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Swiss clarify Horizon Europe status

European cooperation is key to Swiss research, universities say Keystone / Anthony Anex

Researchers in Switzerland can participate in calls for project proposals under Horizon Europe, despite the country not being officially associated to the European research-funding programme, Swiss officials say. But there will be limitations.

This content was published on June 25, 2021 - 14:31
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Switzerland will step in with direct funding if necessary, added the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) in a statement on FridayExternal link.

The comments come in response to the European Commission launching the calls for project proposals for its flagship €95 billion (CHF105 billion) research programme earlier this week. Here it emergedExternal link that Switzerland was not on the provisional list of 18 non-EU countries eligible for Horizon Europe funding, pending negotiations on their full association to the programme. The UK was, for example.

The move comes at a time of political tension between Switzerland and the EU over the Swiss breaking off negotiations on a key institutional agreement, which would have regulated long-term ties between Bern and Brussels. Horizon Europe negotiations are separate to this agreement, but concerns have been raised by universities that the fallout from the institutional agreement failure could have an impact on these negotiations.

Horizon Europe negotiations

The SERI statement confirmed that Switzerland would like to be associated with Horizon Europe – it was associated with the previous programme which ended in 2020 – but that negotiations between Switzerland and the EU in this regard had not yet been held.

Even though Switzerland was not on the official list of countries negotiating or about to negotiate association to Horizon Europe, “researchers from Switzerland can still participate in Horizon Europe and related programmes and initiatives and apply for the programme components and funding instruments open to them”, SERI said.

“However, with third-country status they generally do not receive funding for their project costs from the European Commission. In this case, funding is provided by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, wherever participation as a third country is possible.”

Parliament has already approved CHF6.15 billion ($6.7 billion) in funding for Swiss participation in Horizon Europe, SERI added.

“Switzerland expects to hear shortly from the European Commission on how it intends to proceed with negotiations,” SERI said.

The Swiss university sector, including the president of swissuniversities, the sector’s umbrella body, and the heads of the country’s top-ranked federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne (ETH Zurich and EPFL), has already reacted with dismay to the European Commission’s decision concerning the provisional list.

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