Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation
Between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe

Policy Context

Africa-EU STI policy landscape



Political responsibilities for research and higher education are divided between the federal state (Confederation) and the regional states (the Cantons).

Profile developed by: Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), Austria (data as at 2013). To submit comments and/or requests for corrections, write to 

The Confederation is responsible for direct funding of research and for the coordination of research activities, and responsibilities for research and higher education have been integrated from the 1st January 2013, into the State Secretariat for Education and Research and Innovation (SERI) under the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER).

The other departments play a very limited role, mainly through departmental research. Of the federal bodies, the most important organizational unit is the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). The SERI coordinates the whole domain, including the preparation of the four-year strategic plans (Education, Research and Innovation Message, ERI-Message), support to cantonal universities, funding of basic research through the Swiss National Science Foundation and international activities of Switzerland. Located in the same department, the ETH Board steers the ETH domain, which includes the two ETHs and four annex institutes. Also within the SERI, the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET) is responsible for professional education, the coordination of the Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS) and innovation promotion. Responsibility for Higher education is shared between Confederation and Cantons, with the latter playing a major role for cantonal universities in terms of rules and funding.

R&D Expenditure

Switzerland is a country with a very high R&D intensity. Gross domestic expenditures on R&D (GERD) was 2,87% of GDP in 2008, compared to 2% in the EU-27. Expenditures of the private sector exceeds 2% of GDP,one of the highest R&D intensities among OECD countries, while also public R&D funding is higher than European average. Switzerland rates very well with respect to human capital indicators (shares of doctoral graduates, population with tertiary education, employment in knowledge-intensive services and human resources in science and technology), several rankings on innovation point out the quality and marketability of innovation in Switzerland.


The Swiss education research and innovation policy is governed by four-year plans which describe the strategic goals of the innovation system actors (ERI-Message). The implementation of these plans generally follows a bottom-up strategy. Governmental funding is granted as either block grants or distributed in a peer-reviewed evaluation process that is administered by two independent agencies. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) funds basic research while the innovation promotion agency (KTI/CTI) promotes innovation. Hence, Swiss policy provides little thematic steering, but focuses on providing favourable framework conditions for research and innovation. This strategy has remained largely constant over the course of the last ten years, though a gradual shift towards competitive funding distribution has taken place.

Source: ERAWATCH Platform on Research and Innovation Policies and Systems

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