On February 7, 2022, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin received the British Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State George Freeman, for a courtesy visit followed by a dinner in Bern with representatives from science and business. The following day, Mr Freeman had a working meeting with the State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, Martina Hirayama. Their meeting centred on bilateral cooperation in research and innovation.
Switzerland and the United Kingdom maintain strong bilateral relations in the areas of research and innovation. Many universities, researchers and research facilities cooperate closely with one another. During both the courtesy and working visits, both sides expressed their appreciation for the close relations between the two countries and a desire to further strengthen the relationship. Various possibilities for intensifying cooperation in research and innovation were discussed during the talks. Both parties are seeking a Memorandum of Understanding as part of this strengthening process.
The focus of the visit was on cooperation between the two countries in the context of international research infrastructures, the space sector, and between research and innovation promotion agencies. Switzerland and the UK are exploring working together in the areas of fellowships as well as in ‘deep science’ (e.g. quantum physics, space, nuclear fusion). Another important topic of conversation was the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, in particular the status of the two countries’ association to Horizon Europe.
At the invitation of Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, a dinner was also held in Bern on February 7, 2022, with representatives of universities, science and business – among them the heads of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Innosuisse, and the presidents of the ETH Board, ETH Zurich, EPFL, swissu niversities and science industries. At the dinner, participants continued their discussions on cooperation in higher education, research and innovation.
Both in bilateral and multilateral contexts, the United Kingdom is one of Switzerland’s most important partners in education, research and innovation. Researchers and institutions from the UK and Switzerland are carrying out a number of joint projects. Since 2011, the SNSF has supported around 2,600 research projects that involved the UK. The United Kingdom is involved in the second-highest number of joint projects within the framework of Horizon 2020. Switzerland and the UK are also members of most major international research infrastructures – for example CERN, of which Switzerland is a host state, or the new Square Kilometre Array Observatory Organisation (SKAO) based in the UK. Such facilities offer researchers from both countries excellent platforms for collaboration.