Published: 12.09.13
ETH In-house

Switzerland participates in “Horizon 2020”

Good news for ETH Zurich researchers: Switzerland is continuing its involvement in the European Union’s research framework programme. The Council of States has agreed to Switzerland taking part in the programme from 2014 to 2020, paving the way for the Federal Council to enter into contractual negotiations with the EU.

Matthias Meier
The Swiss Federal Parliament has voted to ensure that researchers in Switzerland can continue to benefit from European research funding in future. (Photo: Swiss Parliament)
The Swiss Federal Parliament has voted to ensure that researchers in Switzerland can continue to benefit from European research funding in future. (Photo: Swiss Parliament) (large view)

Switzerland will continue to take part in the European Union’s latest research framework programme, “Horizon 2020”, which will run from 2014 to 2020. The Swiss National Council agreed to Switzerland’s participation in the programme in June 2013. On 10 September, the Council of States added its approval with 44 votes for and none against. This parliamentary decision has laid the foundations for building on Switzerland’s previous successful involvement in EU research programmes.

“Horizon 2020” comprises a whole range of measures designed to promote research and innovation, including tried-and-tested tools such as the prestigious Advanced Grants and Starting Grants offered by the European Research Council (ERC). These are hugely significant for ETH Zurich: in the latest round of Starting Grant allocations alone, which took place in July 2013, nine exceptional young researchers from ETH Zurich were awarded these sought-after scholarships.

At the same time, the programme also facilitates international collaborative projects with European partners, which are important for consolidating Switzerland’s position as a centre of research in international networks. ETH Zurich is leading a number of projects, and over 500 EU projects at the university have been approved since 2007.

New priorities

Scientists can also continue to take advantage of the various individual scholarships available under the programme, such as the Marie Curie Actions fellowships, to help further their careers. Some new features are being introduced with the eighth EU research framework programme too, with a particular emphasis on enhancing companies’ capacity for innovation: new scientific findings – in the fields of information technology, nanotechnology or innovative materials, for example – are to be used to give industry a simulating boost. Another priority set by the “Horizon 2020” programme is to help develop solutions to social problems in areas such as health and demographics, food security, energy, transport, the environment and security.

Building on previous success

There was virtually complete consensus amongst the Council of States regarding Switzerland’s continued participation in the EU research framework programme. Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann spoke about Switzerland’s successful involvement to date: “The international networking opportunities and the competition with other countries strengthen our research,” said the Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER). “In this regard, our researchers need to have the will to compete with the best in the world in their disciplines, and to be able to do so”. After the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), EU programmes are the second most important independent source of funding for science in Switzerland.

The Council of States also voted 30 to nine in favour of Switzerland’s integrated participation in the research programme run by the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) until 2020. Euratom forms part of “Horizon 2020” and is primarily focused on investigating nuclear fusion.

Opening negotiations with Brussels

“Horizon 2020” played a part in extensive budget negotiations at EU level: the original proposal by the European Commission was cut by 12.5 percent by the European Parliament, with a good 70 billion euro (approximately 87 billion Swiss francs) now being made available to the research framework programme over the seven-year period. Switzerland will contribute some 4.4. billion francs towards this fund.

In the wake of the positive parliamentary decisions, it is now up to the Federal Council to enter into contractual negotiations with Brussels. “Horizon 2020” is due to begin on 1 January 2014, and researchers in Switzerland will be able to coordinate their international projects under this new umbrella programme straight away, provided that there are no gaps to bridge between the outgoing and incoming programme generations first.

Reader comments: