Environmental research

In dealing with environmental policy tasks, it is essential to be able to draw on the results of an adequate body of research. The FOEN is responsible for making available an action- and practice-oriented basis for environmental policy decisions. As the FOEN has no research facilities of its own, it cooperates closely with external specialists, awarding research contracts to the Federal Institutes of Technology, cantonal universities, universities of applied sciences, research institutes and private-sector organizations.

Mandate and objectives

The FOEN's environmental research forms an essential basis for efficient and effective environmental and resource policy. It provides the principles on which measures can be taken, and is designed to enable new environmental problems to be identified early, to develop innovative environmentally and resouce-friendly technologies, and to demonstrate the opportunities and risks of new technologies. The FOEN has a research budget of approx. CHF 15 million per year.

Research as a federal task

A sound scientific basis is indispensable for federal government activities. Research sponsored by the Federal Administration for this purpose comes under the heading of "targeted" research. The legal basis is provided by Art. 16 of the Research and Innovation Promotion Act (RIPA, SR 420.1; in French/German/Italian).

Environmental research is specifically mandated by the Environmental Protection Act (Art. 49 Para. 2). In other Acts and Ordinances, there are specific research responsibilities mentioned (e.g. legislation on water protection, nature and cultural heritage protection, forests, hydrological engineering).

Basic principles of federal departmental research

For planning purposes, departmental research is divided into research sectors, which can embrace the areas of competence of various federal agencies. The "Environment" research sector is one of a total of 11 policy areas in which research programmes are periodically drawn up. The FOEN is in charge of the elaboration of the Research Master Plan ENVIRONMENT. 

The principal responsibility for departmental research on environmental issues lies with the FOEN. Key contributions to departmental research on environmental issues are also made by, for example:

  • the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH),
  • the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG),
  • the Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), and
  • MeteoSwiss.
  • The Federal Office for Spatial Development (ARE)

Objectives of FOEN environmental research (departmental research)

  • to create the basis for effective and efficient environmental and resource policy
  • to develop practical proposals for solving environmental problems and implementing policy measures
  • to enable the early identification of environmental problems
  • to integrate environmental concerns into other policy areas
  • to evaluate the opportunities and risks of new technologies

Funding of research and development

The FOEN has no research facilities of its own. The resources available to the Office for environmental research purposes are used to fund research contracted out to universities, Federal Institutes of Technology, research institutes and the private sector, and to support important third-party research studies and projects (e.g. specific projects from the National Research Programmes and National Centres of Competence in Research run by the Swiss National Science Foundation). 

The FOEN has a budget of approx. CHF 15 million per year for initiating and controlling priority environmental research projects.

All research and development contracts are recorded in the ARAMIS research database.

Scientific advisory group

Consulting group of the FOEN for Environmental Research (OFU/ORE)

The OFU/ORE is an important environmental research partner for the FOEN. This consulting group was established by the FOEN in 2007 to support and promote environmental research. The OFU/ORE serves as a platform for the exchange of information between researchers, funding bodies and those interested in the results of the research. It also advises the FOEN on drawing up and implementing the Master Plan for Research.

Consulting group of the FOEN for Environmental Research (OFU/ORE) – Composition (PDF, 140 kB, 09.03.2023)The group is chaired by Martine Rebetez, Professor at the University of Neuchâtel and WSL.

Mandate of the OFU/ORE (in German) (PDF, 147 kB, 15.03.2013)The work of the OFU/ORE is based on a mandate from the FOEN.

Further information

Last modification 28.12.2023

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