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Swiss plan more science cooperation with EU

Switzerland wants to continue research programmes with the EU

(Keystone)

The Swiss government says it intends to boost its long-standing scientific and technical cooperation with the European Union.

It asked parliament on Wednesday for just over SFr2.5 billion ($2 billion) for Swiss participation in the EU's seventh research framework programme, which runs from 2007 to 2013.

The government underlined "the positive experience in European cooperation" to justify the move.

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin told a news conference in Bern that participation in the programme had proved to be very effective.

"It is for us a very important programme," he commented, adding that the aim was to maintain the competitiveness of Swiss research.

He noted that Switzerland could count on a return of investment from Brussels of almost 100 per cent.

Couchepin said that Swiss higher education institutions and Swiss companies should continue to be able to work together with their EU partners.

A third of the funds available are used by the two federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne, a little less than a quarter by universities, 18 per cent by big companies and 13 per cent by small and medium-sized companies.

Critical mass

Couchepin added that the money would assure the scope of large-scale projects and attract scientists from all over the world.

Switzerland's financial contribution depends on its Gross Domestic Product. It is expected to be SFr2.36 billion, which represents 2.8 per cent of the EU research programme budget of €55 billion.

The credit requested also includes funds for accompanying measures (SFr30 million) and Swiss participation in a European-Japanese project into research on fusion energy (SFr51 million).

There is also a reserve to compensate for fluctuations of GDP and currency exchange rates during the seven years of the programme.

The EU's seventh framework programme is entitled: Building the Europe of Knowledge.

Brussels says that research is a part of a knowledge triangle, the others being education and innovation, that should boost growth and employment in the EU in the context of a global economy.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The framework research programmes are the EU's main tools for a common policy on science and technology. Swiss researchers have been taking part since the 1980s.

Swiss cooperation was at first limited. Since 2004 it has been strengthened by the bilateral accord between Switzerland and the EU on the sixth framework programme (2003-2007).

Switzerland is taking part in and coordinating various projects. Its researchers are on an equal footing with those in the EU. The Swiss contribution for 2006 is SFr230 million.

The accord on the sixth framework programme has to be renewed to allow Switzerland to take part in the seventh. Negotiations with Brussels will take place between now and the end of the year.

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