Swiss spend almost CHF23 billion on research

A helium balloon, carrying a case with various measuring instruments, in Sembrancher, southwest Switzerland, in January 2021. It is part of an experiment to measure the composition of the air above it in order to better understand the phenomena of pollution accumulation in an alpine valley in winter. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Switzerland spent CHF22.9 billion ($25.5 billion) on research and development in 2019. At 3.15% of GDP, this is above the OECD average of 2.38%.

This content was published on May 27, 2021 - 13:13

Switzerland is currently ranked sixth in the 38-member OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) saidExternal link on Thursday. It is at a similar level to Germany and Austria, behind Israel (4.94% of GDP), South Korea and Sweden, and well ahead of France (2.19%).

In 2019, research and development received CHF1.8 billion more funding than in the previous FSO survey in 2017. This increase represents 4.3% per year between 2017 and 2019, compared with 1.2% per year between 2015 and 2017.

At the same time, research as a share of GDP rose slightly, from 3.03% to 3.15%.


At CHF15.5 billion, the private sector accounts for more than two-thirds (68%) of total research and development spending. Higher education institutions make up a large part of the remaining CHF6.6 billion.

Part of the research carried out in Switzerland is also financed by funding from abroad. In 2019, this amounted to CHF1.4 billion, mainly from private companies.

At the same time, Swiss money finances research abroad, amounting to CHF7.6 billion in 2019. A large part of this (CHF6.8 billion) comes from private companies and is mainly destined for companies in the same group. The remainder is contributed by the government to international programmes and projects, such as those of the European Space Agency.

Staff numbers

The number of people working in research in Switzerland has increased along with the money available. In 2019, the number of full-time equivalents was 8.4% higher than in 2017. The proportion of female researchers remained stable at around 36%.

The 133,000 people employed in research and development in Switzerland accounted for just under 86,000 full-time jobs in 2019, 56% of whom are researchers.

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