Swiss research institutes receive EU funding boost

The research grants cover a range of subjects including neuroscience, astronomy, medicine and urban planning. Keystone

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded 222 coveted grants to researchers including 18 at Swiss institutes under the Horizon 2020 programme. Switzerland’s status in the next iteration of Horizon funding remains unclear.

This content was published on April 3, 2019 - 19:39

On Wednesday, the ERC announced the awardees of €540 million (CHF605 million) in grants for research and innovation. Some 222 researchers will receive “Advanced Grants” of a maximum of €2.5 million each. The funds are expected to create 2,000 jobs according to the ERC.

Of the 18 awardees in Switzerland, five are at the federal technology institute ETH Zurich, which will receive €12.5 millionExternal link from Horizon. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the University of Geneva and University of Zurich each received three awards. Two researchers at the University of Basel and one at both the University of Lausanne and University of Fribourg rounded out the list.

The projects selected cover a range of subjects including neuroscience, astronomy, medicine, and urban planning. As an example, one EPFL team will be exploring the resistance of certain tumors to immunotherapies.

Britain received the most grants of any region with 47 awardees. However, Brexit may throw a wrench in Britain's participation in "Horizon 2020", as well as its extension to "Horizon Europe", starting in 2021.

Uncertain future

Switzerland’s status in the next iteration of the Horizon programme remains unclear. 

Europe wants to create a new category of participating countries for “Horizon Europe” 2021-2027. Switzerland could be downgraded to category 4 of non-EU states along with Great Britain. Until now, Switzerland has been in the first category with other countries in the European economic area including Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

Swiss university representatives recently expressed fear that researchers could lose out on Horizon funding if Switzerland fails to reach an agreement with the EU on a political framework for future relations. about the consequences a potential downgrading could have on Swiss research and innovation.

Horizon Europe is the €100 billion research and innovation programme that will succeed Horizon 2020. Switzerland was temporarily demoted to third country status of Horizon 2020 after voters backed migration quotasExternal link in 2014.

The European Parliament and member states are expected to make a decision this fall. State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation Martina Hirayama told Keystone-SDA that Switzerland is a strong partner. However, it may come down to politics.

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