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Swiss see investment in science as key to staying competitive

This device enables scientists to probe the molecular structure of living organisms

(Schweizer Nationalfonds)

The government is hoping to give Switzerland an edge over its international competitors by funding long-term research into gene technology, quantum physics and climate change.

The interior minister, Ruth Dreifuss, said on Monday that SFr126 million ($75 million) had been set aside to develop Swiss know-how in a number of fields.

Ten projects were chosen out of 229 put forward. As well as government funding, each project will be allocated a research centre and linked to a network of researchers in similar fields.

Dreifuss said the successful projects were chosen because of their innovative nature and the fact that they had applications across a number of scientific fields. Each project will receive about SFr12 million, and will be based at one of the country's leading universities.

The successful projects will focus on computer surgery, cancer, rehabilitation of the nervous system, gene activity, molecular biology, nanotechnology, quantum mechanics, electronic materials, plant protection and climate change.

Among the projects which failed to win support were those focusing on public health services, cardiology and the effects of globalisation on government.

Charles Kleiber, the head of the government's science and research department, said he regretted the fact that some excellent projects had to be turned down because there wasn't enough money to go round.

He explained that the projects chosen were all long-term and high-risk, and for that reason could only be funded by the state.

But he said the state was not trying to take over the role of the pharmaceutical multinationals in funding research. He added that two-thirds of all research in Switzerland was privately funded, and this situation was likely to continue.

swissinfo with agencies

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