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Swiss govt seeking to iron out research funding shortfalls over EU ties

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The Swiss government said on Friday it is seeking to implement transitional measures to make up for research funding shortfalls, as souring ties with the European Union put billions of euros of funding at stake for Swiss scientists.

Researchers at Swiss universities have been on tenterhooks about their ability to join the EU’s Horizon programme, after Switzerland’s decision to pull the plug on a draft treaty binding it more tightly to the bloc – its biggest trading partner – hampered access.

“The Federal Council’s goal remains full association to Horizon Europe at the earliest opportunity,” the Swiss government said in a statement.

“However, the EU views the question of Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe in the context of overall relations between Switzerland and the EU. Negotiations are not possible at the present time.”

With a 95 billion euro ($111.9 billion) budget, Horizon Europe is the world’s largest research and innovation funding programme.

Swiss researchers were previously able to benefit from full participation in its predecessor programme.

The country will now be treated as a “non-associated third country” in the programme, the Swiss government said, meaning Swiss researchers can participate in most collaboration projects — or about two-thirds of the available programmes — but not individual projects.

The government has now tasked the Swiss National Science Foundation with coming up with transitional solutions, which must still be approved by parliament, to make up for the EU grants scientists and researchers can no longer apply for.

“The planned transitional measures will be submitted to parliament in the winter session in the form of an addendum to the 2022 budget,” the government said.

Photo – EPA/SALVATORE DI NOLFI

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