Swiss scientists are worried the Brexit vote will impact their access to the EU research programme Horizon 2020. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
Switzerland now enjoys partial rather than full participation in the programme, because the Swiss public voted in February 2014 to curb immigration from Europe. In return, Brussels restricted Swiss access to the EU research programme.
But even partial association will end if the Swiss government cannot broker a deal with the EU over free movement of people by February 2017. This is looking unlikely as Brussels is tied up with the fallout from Brexit.
The Swiss can participate as equal partners in Horizon 2020’s Excellent Science project, aimed at boosting European research. But it only has ‘third country’ status when it comes to the Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges programmes. This means Switzerland can join European collaborative projects in these research areas, but is not entitled to any direct EU funding for participation.
From 2017, it looks as if Switzerland will have ‘third country’ status in all Horizon 2020 projects, to the chagrin of the country’s leading science research institutions, like the Swiss federal technology institute ETH Zurich.