On February 26, 2020, the Swiss Federal Council adopted the Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) for the period 2021-2024 for the attention of Parliament. It is requesting almost CHF 28 billion over the next four years. The aim is to ensure that Switzerland remains an international leader in the field of education, research and innovation. One of the main challenges is digital transformation.
ERI policy for the period 2021-2024 is coordinated with the Federal Council’s objectives for the 2019-2023 legislative period. The starting point is the objective stating that ‘Switzerland remains a leader in education, research and innovation and harnesses the opportunities offered by digitalisation’.
The Federal Council’s priorities as set out in the ERI Dispatch for 2021-2024 are as follows:
- Vocational and Professional Education and Training VPET: The federal government, working in conjunction with the cantons and industry, supports the practical training of skilled workers. It encourages innovative projects that prepare the VPET domain for digital transformation and lifelong learning. To maximise the potential of workers in Switzerland, and particularly older workers, targeted measures such as careers assessment and advice for people over the age of 40, and the consistent recognition of prior learning, will be implemented and financed.
- Continuing Education and Training CET: the federal government, together with the cantons, promotes adult basic skills courses, particularly in the fields of languages, information and communication technology, and numeracy. It also provides direct support to CET programmes that help people in work to keep pace with fundamental changes in the world of work and technological change.
- Digital transformation: the federal government’s ERI policy supports actors in coping with and shaping digital change in all areas. The federal government will continue the efforts already initiated in the Action Plan on Digital Transformation to improve digital skills in the field of ERI and will intensify coordination between the federal government and the cantons to achieve this. It will also support the development of ‘digital skills’ and research capacity in strategic areas (artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0, cybersecurity).
- Higher education: the federal government calls on the institutions of the ETH Domain to play a leading role as drivers of innovation through excellence in teaching and research and knowledge transfer. It supports the cantonal universities and universities of applied science in the fields of teaching and research, in training young staff, in honing their profiles and coordinating particularly cost-intensive areas through the Swiss Conference of Higher Education Institutions.
- Promotion of research and innovation: the federal government, together with the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF and Innosuisse, funds efficient promotion agencies committed to competition. The SNSF focuses on free basic research and promoting the careers of young scientists, while Innosuisse concentrates on application-oriented research from the fields of science and industry.
- ERI policy contributes towards long-term development and equal opportunities in all fields. In so doing, it also contributes towards implementing the 2030 Agenda and thus supports preparatory work on the 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy.
The Federal Council is requesting around CHF 2 billion more in funding for the 2021-2024 period compared to the 2017-2020 funding period. This corresponds to an average annual increase of 2.2 per cent based on current inflation projections.
The level of funding and the requested budget allocation reflect the Federal Council’s priorities. A solid basic financing of ERI institutions will continue to be ensured while observing legal benchmarks and expenditure commitments. The statutory benchmark of 25 per cent federal participation in vocational and professional education and training is exceeded every year. The federal government’s basic contribution to the cantonal universities are based on the reference costs set by the Swiss Conference of Higher Education Institutions and meet the legally defined share of the costs.
Funding requests for participation in EU programmes, particularly in the field of research and innovation (Horizon Europe among others) are not included in the ERI Dispatch 2021-2024, as neither the scope, nor the conditions for participation are known at the present time. The Federal Council is nevertheless seeking to secure a complete picture of all ERI resources. It is therefore requesting that a portion of the funds be blocked until the conditions for participation are known. Should the increase in the budget contained in the ERI Dispatch, combined with the cost of participating in EU programmes in the field of ERI, exceed 3 % annually, the increase in the ERI Dispatch would be limited to 1.7 % annually. If that is not the case, the Federal Council may lift the credit block.
The Federal Council submits a Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation to Parliament every four years. The dispatch takes stock of the current funding period (2017-2020) and sets out the aims, measures and finances for the next funding period.