Switzerland will be treated as a non-associated third country in the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, until further notice. Researchers in Switzerland can still participate in calls for proposals under the status, albeit to a limited extent, and receive funding directly from the Confederation. However, participation in individual projects, in particular in future calls for proposals from the European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and the European Innovation Council, is no longer possible. The Federal Council’s stated aim remains Switzerland’s full association to Horizon Europe.
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, provides for two modes of participation for non-EU member states: as associated third countries or non-associated third countries. The European Commission informed the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI on July 12, 2021, that Switzerland is to have the status of a non-associated third country for all calls for proposals in 2021.
Even as a non-associated third country, researchers in Switzerland can still participate in Horizon Europe and its related programmes and initiatives and apply for the programme components and funding instruments open to them. However, they do not generally receive funding for their project costs from the European Commission. Wherever participation is possible, funding is provided by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI. Parliament has already approved CHF 6.15 billion in funding for Swiss participation in the Horizon package, as well as the possibility of direct funding for researchers in Switzerland.
Researchers in Switzerland are currently excluded from participating in individual projects (European Research Council, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions and European Innovation Council). Exceptions apply to calls for ERC Starting Grants and ERC Consolidator Grants that have already closed. The European Commission will complete the evaluation of project submissions from researchers at Swiss host institutions based the portability of these grants. If the Commission assesses these grants favourably, SERI will offer to fund researchers in Switzerland directly.
For all calls in 2021 for which researchers and innovators from Switzerland have no possibilities to make submissions or evaluations, SERI is preparing proposals for suitable transitional measures as part of the federal credit and budget process. If necessary, the Federal Council will also consider long-term replacement measures in due course.
The Federal Council continues to seek association to the programme; however, negotiations between Switzerland and the European Union in this regard are not currently under way. With regard to a future association of Switzerland to Horizon Europe, the Commission names as a condition the payment of the second enlargement contribution and the conclusion of a so-called ‘Specific Agreement’, which regulates Switzerland’s participation in EU programmes and is already mentioned in Switzerland’s negotiation mandate. In addition, the Commission places the start of negotiations in the context of overall relations between Switzerland and the EU.
The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, 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 the green and digital transformation across Europe. Switzerland was fully associated to the predecessor programme Horizon 2020 and is seeking the same status for Horizon Europe and its related programmes and activities (Euratom programme, ITER and Digital Europe Programme).