The Swiss interior minister, Pascal Couchepin, has signed a research agreement giving Switzerland full access to the European Union's sixth Framework Programme.This content was published on January 20, 2004 - 13:27
Swiss researchers now have the same rights and obligations as their partners from EU member states for funding and leading projects.
The agreement should have been signed in December, but due to a short delay, Swiss researchers had to wait until last Friday to get access to the €17.5 billion (SFr27.5 billion) research effort funded by the EU.
Teams wishing to participate can contact Euresearch coordinators based in Neuchatel, Lausanne, St Gallen, Bern, Basel, Geneva, and Zurich. The job of Euresearch personnel is to help candidates find relevant information, events, and contacts, at no cost.
The deal will be good news for Swiss startup firms and SMEs as it enables direct payments to firms involved in the Framework 6 projects. This means that they will have income while doing R&D.
This is different from existing grants for R&D cooperation by the Swiss state. It gives the money to the university or research institutes, rather than to the firms who cooperate in the R&D projects.
Such direct payments to industry have been rejected by the Swiss government because it does not want to be seen as subsidizing private firms, a strategy that evokes criticism from entrepreneurs because they cannot control decisions about how project money is spent.
The agreement should also boost R&D activity of Swiss SMEs that have only a moderate research activity or research activity needs.
In addition, Swiss researchers will be able to assume the role of a coordinator, or project leader, an important role for a research team.
by Valerie Thompson
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