Since the February 2014 vote to re-introduce quotas for EU citizens to live and work in Switzerland, the Swiss presence in the science research programme Horizon 2020 has been under threat. Switzerland managed to just about hang on to its place in the programme, but it has until the end of the year before this temporary agreement runs out.
To regain full association - and access to funding - to the whole package, a solution has to be found regarding the free movement of persons.
On Friday in Davos Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann met the European Commission’s Carlos Moedas, who is responsible for research and science projects at the EU. They weren’t able to report a breakthrough, but Moedas did comment on Swiss Public Radio, SRF, “We need Switzerland and Switzerland needs Europe”. The commissioner added that he was working hard on solution.
Given the news on Friday that Switzerland has to wait before the EU will consider any compromises on the immigration issue until Britain has voted on whether it will stay or leave the EU, it will be at the earliest, late summer or autumn before any progress is seen.
Almost rubbing salt into Switzerland's wounds, the European Research Council (ERC) gave a presentation in Davos on Friday highlighting the most recent fruits of its labours. Last November, the ERC struck a deal with Mexico to attract the best of that country's talent to Europe.
"One of my major priorities is to be open to the world," Moedas said as he outlined his vision to expand European research "to the other side of the world."
As the ERC reaches out to other continents, direct neighbour Switzerland has to stand on the sidelines. Its top researchers are able to access only a small slice of the €13 billion (CHF14.2 billion) in grants that will be allocated by 2020. This year alone, the ERC's funding budget is €1.6 billion.
Despite the political stand-off, eight Swiss researchers were recently each awarded €150,000 Proof of Concept grants from the ERC – out of a total 135 winners worldwide.
You can watch the full session on research in Europe here.