A new typology of research impact: Technopolis evaluates the Swiss National Research Programmes

24th July 2018

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) has published the impact evaluation of National Research Programmes (NRPs), the SNF’s instrument to fund solution-oriented interdisciplinary research on a range of social, political and economic challenges. The study considered the NRP instrument more broadly, but focused in particular on three NRPs:

  • NRP 59: Benefits and Risks of the Deliberate Release of Genetically Modified Plants
  • NRP 60: Gender Equality
  • NRP 61: Sustainable Water Management

The report provides an in-depth account of the academic and non-academic impacts achieved by these three NRPs, as well as success factors and barriers. It also draws lessons on the NRP instrument as a whole and puts forward recommendations to maximise the impact of future NRPs, notably around setting success indicators and success criteria, ex-ante feasibility studies (and barrier assessment) of non-academic impact aims, and the introduction of continuation measures beyond a programme’s end (slow phasing out).

From an appraisal of a larger number of NRPs, the study also extracts a five-way typology of different impact trajectories, rooted in the aims of different programmes: Advocacy, Decision support, Acceleration, Steering, and Orientation. Depending on which type of impact trajectory best reflects the aims of each programme, there will be differences, for example, in terms of the type of research required, the likelihood of encountering political resistance, or the presence of immediately interested non-academic audiences and stakeholders. Classifying these fundamentally different types of impact trajectory is noted as an important condition for assessing the needs and potential impact pathways of future programmes.