Researchers in Switzerland will be able to - partially and temporarily - participate in the European research programme Horizon 2020, from which they had been excluded after the February vote curbing immigration from Europe.
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) said on Fridayexternal link that the EU and Switzerland had agreed a partial association that will come into effect on September 15, 2014 and initially run until the end of 2016. An agreement has yet to be signed by the cabinet, but is expected to be rubber stamped by both sides in December 2014.
This partial association allows researchers in Switzerland to again participate as associated and equally entitled partners in the first pillar of Horizon 2020, called “Excellent Science”external link which is aimed at boosting European research. This means they will again receive directing funding from the EU, a funding pot that amounts to almost €25 billion (CHF30 billion).
However, for the second and third pillars: Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges, Switzerland remains a third country in EU eyes, like the United States or Japan. This means scientists can still join European collaborative projects, but they will not be entitled to any direct EU funding for their part.
The EU stopped Switzerland’s full participation in the Horizon 2020 package after the controversial February 9 vote to re-introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens.
On June 25 the government announced transitional measures including CHF500 million funding to researchers in Switzerland who had been reliant on Horizon 2020 grants.
SERI continued in its information statement that from 2017 Switzerland “will either be fully associated to Horizon 2020 or it will be able to participate in the whole programme only as a third country. Just which of these scenarios will come about depends on the continuation of the free movement of persons in Switzerland and their extension to Croatia”.
“The stated aim remains Switzerland's full association to Horizon 2020 from 2017.”
Michael Jennings, spokesman for the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation & Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, confirmedexternal link to Swiss public television SRF that these two issues on free movement were key to continuing Swiss participation after 2017. Otherwise Switzerland would go back to being a third country under Horizon 2020.
For his part, Swiss Economics Minister Johann-Schneider-Ammann told SRF that it was an important step. The Swiss were in the "Champions League" of research, he said.
swissinfo.ch and agencies