from: Research Europe
By Laura Greenhalgh—12-09-2014
Swiss researchers are to be permitted to apply for a handful of programmes under Horizon 2020, including the European Research Council, following an agreement with the European Commission.
Under a partial association agreement to be announced today, the country will have access to the Excellent Science pillar of Horizon 2020, as well as the Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation funding stream,Research Europe has learnt. This will allow Switzerland to participate in the European Research Council, which has been the major source of concern for Swiss researchers since they were excluded from the programme in February.
A spokesman for the European Commission says that Swiss researchers will be able to apply for calls from 15 September, meaning they will be eligible to apply for the 2014 round of Advanced grants from the ERC.
Researchers will also have access to the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions exchange programme, and the Future and Emerging Technologies programme—which funds the Human Brain Project based at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. Under the spreading excellence funding stream, institutions will be eligible to host teaming projects with universities in poorer regions.
However, the agreement is only in place until 2017—placing significant pressure on Switzerland to find a way to associate fully to the programme within the next three years. After this time, the partial association option will expire, and the only possible paths will be full association or no association, sources told Research Europe.
In February, negotiations on the country’s full association to Horizon 2020 were halted, after the Swiss population voted to restrict the free movement of people from the EU into the country. Because Horizon 2020 includes provisions for the movement of researchers, the country was unable to associate fully to the programme, because the EU said it was unwilling to make any exceptions for Switzerland on immigration issues.
Following their exclusion, Swiss researchers have been able to take part in EU projects as third country members but have been unable to receive funds from the programme, and have also been unable to host ERC grants. Diplomats have since been searching for a solution, as both sides have acknowledged the importance of Swiss researchers being granted full participation to the programme.
The temporary agreement being announced today will provide welcome reprieve for academics and university institutions. However, Swiss businesses will still miss out, as the country will not be able to receive funds from the second or third pillars of the programme, covering industrial leadership and the societal challenges. This excludes Swiss small businesses from applying to the SME instrument, for example, and also means they cannot capitalise on funds from the joint technology initiatives.
The agreement must still be approved by member states, says the Commission spokesman, after which the agreement can be signed. However this will be signed retroactively to be dated 15 September, sources say.