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Swiss aim to plug Horizon Europe research funding shortfalls

Swiss researchers work on many prestigious projects Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

The government says it is seeking to implement transitional measures to make up for European research funding shortfalls that have arisen after relations soured with the European Union.

This content was published on September 17, 2021 - 14:20
Reuters/Swiss government/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

Researchers in Swiss institutions have been facing uncertainty after Switzerland was effectively locked out of Horizon Europe, the flagship EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, and related programmes and initiatives, until further notice.

The move came after the Swiss government walked away from seven years of negotiations concerning an overarching agreement to simplify bilateral relations with Brussels in May.

Switzerland now has “non-associated third party” status for when collaborating with the EU on research projects. This means researchers in Switzerland can still participate in most EU-funded projects, but are excluded from many prestigious individual projects in the €95 billion programme, which is the largest of its kind worldwide. 

The government said on FridayExternal link that it had decided to initiate transitional measures until Switzerland achieved its stated aim of full association, a status that it held previously.

It has asked the Swiss National Science Foundation to come up with solutions to make up for the EU grants scientists and researchers can no longer apply for.

These solutions would be based as far as possible on the European calls, but would have their own deadlines for project submissions, the statement said. They are to go before parliament in the winter session as an addendum to the 2022 budget. Officials have indicated that a sum of CHF290 million ($313 million) could be involved.

Goal

“The Federal Council's [executive body’s] goal remains full association to Horizon Europe at the earliest opportunity,” the statement said.

“However, the EU views the question of Switzerland's association to Horizon Europe in the context of overall relations between Switzerland and the EU. Negotiations are not possible at the present time.”

The EU has previously indicated that the ball is now in Switzerland’s court concerning relations. Visits to Brussels by Swiss foreign minister Ignazio Cassis, and more recently a delegation of Swiss parliamentarians, have yielded no further progress. The country’s chief EU negotiator, Livia Leu, is in Brussels this Friday, but no details have been given of her meetings there.

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