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Cash boost for research fails to appease academics

The research community has won less funding than it wanted Keystone

The House of Representatives has approved a budget for science and research of just under SFr17 billion ($13 billion) for the period 2004-2007.

But it limited the budget’s annual growth rate to five per cent, disappointing academics and scientists, who wanted double that amount.

They warn this could harm Switzerland’s position as a centre for research.

The SFr16.9 billion package for education, research and technology was confirmed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday. This is SFr2.7 billion more than was allocated during the previous period.

But the growth rate of five per cent is well below what researchers say is necessary if basic research in Switzerland is to remain among the best in the world.

Budget cuts

The question of how much funding should be allocated to research and science has long been a controversial one as the government examines ways to cut spending by SFr3.3 billion over the next few years.

It originally proposed investing SFr17.4 billon in science and research at an annual growth rate of six per cent, but later announced plans to shelve part of the increase.

The House of Representatives originally voted narrowly against trimming the budget, supporting the rise of six per cent.

The motion then went to the Senate which came out in favour of the government proposal to shave millions from the science and research budget, but agreed upon a rate of five per cent.

This rise has now been approved by both houses, meaning a saving of SFr480 million.


But the decision comes as a blow to the science and research community, which had called for a ten per cent increase.

“Over the past ten years, the state hasn’t given enough money for science and higher education in Switzerland, so basically it was very important that we had a huge increase,” Paul Herring, head of research at the pharmaceutical company, Novartis, told swissinfo earlier this year.

The academic community fears that Switzerland has been losing ground in the domains of science and research to the United States and Scandinavian countries over the past few years.

It is also concerned that if the country loses its research base, Switzerland will have to import highly skilled people and risk seeing companies and research relocate abroad.

Parliament also rejected plans on Tuesday to allow members of the business community to sit on an education board for universities and technology institutes.

It said that it was the duty of the government and the cantons to fund higher education and not the business world.

swissinfo with agencies

The science research budget has been approved at around SFr17 billion, set at an annual growth rate of 5%.

This is SFr480 million less than the original sum proposed by the government.

A budget of SFr17.4 billion was planned, but this was later reviewed because of the need to cut government spending.

The annual growth rate of 5% is well below the 10% wanted by the research community.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR