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EU confirms Swiss ‘third country’ status for research projects

The biologist and engineer are working for an innovative power-to-gas technology in Switzerland. The project was launched as part of a EU research programme. © Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

Switzerland has been locked out of the European Union's flagship Horizon Europe research and innovation funding programme until further notice.

This content was published on July 14, 2021 - 14:57
swissinfo.ch/urs

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation said it had been informed by the European Commission that Switzerland will be treated as a “non-associated third country” this year.

“Switzerland can still participate in calls for proposals under the status, albeit to a limited extent,” according to a statementExternal link published on Wednesday.

However, funding has to be provided by the Swiss authorities and participation in individual projects, including the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and the European Innovation Council is no longer possible.

The move comes following the Swiss government’s unilateral decision in May to walk away from seven years of negotiations concerning an overarching agreement to simplify bilateral relations with Brussels.

Disadvantage

In a first reaction, Astrid Epiney, vice-president of the swissuniversitiesExternal link organisation, spoke of “a serious disadvantage” for scientists in Switzerland. “Access to EU research funding is crucial for international recognition and networking,” she told Swiss public radio, SRF.

Matthias Egger, president of the National Science Foundation's research councilExternal link, also regrets the EU decision. However, he told SRF that “all is not lost” as Switzerland had the financial means to soften the negative impact, at least to some extent.

The state secretariat said it was willing to provide funding wherever possible and the government was seeking Switzerland’s full association to Horizon Europe, the world’s largest research and innovation funding programme with an overall budget of €95 billion (CHF103 billion) for the 2021-2027 period.

No negotiations are currently underway between the Swiss government and Brussels, the state secretariat said. Switzerland was a fully associated member of the Horizon 2020 research programme from 2017 to 2020.

In December parliament approved more than CHF6 billion in funding for Swiss participation in the Horizon package.

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