The University of Zurich’s University Research Priority Programs are a model of success with international impact. Pictured: Economist David Dorn and political scientist Stefanie Walter from the Equality of Opportunity URPP.
The University of Zurich’s University Research Priority Programs are a model of success with international impact. Pictured: Economist David Dorn and political scientist Stefanie Walter from the Equality of Opportunity URPP.

Research and Innovation

Breaking Down Barriers Together

Working together is the key to success in research and innovation, which is why UZH promotes net­works that extend beyond disciplines and inter­national borders.

If we are to understand complex situations and find scienti­fically sound solutions for societal challenges, we need to bring diverse perspectives together. Funding for research priorities and networks at UZH goes towards supporting a range of initiatives for new kinds of inter­disciplinary research collabo­rations with different sizes and levels of impact. If these collabo­rations are successful, they can be implemented permanently with the help of the faculties, which ensures that the funds benefit UZH and society in the long run.

One Health Institute made possible via TRANSFORM  
The One Health Insti­tute was founded at UZH in 2023 thanks to one such funding scheme. The One Health Insti­tute is the first insti­tute of its kind at a European university and the first institute at UZH jointly run by three faculties: the Vetsuisse Faculty, the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Science. 
The term One Health stands for a research approach that inte­grates diverse discipli­nary view­points to understand the inter­relationships among human, animal and environ­mental health. The institute was founded thanks to the initiative of researchers combined with a long-term funding strategy. Seed funding was provided by the TRANSFORM funding scheme, which was established in 2022 to accelerate bottom-up initiatives by researchers that contribute to the university’s structural develop­ment. 
In 2023, TRANSFORM provided seed funding to a new inter­disciplinary institute for Eastern Europe Studies and to the BioVision Center, which works together with the private sector on projects such as ground­breaking biological image analysis.

Proven net­work and research funding 
In addition to the TRANSFORM funding program, which is relatively new, there is another important instrument for funding research priorities and net­works at UZH: the University Research Priority Program (URPP), which awards funding on a competitive basis for a period of eight or 12 years. The URPPs – which currently stand at 13 – have become a model for success with inter­national reach since they were introduced in 2005, making important contributions to research and society at large. For instance, two directors of the Converting Solar Light into Chemical Energy URPP – Greta Patzke and David Tilley – received a grant of CHF 1 million from the Werner Siemens Foundation in 2023.

UZH generates knowledge for sustainable co-existence thanks to excellent research and effective long-term research funding.

Precision medicine

Precision medicine is a special area within medical research with major synergy effects in clinical and pre-clinical settings. In precision medicine, scientists analyze patterns – regarding how leukemia or brain cancer develops, for instance, or how a stroke affects the body – and try to identify therapies tailored to the indivi­dual. In addition to vast data sets, this requires a great deal of infra­structure. UZH has joined forces with ETH Zurich and the four university hospitals in a network called University Medicine Zurich (UMZH), which is advancing the develop­ment of precision oncology. Three research centers have been established for this purpose: The LOOP Zurich, the Tumor Profiler Center and the Compre­hensive Cancer Center Zurich. A central unifying element is the Bio­medical Informatics Platform (BMIP), which is set to enter a trial period at the end of 2024 following two years of planning. The platform contains biological data from research and clinical settings, such as genetic infor­mation and imaging data. The goal is to process this hetero­geneous information into a homo­geneous pool of data that can be used not only by researchers within University Medicine Zurich but also throughout UZH for research projects of various kinds. The data will need to meet principles of find­ability, accessibility, inter­operability and reusability (FAIR). In 2023, the decision was made to merge all of the bio­banks within UMZH into BMIP in order to make this data available to researchers. Other data platform projects have received support since 2023 as well, such as Zurich Precision Oncology for Children (ZPOC).


The UZH Innovation Hub brings together research and entre­preneurship to accelerate the translation of research findings into practical real-world applications. The hub offers courses to strengthen the business skills of researchers and students and also provides funding for indivi­duals such as the Entrepreneur Fellowship program and UZH Innovation Grants. This funding helps researchers transform their ideas into market­able products, services and applications. Entrepreneur fellows were involved in four of the eight UZH spin-offs that were founded in 2023 – for example, Seito Biologics AG, which aims to find therapies for auto­immune diseases. The Innovation Hub also offers financing to support strategic research priorities over a period of three to four years. In 2023, the priorities were life sciences, aero­space and aviation, digitalization and healthy longevity. Two of these success­fully established long-term clusters at the university in 2023: the Healthy Longevity Center and the UZH Space Hub.

Healthy Longevity Center
The Healthy Longevity Center, funded by donations from the Velux Foundation, uses novel approaches to promote functional skills and quality of life in old age. The center, which is an inter­national network that counted more than 30 partner institutions in 2023, was built up over the course of many years and has been setting standards inter­nationally in the field of aging research. The center arose from a merger of two inter­disciplinary centers of competence and a University Research Priority Program, Dynamics of Healthy Aging, which is set to end in 2024.

UZH Space Hub
The UZH Space Hub has risen to inter­national prominence as a platform for connecting the scientific community and the emerging new space economy. It draws together research from the fields of Earth observation, life sciences, astro­physics and super­computing as well as auto­nomous flight and navigation, promoting their application in commerce.  In 2023, the Space Hub’s network included 34 research groups and over 25 institutions in Switzerland and abroad. In 2024, the hub will move into a multi­functional facility on the Innovationspark Zurich campus in Dübendorf that has been specially renovated for its needs. The new premises also have airfield access and will significantly improve cooperation with private sector companies.

International networks

Having an inter­national orientation is crucial when it comes to conducting excellent, effective and competitive research. This is why the university funds and promotes inter­nationalization. 
Joining Una Europa in 2022 marked a significant step for UZH. Una Europa is a leading net­work of European universities with 11 partner institutions that have committed to close cooperation in research, teaching and administrative matters. This offers great potential for the UZH research community, thanks to the overlap between UZH’s research strengths and the network’s six focus areas: data science and artificial intelligence, Europe and the world, cultural heritage, sustain­ability, One Health, and future materials. There are plans to submit joint applications for external funding, for instance at Horizon Europe, which UZH alone would currently be excluded from as a result of its non-associated status. 
UZH is also active in two other multi­lateral university alliances: the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and the Universitas 21 (U21) network. In addition, UZH main­tains bilateral strategic partnerships with similarly positioned universities, the most recent of which was established with KU Leuven in 2023.

New career paths

As part of the Next Generation@UZH project, UZH created a range of new posts for lecturers and senior lecturers with a focus on teaching or research. The goal is to open up attractive career options beyond the traditional professor­ship to well-qualified postdocs. In 2023, the first lecturer positions were filled with excellent junior academics. A new employ­ment model for doctoral students and teaching and research assistants was also established, entering into force at the beginning of 2024. The regulations for protected time –time set aside for one’s own research – have been made clearer, more transparent and more consistent across the university.

Research Stories

Breaking Down Barriers Together

Living a longer, fitter and happier life, har­nessing the potential of digitali­zation, paving the way for the medicine of tomorrow, improving cooperation – learn about how our researchers are ex­panding our under­standing of the world.

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