On February 4, 2022, the 26th meeting of the Joint Committee for Research and Innovation took place between Switzerland and the EU/Euratom. The meeting focused on Switzerland’s association to Horizon 2020, the Euratom Programme, and its participation in the construction of the international fusion reactor ITER. Highlighted at the meeting was Switzerland’s significant contribution to the success of these programmes and projects and their positive impact.
As in 2020, this meeting was held by video conference due to the COVID pandemic. Switzerland’s association with Horizon Europe and related programmes and initiatives were not part of the Joint Committee’s official agenda. Nevertheless, Switzerland emphasised from the start its willingness to immediately start negotiations for its association to the 2021–2027 Horizon package.
The Swiss delegation provided information on Switzerland’s extent of participation in the EU’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (2014–2020), which steadily increased after it became fully associated at the beginning of 2017. It participated less at the beginning of the programme between 2014 and 2016 due to it only being partially associated. Nevertheless, Switzerland was the most active associated country in terms of project participation and coordination over the entire duration of the programme.
Switzerland an important research and innovation partner in Europe
Looking back on the past generation of programmes, both sides pointed out the importance of Switzerland in advancing research and innovation in Europe. Through its high level of participation in Horizon 2020, Switzerland maintained tens of thousands of collaborative links with researchers and innovators from EU member states. This shows that the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation provide Swiss R&I stakeholders with an important platform for international cooperation.
The successful collaboration to date was highlighted with specific examples in areas such as researching and combating COVID-19, developing the latest high-performance computers, and technologies developed under the Quantum Technologies Flagship initiative. Further topics of the meeting were the Green Deal Call under Horizon 2020 and participation in the Euratom Programme.
Regular dialogue in the area of research and innovation
The Joint Committee for Research and Innovation meets once a year to monitor the implementation of the existing 1986 agreement between Switzerland and the EU in this area. The committee is composed of representatives of Switzerland and the EU Commission. The meeting was co-chaired by Philipp Langer, Head of EU Framework Programmes & ERA (deputy director-general level) at the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), and Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Research and Innovation. In addition to SERI, also taking part from Switzerland were representatives of the State Secretariat of the FDFA, the Federal Finance Administration and the Swiss Mission in Brussels.
The EU Framework Programmes
The EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation are the EU’s main instrument for promoting research and innovation and implementing Europe-wide policies such as the European Research Area. Switzerland had been associated to the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation since 2004 through the Research Agreement under Bilateral Agreements I and three subsequent agreements. This allowed researchers and innovators from Swiss universities, companies and other organisations to participate in project calls together with scientists from the EU. Switzerland is currently participating as a non-associated third country in Horizon Europe (2021–2027) and the associated programmes and initiatives (Horizon package). The Federal Council has stated that it aims for Swiss association to the Horizon package as quickly as possible and considers that a Swiss association is in the interest of both Switzerland and Europe as a whole. Switzerland has made all the necessary preparations to be able to start association negotiations with the EU.