The KFPE is the information hub for global research partnerships in Switzerland. It promotes efficient, effective, and equitable research cooperation with low- and middle-income countries. By doing so, the KFPE contributes to sustainable development and to solving local and global problems.more

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Conference 31 May, 2024

  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 2024
  • Annual Conference 20241/14
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  • Annual Conference 202410/14
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The aim of this conference was to reflect on the state of current funding models for North-South collaboration in research and education, to discuss best practices for achieving equal partnerships and to explore possible designs for future funding instruments.

Welcome and Introduction

Annual Conference Franco Gervasoni

Franco Gervasoni

  • Rector SUPSI (University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland)
  • President of SUDAC

Annual Conference 2024 Isabel Günther

Isabel Günther

  • Academic Director NADEL, ETH Zürich
  • President of KFPE


Annual Conference 2024 Zar Chi Aye

Zar-Chi Aye

  • Senior Research Scientist of Country offices in Myanmar and Lao PDR, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Switzerland

For fostering sustainable and equitable global research partnerships, it is crucial to enable long-term human capacity development and institution building in the Global South as well as North. In other words, research extractivism must be avoided, and partnerships should be sensitive to conflicts, cultural differences, and contextual nuances for equitable engagement. A joint reflection process among scholars from the Global South and North have revealed what needs to be done more to make global research partnerships truly sustainable and equitable. The keynote started with telling a quite typical story of the imbalanced research partnership. From there, Zar-Chi Aye pointed out some essential elements to consider when designing equitable funding initiatives for global research partnerships. Joint reflection process among scholars from the Global South and North with co-creation and co-design of initiatives as well as a lead or co-lead from the Global South are essential. She stressed that partners in the Global South must be offered the possibility to take ownership of an initiative to make it sustainable and reduce dependency in the long-term. Moreover, networks and initiatives need to develop among partners in the Global South and must be locally led for them to be lasting.

Annual Conference 2024 Andrea Ordonez

Andrea Ordóñez

  • Southern Voice

Do actors across the North-South Divide understand the issues around equity in research similarly? Andrea Ordóñez presented insights from an initiative of Southern Voice answering this question. She contrasted the approaches, framings, and main concerns identified by stakeholders in both settings. Based on these findings, she presented a framework grounded in Southern priorities to strengthen the agency, align objectives, and identify spaces for transformative change within the research landscape.

This includes the setting of research, considering power imbalances, and strive for an open, transparent and appreciative dialogue between research partners in the Global North and South. She highlighted how important it is to appreciate and acknowledge the value of research from the South. She concludes that one of the most important things is to be transparent and clear towards research partners with regards to funding, budget and rules to build trust among one another.

The initiative is implemented in collaboration with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Annual Conference 2024 Corinne Pernet

Corinne Pernet

  • University of Teacher Education Zurich (PHZH)

Corinne Pernet from the University of Teacher Education Zurich emphasized that strong partnerships are crucial to successful projects and to receive funding. She identified a major challenge in the fact no thorough proposal writing is possible because often there is no funding mechanism for this phase.

Interactive Workshops

In this session participants could select one of the following workshops to join an interactive in-depth discussion. The main insights from the workshops were later addressed at the panel discussion.

in person:

Mirjam Macchi

  • Policy Advisor Research, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

David Svarin

  • Program Manager, Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)


Fabian Käser

  • Head Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE)

Annual Conference 2024 WS

To set the scene, Mirjam Macci and David Svarin briefly presented the R4D and SOR4D programmes, the rationale behind them and how were jointly developed by the SDC and the SNSF. The aim of the SOR4D programme is to generate better knowledge, solutions and innovations through needs-driven, transdisciplinary research that opens new ways to advance sustainable development and reduce poverty in LMICs. As the successor to the R4D programme, which funded 57 transnational research partnership projects, the SOR4D programme is currently funding 15 international transdisciplinary projects. The recently published external evaluation of the R4D gave the programme a positive assessment, describing it as “being ahead of its time”. However, the evaluation also pointed at some challenges associated with the programme. At the interface between research and development, both programmes are among the most competitive funding instruments in Switzerland.

Together with the workshop participants, we explored the strengths of these two programmes, their limitations and ideas for improving such programmes:

The R4D and SOR4D Programmes enable the implementation of transboundary transdisciplinary global research partnerships based on a collaboration between the SNSF and the SDC that enable them to overcome institutional challenges. In addition, the programme has motivated new researchers to engage in such research approaches. However, the implementation of such partnerships and the tension between impact and scientific excellence remain challenging, as does the measuring of impact. Although the review panel for these programmes included representatives from the Global North and the Global South, no research funding agency from the Global South was involved in the co-design of the programme.

For future funding programmes, participants wished for a mechanism for LMICs to express their needs and priorities for research before the Swiss universities seek partners. Some funding should be reserved for research projects, which are led by researchers from the Global South. Funding programmes should provide small amounts of initial funding for needs assessment as well as funding for piloting and scaling innovations. Funding should also be available for individual capacity building (PhD) and institution building. Such programmes should promote more inclusive South-North mobility of stakeholders and visiting professorship exchanges. Sufficient flexibility in the implementation of research projects through adaptive project management is essential. Research should have a practical implemented and at the same time contribute to the visibility and respect of other forms of knowledge and development. Evaluations should look beyond project outputs and measure development and impact. Through meetings, such as the KFPE Swiss Funders Meeting, funding agencies of similar programmes could learn from each other and coordinate different programmes. Finally, the collaboration between researchers from Switzerland and LMICs should not be limited to specific programmes, but should be mainstreamed in all funding programmes.

René Véron

  • CLOC K2A

Lena Robra

  • swissnex India

Claudio Valsangiacomo

  • Head of CLOC East Africa

Dorothee Spuhler

  • CLOC NEWAL in West Africa

Workshop SUDAC

Since 2017, the swissuniversities development and cooperation network (SUDAC) has worked to create regional platforms for SDG-related partnerships in the Global South. Funded in equal parts by Swiss Higher Education institutions and SERI, SUDAC has established five Clusters of Cooperation (CLOCs). These CLOCs focus on partnerships with and between actors from academia, politics and civil society in different regions.

SUDAC has also allowed for increased collaboration between Universities, Universities of Applied Sciences and Arts and Universities of Teacher Education in Switzerland and managed to create synergies and partnerships.

In this workshop, the Heads of the CLOCs in West Africa, East Africa and South Asia, shared their experiences with the SUDAC program, explored the unique challenges in their specific regions and laid out the limitations and success stories of the SUDAC funding model.


Clemens Tuor

  • Deputy Head International Relations, swissuniversities

Michael Krieger

  • University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland HES-SO

Haifa Sallem

  • University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland HES-SO

Annual Conference 2024 Workshop

This workshop discussed the Leading House model, a bilateral cooperation program, where a selected Swiss university is commissioned by SERI to set up cooperation instruments with a specific region. There are currently five Leading Houses, among them the program in the Middle East and North Africa, managed by HES-SO.

While the Leading Houses bring a significant contribution to the development of scientific cooperation between Switzerland and the targeted regions, it can be questioned if they are designed in a way that supports equitable partnerships. How can these programs strengthen the involvement of partners from the global South?

The Leading House MENA explored a ways to improve the equity its projects: it launched two bilateral calls funded and organized jointly with the Ministry of Higher Education of Morocco. This ensures that both partner universities, in Switzerland and Morocco, receive similar funding. Can this be considered as a more equitable design? How to guarantee the long-term sustainability of this model?


Luna Iacopini

  • Head of International Relations at HES-SO


Moderated by:

Elisabeth Schubiger

  • Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships (KFPE)

Lina Fischer

  • swissuniversities

Panel Discussion

Kathrin Milzow

  • Head Research Development, SNSF

Odile Robert

  • Head of Section Analysis and Research, SDC

Luna Iacopini

  • Head of International Relations, University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland HES-SO

Thomas Breu

  • Director CDE, University of Bern


Laurent Goetschel

  • Vice President of SUDAC

Annual Conference 2024 Panel Discussion

Each workshop collected the main insights from their sessions. The inputs and suggestions from the workshop served as the common thread for the panel discussion. Panelists from national funding institutions, as well as Swiss higher Education discussed the improvement and development of the next generation of Swiss funding models along the key aspects of sustainability and equity.

The panel discussion highlighted how important it was to think transdisciplinary, and to notably include the private sector and businesses.

The panellists stressed the significance of adapting the funding models to the different circumstances. Ideally longer-term relations and networks can be established as institutionalised partnerships offer long-term security, familiar rules, the partners and their modes of working are familiar, and the cooperation is more stable. Sometimes, however, these parameters are not in place.

It is crucial that the research and its results find implementation and impact in the Global South and that the research responds to the societal needs of the Global South and from the Global South point of view.

When it comes to funding, evidence-based allocation of funding is called for. This allows to measure impact and for a strong policy dialogue. The question of the governance of funds allocation: is the focus on impact or on outreach? Ideally, results can be scaled up and communications of results is strengthened.

Donors and semi-donors should work together better to make better use of funding. Also, private foundations should be called upon for collaboration.


Laurent Goetschel

  • Vice President of SUDAC

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Annual Conference 2024 Clemens Tuor

Clemens Tuor

  • Deputy Head International Relations, swissuniversities