• Monday, December 16, 2019 @ 12:00 am

The head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, announced the launch of six new National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) at a press conference in Bern on 16 December. The NCCRs are intended to boost Swiss research and innovation long term in major fields such as automation, antibiotics resistance and quantum technology. The Confederation is investing around CHF 100 million in the new NCCRs during their first phase of operation from 2020 to 2023. Further funding will be provided by higher education institutions and the private sector.

The NCCRs are being established at the universities of Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Zurich and at the federal institutes of technology EPF Lausanne und ETH Zurich, with the long-term support of the institutions’ respective management boards. Besides these home institutions, numerous other higher education institutions and research institutions, including some abroad, are involved in the NCCRs.

The fifth series of National Centres of Competence in Research is the result of a call launched by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) in 2017, which attracted over 50 proposals. Following a scientific evaluation by the SNSF and a technical evaluation by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, the EAER selected six proposals to be launched as the new NCCRs. Besides their academic quality and their potential to create broad-based structures in basic research, these NCCRs have considerable potential to contribute to innovation and digital transformation, thereby addressing one of the measures in the EAER’s digital transformation action plan.

The newly established National Centres of Competence in Research are:

  • AntiResist: Research into and development of new approaches to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
    Prof. Christoph Dehio, University of Basel
    Federal funding 2020–2023: CHF 17m
  • Dependable Ubiquitous Automation: Improving the reliability and flexibility of intelligent systems, for example in the fields of energy management, mobility and industrial manufacturing
    Prof. John Lygeros and Prof. Gabriela Hug ETH Zurich
    Federal funding 2020–2023: CHF 15.7m
  • Evolving Language: Researching the evolution of language. Application of results in e.g. medicine and language recognition (artificial intelligence).
    Prof. Balthasar Bickel, University of Zurich, and Prof. Anne-Lise Giraud, University of Geneva
    Federal funding 2020–2023: CHF 17m
  • Microbiomes: Researching the interaction of microorganisms and their impact in different systems (humans, animals, plants and the environment) – application potential in medicine, environment and nutrition.
    Prof. Jan Roelof van der Meer, University of Lausanne, and Prof. Julia Vorholt, ETH Zurich
    Federal funding 2020–2023: CHF 16.1m
  • SPIN: Developing small silicon-based, rapid and scalable qubits as the basis for a new information-processing technology.
    Prof. Richard Warburton, University of Basel
    Federal funding 2020–2023: CHF 17m
  • Suchcat: Developing the bases on which chemical processes and products, and the chemical industry as a whole, can be shaped in a more sustainable, resource-efficient and CO2-neutral way (sustainable chemistry).
    Prof. Javier Pérez-Ramírez, ETH Zurich, and Prof. Jérôme Waser, EPF Lausanne
    Federal funding 2020–2023: CHF 17m

The National Centres of Competence in Research, the first of which were set up in 2001, are federally funded research networks of excellence with a particular focus on interdisciplinary approaches, but also on ground-breaking innovative topics in individual disciplines. The first two NCCR series have been successfully concluded. A total of 22 NCCRs will be running from 2020 (Series 3 to 5). Each NCCR receives federal funding for a maximum of 12 years.

As is established practice, the Swiss National Science Foundation regularly reviews the progress of individual NCCRs with the assistance of experts from abroad. The overall assessment is positive: National Centres of Competence in Research generate new findings and lead to the sustainable renewal of research structures at higher education institutions. They improve the way in which work is shared and coordinated between the national research institutions. They also help to foster the careers of young academics, promote equal opportunities and encourage knowledge and technology transfer.

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