Federal Council adopts measures on Horizon Europe and strengthens international space cooperation

Bern, 04.05.2022 - Switzerland is currently considered a non-associated third country in Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. On 4 May 2022, the Federal Council adopted extensive measures to bridge the gap arising from this situation. Swiss researchers participating in EU projects are funded directly by the federal government. In addition, transitional solutions are offered for calls for proposals currently inaccessible to Swiss participants. Whilst rapid association to Horizon Europe remains the Federal Council’s goal, it has decided on further measures to diversify and strengthen the international orientation of Swiss research and innovation in its areas of excellence. Furthermore, the Federal Council will intensify international cooperation in the space sector.

Switzerland continues to be a non-associated third country in the 2021–2027 Horizon package (this includes Horizon Europe, the Euratom programme, the Digital Europe programme and participation in ITER). Research and innovation players from non-associated third countries can participate in about two-thirds of the calls for proposals, but do not receive funding from the EU.

Repeating transitional measures taken in 2021, the Federal Council decided on 4 May 2022, that participants will continue to receive funding from the Confederation for accessible 2022 calls for proposals. This means that financial resources that were intended for Switzerland's mandatory contribution to the EU for participation in the 2021–2027 Horizon package will now be used to fund Swiss project participants. Moreover, Swiss researchers are barred from applying for individual grants from the European Research Council (ERC), the European Innovation Council (EIC) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA). In lieu of these grants, analogous funding opportunities will be offered by the Swiss National Science Foundation and by Innosuisse.

Researchers from Switzerland are currently excluded from areas of EU strategic autonomy, namely high-performance computing, quantum research and space. The Federal Council has adopted transitional measures, which are modelled on the corresponding EU programmes’ instruments and aims to ensure that Switzerland maintains its leading position in these areas. These measures will be implemented by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and through programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Complementary to the transitional measures, the Federal Council intends to diversify and strengthen the international reach of Swiss research and innovation in its areas of excellence. This will be achieved by launching bilateral and multilateral research collaborations within and outside Europe in research areas that are strategically important to Switzerland. In quantum research, the Confederation has already been funding advancements for a number of years and Switzerland has been making internationally leading contributions in this field. A new national ‘quantum initiative’ will be launched to build and expand relevant infrastructure and technology platforms in a coordinated manner. Together with existing investments by universities and the federal government, this will be crucial in strengthening the foundation for international partnerships.

In total, funding for the measures introduced by the Federal Council for the 2021 and 2022 calls amounts to more than CHF 1.2 billion.

In the spirit of diversifying international relations, the Federal Council is also boosting international cooperation in space. A cooperation arrangement with ESA aims to strengthen relations between Switzerland and ESA and its member states. The signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation will take place on 17 May 2022 at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). The aim of the Memorandum is to anticipate future needs for space technologies by setting up a centre of excellence to be created jointly by Switzerland and ESA. The European Space Deep-Tech Innovation Centre (ESDI) will be based at the PSI and aims at accelerating the availability of ‘deep tech’ for the Swiss space sector as well as for ESA’s programmes and missions. In addition, the Memorandum will facilitate increased cooperation between Switzerland and ESA in the future. This measure will be financed with funds already allocated to the space sector and ETH Domain.

Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation , runs from 2021 to 2027. With an overall budget of EUR 95 billion, it is the largest research and innovation funding programme in the world. Together with the temporary economic stimulus package NextGenerationEU, it aims to promote green and digital transformation across Europe. Switzerland was associated to the predecessor programme Horizon 2020. The Federal Council seeks to attain the same status for Horizon Europe and related programmes and initiatives (Euratom programme, ITER and the Digital Europe Programme).

Switzerland’s ESA membership

Switzerland is a founding member of ESA and contributes CHF 190 million to its programmes and activities every year. Scientific excellence and technical innovation in the space sector at national level, as well as the close collaboration between research institutes and industry, are important factors for economic growth. Switzerland makes a significant contribution to European space flight through its membership of ESA and participation in EU programmes. Switzerland is internationally competitive in the space sector and adds unique contributions.

Background discussion for journalists

On Thursday, 5 May, State Secretary Martina Hirayama and Philipp Langer, Head of EU Framework Programmes, will explain the measures in an online media discussion. The talk will take place at 2pm via MS Teams. To register, please send an email to medien@sbfi.admin.ch by 11am on Thursday, 5 May. You will then receive a link to join the call.

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