Scientific research represents the third biggest item of the EU budget. This is a crucial domain for stimulating growth in Europe. By participating in the EU research framework programmes since 2002, Switzerland boosted its position in the scientific world and increased the international visibility of its cutting-edge research.
The EU research programmes prioritise academic excellence, mobility and cooperation between researchers and companies on different topics. The new programme, following the framework programme 2007 – 2013 (FP7), for the next seven years has started on January 1st 2014. It is called “Horizon 2020”, covers a wide range of topics, integrates even more elements linked to innovation and disposes of a budget of nearly 80 billion euros. The EU Member States and the European Parliament decide on the content of the central pool, but it is mainly the role of the European Commission to manage it.
In parallel to the “Horizon 2020” programme, the EU tries to pursue the establishment of a European Research Area (ERA) by promoting the partnership between the Commission, the Member States and the research organisations and by making suggestions on how to optimize the conditions for research across Europe.
Switzerland participated successfully in the European programmes through bilateral agreements between 2002 and 2013. The awarding of a FET Flagship project to the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (the Human Brain Project) is only one example among others that illustrates the integration of Swiss research within these programmes. The association of Switzerland provided the opportunity to over 4000 Swiss research groups and companies to participate in projects financed by FP7. It also allowed Switzerland to participate in the project management board which shapes all the projects. Between 2007 – 2013, Switzerland contributed almost CHF 2 billion.
Current Swiss participation to “Horizon 2020”
After the Swiss people’s acceptance of the popular initiative “Against mass immigration” on February 9th 2014, the status of researchers in Switzerland in the program “Horizon 2020” has changed. Between September 15th 2014 and December 31st, after signing a partial association agreement between Switzerland and the EU, Switzerland had the following status:
“Associated country” in the activities of research in the first pillar of Horizon 2020. This includes ERC grants, the actions Marie-Skłodowska-Curie, the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET), researching infrastructures and the part “Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation”. For those activities, researchers in Switzerland will be directly financed by the EU. The same is to be applied to the programs Euratom and ITER.
“Third countries” in the activities of the second and third pillar. For those activities, the required funding is provided by the Swiss government. Further details and the procedures are available under www.h2020.ch.
Since January 1st 2017, Switzerland is again fully associated to Horizon 2020.