Since 26 February and until further notice, researchers in Switzerland can no longer submit grant applications to the European Research Council (ERC). The EU decided to suspend the Swiss after they voted for stricter immigration rules that limit the free movement of people. The ERC also rejects applications from scientists based abroad who would like to do research in Switzerland. The call for Starting Grants, which closes on 25 March 2014, is the first to be affected.
Although Swiss academia joined forces and wrote an open letter in which they requested the government to do everything in its power to find a solution that will allow Switzerland to participate in the European research programs. Otherwise the “mini-guillotine” from the EU will completely isolate Swiss research, education and innovation, the university leaders stated in their letter.
The presidents of EPFL and ETH Zurich, the Conference of Rectors of Swiss Universities and the Board of the Swiss National Science Foundation made reference to the rapid progression of research in Switzerland over the past ten years. International rankings and an attractive enough environment to attract top researchers are witness to this, as is the prestigious “FET Flagship” grant obtained for the Human Brain Project.
Safeguard Swiss research
“The high competitiveness and performance as well as the international nature of research and innovation in Switzerland must be safeguarded by other means until a new political agreement with the European Union is reached,” the Swiss National Science Foundation writes.
“In accordance with the intention of the Federal Council announced last Friday and in coordination with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the SNSF wants to set up a temporary funding scheme as a transitional measure for calls in 2014. This scheme covers the aims, scope and funding level of the ERC funding schemes Starting Grants and Consolidator Grants. A decision on the third ERC scheme, Advanced Grants, will be taken at a later point in agreement with the SERI. The calls for this temporary scheme will be open to scientists who work in Switzerland or who are currently negotiating positions at institutions in Switzerland.”
The Swiss National Science Foundation will set up the scheme, evaluation processes and administrative procedures during the next weeks. The original ERC submission deadlines for the Starting Grant proposals of 25 March and the Consolidator Grant proposals (20 May) will remain in place for the new temporary scheme.
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