Pioneer Fellowships

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Pioneer Fellowships are an instrument awarded to an individual or groups of individuals intending to independently develop a highly innovative product or service to be exploited commercially and/or for the benefit of society.

They are the result of a competitive process to ensure the innovation potential of the successful application. The fellowships are not awarded for basic research, but must be based on the applicants own, previous research.

Pioneer Fellowships are jointly funded by the ETH Zurich and the ETH Zürich Foundation.

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Detailed information on requirements for Pioneer Fellowship Applications is given in the guidelines. Applications not complying with the guidelines (PDF, 38 KB) will be rejected on formal grounds.

Submission procedure

Eligibility criteria

Applicants must have been awarded a master or a doctoral degree from the ETH Zurich at the time of the proposed starting date of the fellowship. Candidates may submit up to 6 months ahead of their graduation, but proposals must be submitted no later than 6 months after obtaining the MSc or PhD. In expectional cases candidates are considered who have completed a postdoctoral stay at the ETH Zurich and whose application is based on work accomplished during the stay. Applications have to be made jointly by the candidate and their host who must be an ETH Zurich Professor.

The Pioneer Fellows are expected to start their fellowship at latest six months after the submission of the application. If they can not adhere to this set date, an approval for a later start must be asked at ETH transfer.


Applications should be submitted electronically using the dedicated on-line system. Information on the submission procedure is provided in the detailed submission instructions.

The cover sheet of the online-application does not need to be uploaded, but a signed copy must be sent to ETH transfer, Room HG E48, 8092 Zurich.

Submission deadlines

There are two Pioneer Fellowship competitions per year. The corresponding submission deadlines are March 1st (23:59) and Sep 1st (23:59) of each year.


After an initial pre-screening, applicants will receive an invitation for an interview approximately 4 weeks before the interview dates specified below. The jury for the interviews is headed by the Vice President Research and Corporate Relations (VPFW) and consists of ETH Professors. e.g. members of the Research Commission, Technology Managers from ETH transfer and Industrial Partners of ETH Zurich. Applicants cannot choose the interview date and have to be available on all days indicated, until they have been assigned an interview date.

During the 20-minute interview, the candidates can first briefly present their project idea and their personal motivation and background, then they will be asked questions about their proposed projects.

Interview dates
 March 1, 23:59, 2017 May 15 and May 16, 2017
 Sep. 1, 23:59, 2017 tbd

When to expect a decision

Notification of decisions made by the Vice President of Research and Corporate Relations will normally be sent to applicants within 3 months after the submission deadline.

Annual salary costs for Pioneer Fellows (valid 2017)

The following rates are examples of the maximum salary used in the budget form for the application. Often the salaries need to be adjusted to cover other expenses necessary for the project:

After MSc (percentage of employment: 100)

  • first year between kCHF 54 and 90 

After PhD (percentage of employment: 100)

  • first year kCHF 99.7

The rates given above include approx. 14-15.5 % social security overhead to be paid by the employer (ETH) and must be used for budgeting.

Successful Pioneer Fellowships will be awarded a lump sum of 150 kCHF which is meant for salary costs and other expenses to support the project.

The total fellowship may not exceed 150 kCHF for the duration of 18 months (for 1 person) or 12 months (for 2 persons) and may not be subsidized by other research funds or the Professor. Additional external funds, e.g. prize money or CTI funds are accepted.

Further information

For further information on the Pioneer Fellowship program, please contact .

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