Swiss universities warn of ‘serious consequences’ of exclusion from Horizon Europe

Switzerland risks losing ground to other countries, and “a substantial weakening of Swiss research and innovation, and a reduction in Switzerland’s economic attractiveness”, says the resolution. © Keystone / Gaétan Bally

Representatives of Swiss universities and companies have issued a joint resolution urging the government to ensure that Switzerland fully participates in the European Union’s flagship Horizon Europe research funding program by the end of 2022.

This content was published on January 23, 2022 – 11:50

Keystone-SDA/SonntagsBlick/sb

“We are experiencing the first setbacks,” ETH Board President Michael Hengartner said in an interview with the SonntagsBlick newspaper on Sunday.

He is one of the co-signers of a resolutionExternal link, in collaboration with Matthias Leuenberger from scienceindustries, the Swiss economic association for chemical, pharmaceutical, life sciences and other science-based industries, and Yves Flückiger from swissuniversities, the umbrella association of universities, which calls the government for help to resolve the European Horizon Crisis.

Researchers and officials from Swiss universities and industry are concerned about Switzerland’s inability to fully participate in the EU’s Horizon program. This follows Switzerland’s decision in 2021 to end a draft treaty tying it more closely to bloc-shackled access.

The EU reacted by relegating Switzerland to the status of non-associated country in the Skyline EuropeExternal link program in 2021, in particular cutting off Swiss researchers from funding from the European Commission. Horizon Europe runs from 2021 to 2027 and has an overall budget of 95 billion euros (98 billion francs).

This situation has “serious consequences”, write the co-signatories in the resolution published on Sunday. Switzerland risks losing ground to other countries and “a substantial weakening of Swiss research and innovation, and a reduction in Switzerland’s economic attractiveness”, the resolution states.

“Switzerland should expect the best researchers and innovative companies to leave Switzerland or no longer come here,” he continues.

Effects of exclusion

The effects of the exclusion from Horizon Europe are already being felt in Switzerland, according to officials. Swiss university scientists can no longer carry out major European research projects or apply for prestigious European Research Council (ERC) grantsExternal link. Switzerland has also been excluded from participating in major European space and quantum research projects.

Swiss government officials have repeatedly asserted that federal authorities are doing everything possible to resolve the issues. In September 2021, the Swiss government announced that it would cover research funding shortfalls resulting from the country’s exclusion from EU programmes.

Mary I. Bruner