Scientific research represents the third biggest item of the EU budget. This is a crucial domain for stimulating growth in Europe. By participating in the EU research framework programmes in different forms since 1987, Switzerland boosted its position in the scientific world and increased the international visibility of its cutting-edge research.
The EU research programmes prioritise academic excellence, mobility and cooperation between researchers and companies on different topics. The latest Horizon Europe research and innovation framework programme runs from 2021 to 2027 and has a total budget of over €95 billion. The legislative proposal for the new programme was published in June 2018, and the European institutions reached a political agreement on the Horizon package on 11 December 2020. The Horizon Europe programme was officially launched on 12 May 2021, with retroactive entry into force on 1 January 2021. While the Member States and the European Parliament decide on the content of this common pot, the European Commission has the main role in managing it.
Together with the Horizon Europe programme, the EU is working to stimulate the development of a European Research and Innovation Area (ERA) by encouraging partnerships between the Commission, Member States and research organisations and by optimising the conditions for supporting research across Europe.
Switzerland was fully involved in the European programmes, including Horizon 2020, through bilateral agreements between 2004 and 2013, and participated with great success. Switzerland's association has enabled more than 4'447 Swiss-based research teams and companies to participate in projects funded by the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) and more than 3'377 projects in which Swiss people are involved to be funded by Horizon 2020 (as of 5 January 2021). It has also enabled it to participate in the management committees that have shaped these programmes.
As the previous programme cycle ended at the end of 2020, the Federal Council is now aiming for Switzerland's association with the Horizon package, consisting of Horizon Europe, Euratom, ITER and Digital Europe. However, as the relevant negotiations with the EU have not yet taken place, Switzerland is not on the list of countries for which association is envisaged in the near future. This list can be modified at any time.
Switzerland, for its part, is ready to start talks on association as soon as possible. On 11 December 2020, the Federal Council adopted the negotiation mandate for the association programme. On 16 December 2020, the Federal Parliament approved the financing message for the Horizon 2021-2027 package and allocated Swiss funding for Switzerland's participation of CHF 6.15 billion. The message also allows SEFRI to finance the participation of Swiss-based organisations in projects, even if Switzerland participated in Horizon Europe only as a third country. Details and procedures are available on the SEFRI page dedicated to Horizon Europe.