Research cooperation and collaboration


Despite the great geographic distance, scientific exchanges between Switzerland and Japan have been ongoing for more than 200 years; the first notable Swiss personality visiting Japan was a scientist, traveling with a Russian mission to Japan in 1805. Over the many years of ongoing collaborations, and thanks to new means of communication, the countries moved closer together. Japan has become the most important research partner for Switzerland in Asia and is well-respected among our researchers for its precision and reliability.

On 10 July 2007, the Swiss Federal Council and the government of Japan signed a framework agreement on technical and scientific cooperation. As stipulated in this agreement, a joint committee meets every two to three years, alternately in Switzerland and in Japan, to discuss cooperation activities and to exchange information. The last meeting took place in Switzerland in December 2014 when the two countries celebrated the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

In order to further facilitate collaborations, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has placed several Science Counselors and Science & Technology Offices within Embassies.

1. General Collaboration

Switzerland’s two funding agencies, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) are actively collaborating with their counterparts, the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) and the Japan Science & Technology Agency (JST).

2. Collaboration of Universities & Research Institutes

More than 70 agreements on research- and student-exchange exist between the Swiss and Japanese top universities and research institutes. More information on universities and studying in Japan can be found here.

Both countries furthermore collaborate through multi-lateral research projects.

  • CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research)
  • ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)
  • HFSP (Human Frontier Science Program)
  • IGBP (International Geosphere-Biosphere Program)
  • IMS (Intelligent Manufacturing System)
  • IODP (Integrated Ocean Drilling Program)
  • ISS (International Space Station)
  • ESO (European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere)
  • OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
  • UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)

3. Japanese Science Awards to Swiss Scientists

Several Swiss scientists have been awarded prestigious Japanese Prizes during the last few years; these include:

  • Blue Planet Prize 2016: Prof. Dr. Markus Borner
  • Kyoto Prize 2015: Professor Michel Mayor (University of Geneva)
  • Heinrich Rohrer Medal 2014: Prof. Jan Hugo Dil (EPFL)
  • Blue Planet Prize 2012: Dr. Mathis Wackernagel (Global Footprint Network)
  • JSPS Award for Eminent Scientists 2002: Dr. Heinrich Rohrer (IBM Research Zurich)
  • Kyoto Prize 2000: Professor Walter J. Gehring (University of Basel)
  • Kyoto Prize 1998: Professor Kurt Wüthrich (ETH Zurich)

In 2014, the Surface Society of Japan inaugurated the Heinrich Rohrer Medal, an international prize in the field of nanoscience and nanotechnology based on surface science. The prize has been established in 2013 by The Surface Science Society of Japan (SSSJ) in collaboration with IBM Research Zurich, the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan and Ms. Rohrer.