Founded in 2015 with the aim of supporting the research community, the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) has now been selected as a “Research institution of national importance” for the period 2021-2024. This new status and additional funding by the Swiss Confederation will raise SPI to a new level to support and facilitate access of Swiss researchers to international infrastructure in polar regions but also to enhance the visibility and relevance of polar research in Switzerland.

Research in polar and high-altitude regions is critical for our understanding of the Earth’s climate and ecosystems, and for a sustainable development of these rapidly changing areas. The Swiss research community has long been active in polar regions in fields ranging from astronomy and atmospheric sciences to ice-cores, social sciences or microbiology. Yet working in polar and remote high-altitude environments requires dedicated support and competences. “Field expeditions to these remote areas are logistically complex and require rugged technology withstanding the harsh conditions. Nothing worse than arriving at the remote field site after months of preparation and then the instrument fails – it simply means that you lost a full year of data”, says Prof. Gabriela Schaepman-Strub, Chair of the SPI’s Science and Technology Advisory Board.

“This new status is a great recognition of the impact and excellence of the Swiss research performed in the Arctic, Antarctic and at high-altitude. Our priority will be to help Swiss science develop new initiatives, access international infrastructure and work across disciplines and boundaries”, says Prof. Martin Vetterli, Chair of the SPI Board of Directors.

In order to support these goals, the SPI will be launching a new “Flagship programme” in early 2021. The SPI Flagships will enable scientists based at Swiss research institutions to establish an interdisciplinary science programme with multi-annual field campaigns and infrastructure whilst benefitting from dedicated support ranging from logistics and data management to health & safety training.

Founded in 2015, the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) supports the Swiss research community working in polar and remote high-altitude regions. Through the organisation of scientific expeditions, financial support for field work and different services (courses, workshops), the SPI facilitates the access of Swiss researchers to international infrastructure and research sites. The SPI also supports outreach programmes and events in collaboration with schools and cultural actors. www.swisspolar.ch

Read the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation’s press release.

Header photograph: Armin Sigmund, 2020 Polar Access Fund grantee