European Union Framework Programmes for Research


The Framework Programmes (FP) are the European Union's main instruments for implementing its common scientific and innovation policy. The newest, eighth generation, 'Horizon 2020 - the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation', began on 1 January 2014. This programme will continue until 2020 and has a total budget of around EUR 80 billion. The programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for Nuclear Research and Training Activities (Euratom Programme), which ran separately but in parallel to FP activities, will now form an integral part of Horizon 2020.

The EU's science and technology policy, which is set out in the treaties of Maastricht and Amsterdam, aims to make research in Europe a transnational activity, wherever appropriate. The aim is to share costs and pool resources for large-scale projects and to work together to find solutions to problems affecting the whole of Europe. As a result, European research objectives will be made subsidiary to the efforts of individual member states in the areas of science and innovation.

The first Framework Programmes (FP) began in 1984. Up to and including the sixth generation (2003-2006), the FP ran over a period of four or five years. Since 2007 the programmes have run for seven years. The eighth programme generation was launched under the name of Horizon 2020 at the beginning of 2014.

FP funding is drawn from the regular contributions made by EU member states to the EU. In addition, associated countries make contributions based on their gross domestic product (GDP). Since their inception, FP budgets have continuously grown and the corresponding thematic priorities and instruments have been adapted according to social and political needs in Europe. More detailed information on these developments is provided in the overview of previous FP.

FP project proposals are submitted by researchers from one or several states working together, generally in response to specific EU research calls. These project proposals are reviewed by independent experts. EU research funding is awarded on a competitive basis to research institutes and companies in participating countries. Information about currently open calls and funding opportunities can be found on the EU's participant portal.

Participation in the EU's Framework Programmes, which are run from Brussels, is one of the most important priorities of Swiss science policy. Researchers from Swiss universities and the private sector have been involved in the framework programmes since 1987. Since then, Swiss participation has continuously grown: under FP3 (1990-1994), 500 Swiss researchers initially took part, securing a total of just under CHF 130 million in funding; under FP6 (2003-2006), this figure swelled to 1,900 Swiss participants, who secured a total of almost CHF 800 million in funding.

The report on Swiss participation in FP7 (2007-2013) shows that Swiss researchers have once again been very successful in securing EU research funding in this period. In total, CHF 2.48 billion in grant funding flowed into Switzerland. In addition, Switzerland was the fourth most successful country in terms of approved project proposals.

Research agreement between Switzerland and the EU

1 January 2004 is an important milestone in terms of Switzerland's participation in the EU Framework Programmes. Before then, Swiss researchers taking part in FP projects had limited rights and received their funding directly from the Confederation. After that date, thanks to a bilateral agreement signed with the EU, Switzerland was able to take part as an associate country in both FP6 and the Euratom Programme, with all of the rights and obligations that came with that status. A similar bilateral agreement for full Swiss involvement in FP7 (2007-2013) was also concluded.

With associated country status, Switzerland was entitled to representation in the project committees and the various steering committees. This gave Switzerland direct access to information and meant it could be involved in developing the current programme and in shaping future EU Framework Programmes.

After 2013, a full association for Switzerland was also envisaged with regard to FP8 – the Horizon 2020 package including Euratom. But due to the outcome of the popular vote of 9 February 2014 on the so-called mass immigration initiative and the subsequent non-signing of the protocol on Croatia, the European Union rejected Switzerland’s full association to Horizon 2020. An agreement with the European Commission was signed on 5 December 2014, according to which Switzerland was partially associated to Horizon 2020 from 15 September 2014 on until the end of 2016. This allowed Switzerland to continue to participate in certain areas of Horizon 2020 as an associated state. This concerned the pillars of Excellent Science, Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation and Euratom (see Horizon 2020).

In all other areas of Horizon 2020 Switzerland had third country status. With a few exceptions, researchers in Switzerland could still take part in FP8 funding instruments and submit project proposals but not receive any EU research funding. The Confederation therefore provided direct funding to researchers from Switzerland whose participation in collaborative projects under Horizon 2020 was not funded by the European Commission (see Horizon 2020). The question of whether Switzerland would be fully associated to Horizon 2020 from 2017 or instead relegated to third country status in all programme areas depended on the continuation of the free movement of persons in Switzerland and its extension to Croatia. On 16 December 2016, the Federal Council ratified the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia. Following this ratification, Switzerland retrieves the full association to the entire Horizon 2020 programme from 01 January 2017 on. The European Commission (EC) has updated its factsheet regarding Switzerland’s association status accordingly. The latest information can be found at as well as on the SERI homepage.

SERI represents Switzerland

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI represents Switzerland's interests. In the areas in which it is associated, Switzerland has observer status and can be represented in the European programme committees where work programmes and project calls are discussed, and where Framework Programme evaluation procedures are monitored.

In order to ensure that Swiss researchers receive the operational information they need, SERI mandates and funds the Euresearch information network to provide researchers interested in taking part in EU Framework Programmes with information and advice regarding current calls for project proposals and project submissions.

Further information


Agreement (PDF, 442 kB, 29.01.2015)for scientific and technological cooperation between the European Union and European Atomic Energy Community and the Swiss Confederation associating the Swiss Confederation to Horizon 2020 — the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation and the Research and Training Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community complementing Horizon 2020, and regulating the Swiss Confederation's participation in the ITER activities carried out by Fusion for Energy


SERI, Philipp Langer

Head, EU Framework Programmes Unit

T +41 58 462 96 93

Print contact