Christmas came early for the Swiss scientific community: On 16 December 2016 the Swiss Federal Council has ratified a protocol which will allow for Switzerland’s full association to Horizon 2020 as of 2017. For around two years Switzerland had been cut off from important parts of the European Union’s academic funding, due to a popular vote on the limitation of free movement within the EU being accepted. Switzerland, being a fully associated member of FP7, had been a longstanding participant in collaborative research and wanted to continue the effort by associating with Horizon 2020. However the European Union rejected and Switzerland has been only partially associated for the last two years.
Being only partially associated meant that Swiss researches could compete as usual only for about 30% of the Horizon 2020 funding. In the remaining funding areas Switzerland was either cut off completely or was treated as a “third country” (like the US or Japan). In the latter case the Swiss authorities jumped in and enabled participation by providing replacement funding. Nevertheless this came at the price of some additional administrative steps and some EU-based project coordinators refraining from including Swiss partners.
During FP7, which ran between 2007 and 2013, 3900 Swiss-based scientists won a total of €1.7bn in grants. But not just present projects were at danger, potential future scientists also felt the effects of Switzerland being cut off: During the period following FP7 and Switzerland being only partially associated the Swiss National Science Foundation stepped in with funding for Swiss researchers. Universities also managed to strike individual deals with European institutions, allowing Swiss students to attend foreign universities. However, the change brought a lot of administrative and fundraising work with it.
We were pleased to hear the words “as from 1 January 2017 Switzerland is associated to the entire Horizon 2020”, as this change will bring more funding opportunities for Swiss researchers. The European Commission has released a short FAQ (available here) detailing what this change means.
This new status will be of particular interest to Switzerland-based SMEs: They will now have the chance to participate in SME Instrument. This is a great opportunity for Swiss SMEs to enhance their profitability and growth performance. Due to the fact, that Swiss partners in collaborative projects don’t have to be justified in project applications anymore, we also expect the number of Swiss participants as a whole to rise.