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Horizon 2020

Swiss researchers in Europe given interim funding

By Urs Geiser

The government will directly finance Swiss scientists and projects excluded from the European Union research programme Horizon 2020 following February’s nationwide vote to curb immigration from Europe.

Education Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann said the government wanted to create security for researchers by granting the necessary financial means to continue their work in the current year.

“It is a second-best solution – a first and crucial step,” he acknowledged. But it is necessary for the success of a country like Switzerland which relies on its innovation capacity, according to Schneider-Ammann.

The interim measures include federal funding of researchers in Switzerland who take part in Horizon 2020, grants for Swiss scientists and federal funding for individual European Research Council Horizon 2020 projects.

The government has called on parliament to approve additional funds, estimated at about CHF500 million ($559 million), for the National Science Foundation.

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation will administer the financing on a project-by-project basis.

Schneider-Ammann added the aim was for Switzerland to win full association to the seven-year Horizon 2020 package by the beginning of 2015.

Researchers from Switzerland can currently take part in the programme  but they do not receive funding from Brussels.

The 28-nation bloc relegated Switzerland to the status of a third country in the wake of the controversial ballot to re-introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens.

Talks underway

Schneider-Ammann said the response from Brussels had been harsher than expected. However, he said talks at a technical level were underway to find a solution. He hinted that a partial association to the EU research projects could be possible.

Horizon 2020, the EU’s framework research and innovation programme, has a total budget of €80 billion (CHF97 billion). The Swiss parliament has already approved a CHF4.4 billion credit over seven years.

Brussels also suspended cooperation with Switzerland on the student exchange programme, Erasmus+ following the February vote.

The government in April approved an interim solution for replacement funding, reinstating a system that existed before 2011. It provides direct funding to students and projects rather than via the EU.

Funds will be equivalent to those earmarked for Erasmus+, CHF22.7 million ($25.8 million) for this year.


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