Swiss scientists win equal rights in EU

Swiss researchers will be able to get grants direct from Brussels Keystone

Swiss researchers will soon enjoy the same rights as their European Union colleagues, thanks to a bilateral accord between Bern and Brussels governing science projects.

This content was published on August 2, 2003 minutes

From January 1, 2004, Swiss scientists will be able to take part in more projects and get more funding from Brussels.

The Swiss have been taking part in the EU’s research programmes for the past 15 years, but there have been restrictions in the range and number of projects in which they were allowed to participate.

Swiss participation was decided on a case-by-case basis and some areas of research were no-go zones. Brussels did not grant any financial support to Swiss researchers who had to rely on the Federal Office for Education and Science (FOES) for funding.

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s financial contribution to the scheme has grown. In 1992, Bern spent SFr11 million ($8.2 million), while last year the figure topped SFr120 million for 1,400 projects.

But on July 16, when the bilateral accord was renewed, both sides agreed to make life easier for Swiss researchers.


The agreement will allow Switzerland’s scientists to get subsidies straight from Brussels, and no longer from the FOES.

The biggest change is perhaps that they will now be able to lead European projects, something that was denied to them until now.

Switzerland will also have a bigger say in EU research policy.

As full associates of the sixth EU Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP6), the Swiss will contribute over SFr200 million a year to the scheme until 2006.

This is equivalent to ten per cent of the amount Swiss authorities spend each year on homegrown research projects. The programme is costing its partners a total of SFr26 billion, with contributions set proportionally to each country’s gross domestic product.

Priority research

The EU has decided to concentrate on areas where international cooperation has been most successful to date.

The seven fields of research to receive funding include biotechnology, intelligent materials and sustainable development.

“Switzerland has a lot to give when areas such as medicine, the environment, computing, telecommunications and materials research,” said Paul-Erich Zinsli, who led the Swiss negotiating team.

Unsurprisingly, science will be getting the lion’s share of FP6 funding. Just one of the seven priority areas is given over to the humanities, oddly named “Citizens and Governance in a knowledge-based society.”

Zinsli says Switzerland will be pushing for increased funding for neglected areas of research, both at home and in Europe.

swissinfo, Marc-André Miserez (translation: Scott Capper)

In brief

Switzerland will become a full member in the European Union’s Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development from January 1, 2004.

It will contribute over SFr200 million annually to the programme’s combined budget of SFr26 billion until 2006.

Swiss scientists will now be able to be lead cross-border projects, and will receive funding directly from Brussels and no longer from the Swiss authorities.

The framework programme focuses on seven fields of research, including biotechnology, intelligent materials and sustainable development.

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