On October 11, 2021, the fourth exchange of information and views between the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) took place in Vienna. State Secretary Martina Hirayama and Federal Minister Heinz Fassmann emphasised that both countries attach great importance to their intensive and constructive bilateral collaboration in the education, research and innovation (ERI) sector. The next meeting is expected to be held in Switzerland in 2023.
The two high-level delegations exchanged views on a number of issues during the plenary session, including the reform of university law, which recently came into force in Austria, and COVID-19 measures in the higher education sector. Other topics of discussion included providing scientific advice to policy makers and authorities and related experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting collaborative research on a large scale, and the potential of science-based innovation in tourism. Multilateral research and innovation cooperation within the EU’s framework programme for research and innovation, ‘Horizon Europe’, and related programmes and initiatives, were also a particular focus of the discussion.
Austria is one of Switzerland’s most important partners in the ERI sector, with collaboration in research being diverse and extensive in the areas of transport, information and communication technologies, and health and future technologies. The outstanding level of networking and cooperation between researchers and institutions in both countries takes place largely through ‘Horizon 2020’, which is the eighth generation of the EU’s framework programme. There have been more than 700 instances of project cooperation to date, making Austria one of Switzerland’s top ten partner countries. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has sponsored almost 770 collaboration projects involving Switzerland and Austria since 2011, which puts Austria in seventh place among the SNSF’s partner countries. It is also one of Innosuisse’s top four partner countries with regard to innovation cooperation, which mainly takes place in the health care sector, in microelectronics, and in initiatives such as EUREKA and Eurostars. With around 1200 students (2020/21; foreign students only), Austrian nationals make up the fifth largest group of foreign students in Switzerland; meanwhile, almost 800 Swiss students study at universities in Austria.