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Foreign cutbacks Drop in Swiss R&D spending due to immigration vote

Agriculture remains the main beneficiary of public research spending receiving 44% of such funds


Federal spending on research and development has fallen by 7% largely due to a freeze in research collaborations with the EU following the February 2014 vote to limit EU immigration. The Swiss public sector and research bodies have benefited. 

R&D spending by the federal government fell below the CHF2 billion mark in 2014 (CHF1.96 billion) a significant drop compared to the previous expenditure reporting year in 2012 (CHF2.12 billion). However, the drop was in large part due to a cutback on external research contributions, mainly to the European Union. Public sector R&D spending increased by 37%, and Swiss research bodies saw their contributions increase significantly during the same period. Agriculture was the biggest recipient of public sector funding (44% of total) while the Swiss National Science Foundation received almost 15% more money. 

European cuts 

Overall contribution to foreign research projects fell from 38% in 2012 to a mere 20% in 2014. The biggest loser was the European Commission (EC) whose Swiss contribution was trimmed by 83% from CHF453 million to just CHF77 million. This was largely due to the EC’s freezing of research collaboration with Switzerland following the Swiss vote in February 2014 in favour of limiting immigration from EU countries. As a result, the CHF500 million set aside by the Swiss government for EU research projects was blocked. Even Swiss funding for the European Organization for Nuclear research (CERN) fell by almost 30%. 

Because of the immigration vote result, Switzerland was no longer able to participate in the EU Horizon 2020 research programme, and from October 2014 was only allowed to finance EU research on a “project-by-project” basis as a transition measure. In December 2014, an agreement was reached that allowed Switzerland partial participation in Horizon 2020 until the end of 2016 while implementation of the immigration quotas is being negotiated with the EU.

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