Martina Hirayama, State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, attended the Eureka Ministerial Conference in Lisbon (Portugal) on 22 June. Eureka is an initiative of 47 countries aimed at fostering cross-border cooperation projects in market-oriented research and development independent of the EU-s framework programmes. State Secretary Hirayama also took the opportunity to talk with German education minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, UK science minister George Freeman and South Korean deputy trade minister Soosung Hwang.
Eureka provides vital support in Switzerland for international innovation projects by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Switzerland participates in multilateral collaborations with the association’s other member nations while also working bilaterally with countries such as Canada, Sweden, Israel and the Netherlands. Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, represents Switzerland in the Eureka network.
Member countries- research and innovation ministers decided to accept Canada and the Republic of Korea as full members at the Ministerial Conference. Switzerland welcomed the organisation’s expansion from a European to a global initiative. State Secretary Hirayama highlighted Eureka’s pertinence for any country interested in pursuing collaborative innovation projects in a spirit of openness and mutual benefit while encouraging international networking. Eureka and the European Commission also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to further strengthen their ties. The agreement recognises Eureka’s important role in the European Research Area, emphasising the key role it plays in international, SME-oriented funding activities in research, development and innovation.
While in Lisbon, State Secretary Hirayama was able to speak with Bettina Stark-Watzinger, German minister for education and research, and British science minister George Freeman. Discussions focused on bilateral relation in education, research and innovation as well as the quickest possible route to Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe. She also met with Soosung Hwang, the South Korean deputy minister for trade, industry and energy, as part of signing an MoU with the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT).
Swiss participation in Eureka
Eureka was established in 1985 as a multilateral organisation, formed by an agreement between 17 countries (including Switzerland) and the European Commission and is headquartered in Brussels. Today it has expanded to include 41 member countries and 6 associated countries outside of Europe. The organisation fosters cross-border, market-oriented research and development projects that are planned and executed using a bottom-up approach. Swiss research institutions and companies are active participants in Eureka programmes: since 2008, Switzerland has taken part in around 450 projects, contributing EUR 730 million in funding. Innovative Swiss SMEs are particularly active in the Eurostars programme, where Switzerland ranks third behind Germany and the Netherlands in terms of project participation.