13. Switzerland

Switzerland has been involved in European space activities since the 1960s. As a founding member of the European Space Agency (ESA) and a participating state in the European Space Council, the country has a strong position in research and innovation in several domains, e.g. space science and scientific instruments. The country further hosts the Group on Earth Observations and signed an agreement in 2022 to host ESA’s European Space Deep-Tech Innovation Centre.

In 2022, the institutional space budget in Switzerland amounted to USD 288 million (CHF 276 million), following a 1.5% yearly increase since 2015 in real terms (Figure 13.1). This growth mainly reflects increasing contributions to the European Union programme for satellite navigation (EGNOS/Galileo). The budget is otherwise mainly centred on allocations to European Space Agency, which accounted for 68% of the overall budget in 2022. Key ESA programme posts in 2022 were telecommunications, earth observation, and the development of science experiments (PRODEX). Overall, the institutional space budget accounted for 0.036% of the Swiss gross domestic product in 2022.

Switzerland published a new space policy in 2023, defining three strategic priorities: securing access to Europe’s space infrastructure; ensuring competitiveness and relevance of the Swiss space industry; and promoting partnership and reliability in international co-operation. Switzerland is furthermore working on its first Space Act, with the aim to adopt practical and sustainable measures for space sector players and promote the responsible, peaceful, and sustainable use of outer space.

The Swiss space sector, which employs around 1 500 workers, has links to the aerospace and mechanics industries and produces subsystems for satellites and launchers (e.g. atomic clocks and fairings). Business firms are mainly located near universities or economic centres, such as Bern, Zürich, and French-speaking cantons (Geneva, Lausanne). A Swiss firm was awarded ESA’s first service contract to remove debris from the low-earth orbit, with the launch planned in 2026. Another notable initiative includes the Space Sustainable Rating project, initiated in 2016 by the World Economic Forum and currently hosted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, which assesses the sustainable conduct of space operators (e.g. data sharing, choice of orbit, etc.).

In terms of patent applications, a proxy for innovation activity and capabilities, Switzerland accounted for 0.4% of space-related applications worldwide in the period 2016-20, a notable decrease compared with 2006-10, as shown in Figure 13.2.

OECD indicators for scientific output and excellence (Table 13.2), OECD indicators for scientific production, international co-authorships and citations in space-related scientific journal categories (aerospace engineering; astronomy; atmospheric science; and space and planetary science), show that authors at Switzerland-affiliated institutions performed above OECD average in 2021, for all indicators and across all journal categories, especially in astronomy and astrophysics and atmospheric science. In space and planetary science, some 17.5% of the country’s publications were among the world’s 10% top-cited, compared to the 12.7% OECD average. Switzerland is home to several renowned universities and space-related observatories, including Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) in Zürich and Lausanne, the Universities of Bern, Geneva, and Zürich, the Technical Universities of Windisch and Luzern, as well as the Observatory of Davos (which is linked to ETH Zürich).


OECD, STI Micro-data Lab: Intellectual Property Database, http://oe.cd/ipstats, June 2023.

OECD (2023), “Creditor Reporting System (CRS)", OECD.stat (database), https://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=CRS1 (accessed on 24 April 2023).

Scopus Custom Data, Elsevier, Version 1.2023.

Swiss Confederation (2023), Swiss Space Policy, https://www.sbfi.admin.ch/dam/sbfi/en/dokumente/2023/04/publikation_weltraum_politik_2023.pdf.download.pdf/publikation_weltraum_politik_2023_e.pdf.

Union of Concerned Scientists (2023), UCS Satellite Database, 1 January 2023 version, data extracted 27 July 2023, https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/satellite-database.

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