Switzerland among the global elite for research activities

In 2021, a total of just under 25 billion Swiss francs was invested in research and development in Switzerland. As measured by gross domestic product, at a global level Switzerland therefore ranks behind Israel, South Korea and the USA in terms of the intensity of its spending on research and development activities.

In Switzerland, almost 25 billion Swiss francs were invested in research and development in 2021.
In Switzerland, almost 25 billion Swiss francs were invested in research and development in 2021. Image credit: ETH Zurich/Gian Marco Castelberg

In 2021, Switzerland spent a total of 24.6 billion Swiss francs on research and development (R&D) activities, further details of which can be found in a press release issued by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). In comparison with the last survey in 2019, experts from the FSO have observed investment growth of +4 percent in this area.

Measured against Gross Domestic Product (GDP), spending on R&D in 2021 amounted to 3.4 percent. With this level of R&D intensity, Switzerland ranks fourth in a global comparison behind Israel (5.6 percent), South Korea (4.9 percent) and the USA (3.5 percent). This new peak value for R&D intensity also underlines “the importance of R&D activities for Switzerland”, as the FSO writes in the press release.

Universities and private companies together account for 96 percent of research activities overall. In terms of funds spent, the private sector takes top spot at 16.8 billion. In 2021, universities spent around 6.9 billion Swiss francs on R&D activities. The Swiss federal government and the cantons contributed 6.6 billion Swiss francs, which mainly went to the universities.

Nearly 140,000 people were involved in the research undertakings during the reporting year. The majority of researchers are employed by universities, while slightly more than one third of research jobs were occupied by women in 2021. However, this share has hardly changed since the last survey in 2019. 

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