Securing access to research cooperation and funding programmes in Europe

Horizon Europe, the EU’s next Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, is due to start in 2021. Along with three other European initiatives, Horizon Europe forms the ’2021-2027 Horizon package’. On 20 May 2020 the Federal Council adopted a dispatch on funding requesting Parliament to approve CHF 6,154 million in funding to secure Switzerland’s participation in the Horizon package. Provided Parliament approves this funding, the Federal Council and the EU will be able to renew their bilateral research agreement and secureSwitzerland’s continued and uninterrupted participation in the Horizon package as an associated state.

The funds requested by the Federal Council cover the CHF 5,423 million in compulsory contributions Switzerland is expected to be required to make for full participation as an associated state in Horizon Europe, the Euratom programme complementing Horizon Europe, the new Digital Europe Programme, and the international ITER project (fusion research) up to 2027. A financial cushion of CHF 614 million has also been earmarked in case the compulsory contributions are higher than expected.

The dispatch additionally includes funding of CHF 117 million for national support measures. These measures will help ensure as many Swiss researchers as possible can participate in the programmes by providing information and guidance, offering financial support in drawing up project proposals, and representing Swiss interests in EU bodies. They will also make it easier for Switzerland to take part in new partnership initiatives and EU projects that have national co-financing requirements. A current example of this is EuroHPC, a joint undertaking in the area of high-performance computing that is jointly financed by the EU and various other states. Cooperation is crucial to the existence of EuroHPC, as no single country can provide all of the capacities and resources it requires.

Switzerland’s participation as an associated state in the EU’s Framework Programmes (FPs) is laid out in the Bilateral Agreements I. It is the only sectoral agreement in this package that must be renewed for each new FP generation lasting a set number of years.

At present, the EU has not yet defined its conditions for non-member states such as Switzerland to participate in the Horizon package. Switzerland intends to participate fully in the entire package as an associated state; however, official negotiations can only be concluded once the EU has defined its legal bases. It is Switzerland’s aim to ensure its researchers can take part in the first calls for proposals of Horizon Europe and its initiatives. If full association to the Horizon package is not possible or temporarily not possible, the earmarked funding can be used to fund Swiss researchers on an individual project basis - if necessary for the entire duration of the 2021-2027 Horizon package. This would offer Swiss researchers and innovators conditions as close as possible to those they would enjoy if Switzerland had full association.

FPs promote research and innovation at the highest level internationally. Horizon Europe is the largest and most comprehensive funding programme for research and innovation in the world. It covers the entire value-creation chain, from basic research projects to projects on the threshold of market entry (in particular for start-ups), and offers a variety of different funding instruments in all scientific disciplines.

Evidence collected by the Confederation and the EU show that researchers and companies in Switzerland have so far participated very successfully in the FPs. FP funding is the second largest source of public funding for Swiss researchers after funding provided by the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the largest source for companies, in particular small and medium-sized businesses. Competing and networking on an international level positively affects the quality and competitiveness of research and innovation in Switzerland. According to a study by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, Swiss participation in the FPs also has numerous economic and social benefits. It is therefore in the interests of Switzerland and its research and innovation landscape that this participation should continue.

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