In the Federal Council’s Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation for 2008-2011, the Swiss Confederation broadened its foreign science policy, naming eight non-EU countries with which it wished to deepen bilateral scientific relations, of which India is one. This path was confirmed in the Federal Council’s international strategy for ERI (2010) and further tangible steps were taken in the ERI Dispatches 2012 and 2013-2016. An external evaluation of the Impact of Swiss Bilateral Research Programmes in 2011 recommended that in the long term, of the countries with which Switzerland should have research and innovation cooperation, India (along with China) should have the highest priority.
Already, Indo-Swiss scientific relations had begun with the signature of an agreement between the Government of India and the government of Switzerland on technical and economic cooperation signed in New Delhi in 1966.
An agreement for scientific and technological cooperation was signed in 2003. It is implemented by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation the Swiss side, and the Department of Science and Technology on the Indian side. A Joint Steering Committee oversees the activities carried out under this agreement.
A Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the social sciences was signed in 2012. It is implemented by the University of Lausanne on the Swiss side and the Indian Council of Social Science Research on the Indian side.
The activities under the agreement mentioned above are implemented through the Indo-Swiss Joint Research Programme. The main implementing agencies for the programme are the Swiss Federal institute of Technology, Lausanne (natural and exact sciences) and the University of Lausanne (social sciences). Calls for proposals for joint research projects in the natural and exact sciences are implemented by the Swiss National Science Foundation on the Swiss side.
To date, the Swiss side has provided CHF 15M for the programme, which has been matched by the Indian side. It has funded 55 joint research projects, one public-private partnership project, 4 institutional partnership projects and 91 exchange grants, involving researchers and students from 19 Swiss and 69 Indian universities and research institutions in the fields of information and communication technologies; the life sciences; materials science and nanotechnologies; human health sciences and medical sciences; sustainable urban development and renewable energy sources.
The main activities in the cooperation in the social sciences include joint research projects; exchange of faculty and PhD scholars and lectures by distinguished scholars. To date 11 projects, 14 faculty exchanges and 6 scholar exchanges, as well as 3 seminars have taken place. The priority areas for cooperation include sustainable urban development and land use; democracy; inclusive growth, green economy, economic growth and development; public health and well-being; food security; population, ageing and migration and higher education development, science and innovation policies.
swissnex India, established in Bangalore in 2010, connects Switzerland and India in the fields of science, education, art and innovation. An initiative of the Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research and Innovation (SERI) in association with the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, swissnex India is a part of the Consulate General of Switzerland in Bangalore. The activities of swissnex India are focuses on three main pillars: academic relations, entrepreneurship and innovation and the intersection between the arts and science.
India is a priority country for the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships. These scholarships provide graduates from all fields with the opportunity to pursue doctoral or postdoctoral research in Switzerland at one of the public funded universities or recognised research institutions. To date some 240 Indian nationals have been offered a research, PhD or post doctoral scholarship.
The Swiss VET Initiative India (SVETII) was launched as a pilot project on the occasion of the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Indo-Swiss bilateral friendship treaty in 2008. It started as a public-private initiative by the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce and VET partners such as the Swiss Engineering, Electrical and Metalworking Industry Association (Swissmem), the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET), the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET) and four Swiss companies in India. The initiative reflected a specific demand of Swiss companies in India for qualified workers as well as Switzerland’s interest in positioning its vocational education and training (VET) system internationally. It aimed at transferring elements which were identified as being of systemic relevance to the Swiss vocational education and training system to India. Considered as a success, the pilot project has by now been implemented by a dozen of enterprises.