Swiss research tackles global challenges

The SDC is launching a new development research programme with a long-standing partner, the SNSF. The programme supports high-level scientific research aimed at finding practical solutions to global problems. The programme makes a direct contribution to achieving the objectives of the foreign policy and international cooperation strategies.

 Dozens of coconut shells strewn on the ground.

Coconut husks are a valuable resource. A Swiss-supported project has made it possible to transform this seemingly worthless raw material into an eco-smart building material. © Keystone

Coconuts are a ubiquitous staple product in the Philippines. Coconut is one of the most important crops in the country. While coconut trees are plentiful, housing is not. The Philippines has a housing shortage estimated at several million units, mainly affecting people on low incomes.

The Cocoboard project offers a solution. Implemented as part of the r4d programme jointly undertaken by the SDC and its long-standing partner, the SNSF, the project has enabled the development and deployment of an environmentally friendly technology. Researchers from Switzerland and the Philippines have turned coconut husk waste into an economical and environmentally friendly building material that is sourced locally.

Programme launch in early 2022

Food security, health, ecosystems, employment, social conflicts: the r4d programme, of which Cocoboard is just one project, has successfully completed more than 50 projects in 50 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Developing organic fertilisers in North Africa, using mobile technologies in healthcare in Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia, harnessing thermal energy in Mongolia and improving access to the labour market in Burkina Faso and Togo are just some of the projects. The programme, which will be wound up in 2023, has successfully built on transnational partnerships and developed new knowledge. 

Building on the success of r4d, the SDC and the SNSF are jointly launching the new Solution-Oriented Research for Development Programme (SOR4D) in early 2022. Like its predecessor, SOR4D aims to set up projects in developing countries and contribute to sustainable development for the benefit of the most disadvantaged communities. But SOR4D goes further than r4d. The SDC and the SNSF seek to enhance the effectiveness, sustainability and practical application of research for development.

Transdisciplinary programme benefiting Swiss research

The SOR4D programme is specifically designed to involve the Swiss scientific community. About 80% of the SDC's research funding is targeted at the international scientific community. The SOR4D programme aims to harness and promote the great potential of Swiss public and private sector research institutions that are active in research and development.

A first call for projects will be launched in the near future. Scientific excellence and suitability for development will be a prerequisite for inclusion in SOR4D. The programme supports transdisciplinary research in which research and development actors work together from the assessment of research needs to the implementation of results. The projects will be carried out in partnership with researchers from the developing countries involved, as well as with development actors from the public and private sectors.

SOR4D will run from 2022 to 2026 with an SDC investment of approximately CHF 19 million.

Added value of research for development

The SDC has been supporting research for decades and collaborates with Swiss and international research institutions and universities. It allocates about CHF 45 million per year to research projects aimed at promoting global sustainable development and eradicating poverty.

"We can build on a long and rich experience in scientific cooperation. This is key to improving the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of the SDC's work and achieving the foreign policy objectives," says Christian Frutiger, SDC assistant director general and head of the Global Cooperation Division.

The SOR4D programme is in line with the priorities of the Swiss Foreign Policy Strategy and its commitment to integrating Swiss scientific partnerships and innovative strengths into Switzerland's foreign policy. It also contributes directly to the International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24 and the dispatch for the promotion of education, research and innovation. 

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