“Switzerland and the EU have a long history of scientific and technical cooperation – first formalized in 1986, and Swiss participants have been extremely active under the 7th Framework Program for Research,” European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn stated.
“As one of the world’s most advanced knowledge economies, Switzerland has few peers when it comes to innovation. The Innovation Union Scoreboard consistently shows Switzerland as the leading performer, and the new European Innovation indicator also shows that Switzerland is one of Europe’s top performers.” Together with that other outstanding non-EU member Israel, Switzerland receives most ERC-grants for excellent scientists.
This reform of European research after the 7th research framework was needed because the challenges facing all of us in Europe, whether food and energy security, clean transport or public health for example, cannot be solved by a single field of science or technology or, indeed, a single country, the EU-commissioner stated. “That’s where Horizon 2020 comes in. These complex challenges will need solutions that draw upon many different areas of research and innovation. That’s why interdisciplinarity is such a crucial aspect of Horizon 2020.”
Pan-European Societal Challenges
“Horizon 2020 is also joining forces with the private sector through public private partnerships on an unprecedented scale. These partnerships on innovative medicines; fuel cells and hydrogen; aeronautics; bio-based industries; and electronics, along with public/public partnerships in the areas of ageing population, poverty-related diseases, metrology research and SME support, are expected to mobilize up to around 22 billion euro of investments, with 8 billion coming from the EU. I would encourage Switzerland to participate fully in these important partnerships.”
But coming from such a strong position, what is the added value, for both Switzerland and the EU, of Swiss participation in Horizon 2020? “In fact the reasons are similar to those for the highest performing EU Member States. Participation in major international research projects, networks and infrastructures – as offered by Horizon 2020 – can help maintain Switzerland’s position as a prime location for higher education, research and innovation.”
“And although Switzerland is not a member of the EU, we all face very similar societal challenges that we can’t tackle alone. So it’s only logical, and a better use of scarce resources, to pool our knowledge to tackle them. CERN is a very obvious example of the benefits to science of international partnership.”
Geoghegan-Quinn sees great opportunities in the field of energy and environment “where Switzerland has not fully converted its scientific strengths into participation in EU-funded projects.”
“I fully expect Switzerland to become an associated country to Horizon 2020 in time for the signature of the first grant agreements under Horizon 2020 in the autumn. I know that the Swiss government is equally committed to this goal and I believe that we are fully on track. In the meantime the Commission will treat all applications from Switzerland on an equal basis as those from Member States, including for the eligibility of applicants and for the evaluation of proposals. So, I am calling on Switzerland’s researchers and universities, its businesses big and small, its academics and its innovators: get involved!”