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 in different forms since 1987, 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 current framework programme for research and innovation covers the period from 2014 to 2020 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. The legislative proposal for the new framework programme Horizon Europe 2021-2027 was published by the European Commission in June 2018 and is currently being negotiated between the European Parliament and the European Council.
In parallel to the Horizon 2020 programme, the EU tries to pursue the establishment of a European Research and Innovation 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 successfully participated in European programmes through bilateral agreements between 2004 and 2013. The association of Switzerland provided the opportunity to over 4'000 Swiss research groups and companies to participate in projects financed by the seventh framework program (FP7), and for over 2’600 projects with Swiss involvement to be funded by Horizon 2020 (FP8) (state: 27 September 2019). It also allowed Switzerland to participate in the project management boards which shape all the projects.
After the Swiss people’s acceptance of the popular initiative 'Against mass immigration' on 9 February 2014, the status of researchers in Switzerland in the Horizon 2020 programme changed. Between 15 September 2014 and 31 December 2016, after the signing of 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 and for the Euratom and ITER programmes.
- 'Third country' 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 at www.h2020.ch.
Since 1 January 2017, Switzerland is again fully associated to Horizon 2020 until the end of 2020.