Science and Research – Facts and Figures

There is good reason for the dynamic research activity in Switzerland: at approximately 3.4% of GDP, only few OECD countries invest more resources in science proportionally speaking. This investment pays dividends; with 4.3 scientific papers published per 1,000 inhabitants, Switzerland has the highest publication density in the world.

Infographic showing key data on science and research in Switzerland.

  • Switzerland is one of the most dynamic countries worldwide in terms of research activity. In 2017, it invested almost 3.4% of its GDP in research and development (R&D). Switzerland is also among the countries with the highest spending on R&D in relation to GDP (ranked OECD- 4th).
  • In monetary terms, Switzerland spends over CHF 22 billion on R&D. The private sector accounts for most of the funding and execution of this work (86% and 71% respectively).
  • Switzerland produces 1.1% of all scientific papers published worldwide, putting it in 19th place in international rankings. If we consider the actual number of papers produced in proportion to the country’s population, Swiss researchers come top of the class, with an average of 4.3 publications per 1,000 inhabitants. These papers are highly acclaimed internationally: in terms of impact, Switzerland exceeds the global average of 18% and lies in third position after the United States and the United Kingdom.
  • In 2018, Switzerland had 956 patent applications per million inhabitants. No other country files more patent applications per capita than Switzerland.
  • In the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Switzerland was ranked fifth.
  • Switzerland ranked first in the 2019 Global Innovation Index, published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
  • The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is mandated by the Confederation to conduct research in all scientific disciplines, ranging from history to medicine and engineering.
  • The Swiss Innovation Agency (Innosuisse) supports applied research and the transfer of knowledge and technology. Furthermore, it fosters the creation of start-ups and assists them in their market entry. In 2019, federal subsidies totalling CHF 212 million were used to fund 485 projects.
  • Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology 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.
  • Switzerland's federal institutes of technology (ETHZ and EPFL) are positioned among the top 20 in international higher education rankings. Seven of Switzerland's twelve universities are classed among the top 200 universities worldwide.