Swiss universities warn of ‘serious consequences’ of Horizon Europe exclusion

Switzerland risks losing ground to other countries, and “a substantial weakening of Swiss research and innovation, and reduction in Switzerland’s economic attractiveness”, the resolution stated. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Representatives of Swiss universities and businesses have issued a joint resolution urging the government to ensure Switzerland fully participates in the European Union’s flagship Horizon Europe research funding scheme by the end of 2022.

This content was published on January 23, 2022 - 11:50

“We are experiencing the first setbacks,” said ETH Board President Michael Hengartner in an interview with the SonntagsBlick newspaper on Sunday.

He is one of the co-signatories of a resolutionExternal link, together with Matthias Leuenberger of scienceindustries, the Swiss business association for the chemical, pharma, life sciences and other science-based industries, and Yves Flückiger of swissuniversities, the universities’ umbrella association, which calls on the government for help to resolve the Horizon Europe crisis.

Researchers and officials at Swiss universities and Swiss industry are worried about Switzerland’s inability to fully participate in the EU's Horizon programme. This follows Switzerland's decision in 2021 to pull the plug on a draft treaty binding it more tightly to the bloc hampered access.

The EU reacted by relegating Switzerland to non-associated country status in the Horizon EuropeExternal link programme in 2021, notably cutting off Swiss researchers from funding by the European Commission. Horizon Europe runs from 2021 to 2027 and has an overall budget of €95 billion (CHF98 billion).

This situation has “serious consequences”, the co-signatories wrote in the resolution published on Sunday. Switzerland risks losing ground to other countries and “a substantial weakening of Swiss research and innovation, and a reduction in Switzerland’s economic attractiveness”, the resolution stated.

“Switzerland should expect top researchers and innovative firms to leave Switzerland or no longer come here,” it went on.

Effects of exclusion

The effects of exclusion from Horizon Europe are already being felt in Switzerland, according to officials. Swiss university scientists can no longer lead top European research projects or apply for prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grantsExternal link. Switzerland has also been excluded from participating in leading European space and quantic research projects.

Swiss government officials have repeatedly affirmed that the federal authorities are doing everything possible to solve the problems. In September 2021, the Swiss government announced it would cover research funding shortfalls resulting from the country’s exclusion from EU programmes.

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