projects.

  • Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology (ETH Zurich and EPFL) are renowned worldwide for their cutting-edge scientific output. They also have a long tradition of attracting foreign researchers and lecturers, with over 60% of teaching staff in both institutes hailing from outside Switzerland.

  • ETH Zurich came 8th in the 2016 QS World University Rankings.