Switzerland is an internationally respected research hub and depends in this role on its involvement with the international scientific community. The research agreement with the EU enables Swiss researchers to take part on an equal footing in the European research framework programme (RFP), with participation in individual projects regulated by a bilateral agreement. This makes cooperation possible and simplifies access to the international research community. The RFP is funded by the EU Member States and by contributions from associated countries like Switzerland that are determined by the country’s gross domestic product. Switzerland has been an associated country since 2004. Switzerland’s participation in the RFP has led to the establishment of many new companies and new jobs.
The 8th generation of the European Union’s framework programme for research and innovation (Horizon 2020) runs from 2014 to 2020. Switzerland has been fully associated with Horizon 2020 since the start of 2017. An agreement covers the entire duration of the programme until the end of 2020. It also regulates the full association of Switzerland with the research and training programme run by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and Switzerland’s participation in the nuclear fusion reactor ITER. Swiss participation in Horizon 2020 projects that is directly funded by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI on the basis of Switzerland’s partial association from 2014 to 2016 will continue to be funded nationally until the projects are concluded. The future association status with the follow-on programme Horizon Europe does not affect Horizon 2020 projects.
By 2019, Switzerland had been granted more than CHF 1 billion for Horizon 2020 projects from the European research fund and more than 600 European bursaries had been awarded to researchers in Switzerland.
The next EU framework programme for research and innovation “Horizon Europe” (2021-2027) and further activities relating to research and innovation (the Horizon package) are currently being developed. The competent institutions at EU level are in the process of negotiating the budget, the legal foundation and the details of the programme. As a non-EU Member State, Switzerland is not involved in these discussions but is following them closely.
The exact conditions under which Switzerland will participate will be the subject of negotiations between Switzerland and the EU. Switzerland is aiming for full association since it would be a distinct competitive disadvantage for the country’s universities and the economy if they could not take part in the follow-on programme after Horizon 2020. The integration of Swiss universities into the European research landscape must be ensured in the future too.