It’s the idea that counts: Spark supports original research projects

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The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is closing a gap in its research funding portfolio: its new funding scheme Spark focuses on promising or daring ideas that would otherwise fall between the cracks.

With Spark, the SNSF aims to widen the existing range of scientific methods, theories and ideas. Grant holders are able to implement original projects whose feasibility is in the balance without a long wait. "Under our new funding scheme Spark, researchers are explicitly encouraged to take risks," says Matthias Egger, President of the National Research Council of the SNSF. "Failure is an option from the start. Because even unclear or negative results add to existing knowledge."

Track record is irrelevant

The SNSF awards Spark grants solely on the basis of promising or audacious ideas. The researchers track records are not relevant, i.e. how many projects they have led or in how many scientific journals they have published. What is more, SNSF decisions on individual applications are based on anonymised reviews. The relevant experts cannot know who submitted the project applications.

By setting these parameters, the SNSF is removing obstacles to the receipt of funding, which will principally benefit young researchers. Provided their projects pursue a novel approach.

Pilot phase until 2020

Spark is a pilot project. The first call for proposals will be open from June to mid-July 2019 with a budget of 10 million Swiss francs. The pilot phase will last until 2020.