1. Overview of the R&I system
In terms of the R&I system, Switzerland is characterized by a high level of R&D spending, mostly due to private investments from large companies in the pharmaceutical and mechanical sector, which largely exceeds the EU-28 average and has been remarkably stable in the previous two decades. Per capita R&D spending is nearly four times the EU-28 average. In terms of innovation performance, Switzerland ranks as the most innovative country in Europe in the European Union Innovation Scoreboard. Switzerland performs well above the EU average for all dimensions and for most indicators, in particular in three indicators: International scientific co-publications, Public-private co-publications and License and patent revenues from abroad.
Research policy in a strict sense is currently a task of the central State, while the role of cantons in the direct funding of R&D is very limited. Governance of higher education is shared via a complex division of tasks between cantons and the federal level; the same pertains to innovation support, where applied R&D and support for technological development are mostly managed by the central State, while support for economic development is mostly a cantonal competence (also since fiscal policy is mostly undertaken at the cantonal level).
The Swiss R&I system can be characterized by a clear distinction of functions, structures and funding flows between the public and the private sector, following the traditional liberal orientation of the Swiss economic policy. At the same time, cooperation between the public and the private sector is strong in terms of publications (more than three times the European average), informal transfer and mobility of human resources. The public sector is oriented towards basic research and dominated by higher education institutions (HEIs), some of them being among the top-rated international research universities. Its organization is linked to the federal political organization of the country, where cantons have (almost) exclusive competences on policy domains like schooling, police, justice, and healthcare and raise their own taxes.