A “Pioneer Fellowship” is a fellowship that is awarded to one or two individuals intending to perform applied research leading towards a product or service that is based on their own, previous research. Pioneer Fellowships are not awarded for basic research. Given the limited number of fellowships available in a given year, they are the result of a competitive process to ensure the innovation potential of the successful application.

By the proposed starting date of the fellowship, candidates will have earned a MSc or PhD from the ETH Zurich. Candidates may submit up to 6 months ahead of their graduation, but proposals must be submitted with a submission deadline no later than 6 months after obtaining the MSc or PhD. In exceptional circumstances, candidates will be considered, who have completed a postdoctoral stay at the ETH Zurich and whose application is based on work accomplished during the stay. The candidates must be supported by an ETH Professor.
Conditions of employment
The duration of a Pioneer Fellowship is a minimum of one year and a maximum of 18 months. Employment after 18 months must be financed from other sources. Salary is calculated according to the ETH standard doctoral or postdoctoral salary. Fellows are also entitled to an annual consumable budget. Pioneer Fellowships may not be viewed as sideline projects; therefore, fellows are expected to work full time for the project, but may reduce salary costs to increase the consumable budget or to hire additional personnel. The total fellowship may not exceed CHF 150’000 for the duration of 18 months and may not be subsidized by other, third-party funds.
The funds for the Pioneer Fellowship are managed through the accounts of the host professor. However, the Fellow may principally dispose of those funds and his working time during the Pioneer Fellowship in order to realize his project. He is not required to support teaching or other research outside the scope of his project. Furthermore, a Pioneer Fellowship is not intended for basic research, but for applied research geared towards a product or service and to evaluate the potential for the commercialization of such products or services. Pioneer Fellows are expected to start their project within six months after the reception of the decision letter. If they can not adhere to this set date, an approval for a later start must be asked at the Office of Research.

The application is to be made independently by the candidate and must be accompanied by a letter from the prospective mentor, who must be an ETH Professor. The mentor must have a guaranteed ETH position for the entire duration of the proposed fellowship and must provide all needed infrastructure. The application needs to include:
– a detailed description of the R&I/R&D idea that builds on results upon which the application is based. Particular emphasis must be put on the innovative aspects and customer benefit of a potential product. It may further include some evidence of market relevance, e.g., a business model, a technical and market-specific feasibility study, IP investigations, etc. The description must include a time plan with distinct milestones and a budget. Expected results are to be clearly outlined (max 5pp).


– a letter of support by the host professor, describing the provided infrastructure, stating why and how he wants to support the candidate. With his signature the host professor confirms that he has read the Guidelines for Pioneer Fellowship applications.

– a complete CV of the candidate including a brief outline of the career goals of the candidate and a 2pp CV of the host professor, including lists of publications.