Facts and figures on Switzerland’s participation in the European Framework Programmes for Research

Bern, 20.09.2018 - The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) today published a report on Switzerland’s involvement in the eighth European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020; 2014-2020). This report shows that Swiss participation has recovered since 2016, but is weaker overall than in the previous programme generation (2007-2013). Several indicators bear witness to this decline. In the seventh programme (FP7), Swiss participations made up 3.2% of the total, whereas under Horizon 2020 this figure currently stands at only 2.4%; Switzerland’s share of coordinations has similarly fallen, from 3.9% to 2.6%; and funding received by Swiss research institutions has decreased from 4.3% under FP7 to 3.5% of all funds committed in the current programme to date. However, Switzerland’s thematic and institutional involvement in Horizon 2020 is very similar to that in FP7, with a slight increase in the degree of involvement of the ETH Domain and of small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). Moreover, the quality and thus the success rate of research proposals from Switzerland remain very high.

The report forms part of the regular reporting on Switzerland’s participation in the EU framework programmes commissioned by the Swiss parliament. It presents an interim assessment of Swiss participation in FP8 and in all associated initiatives since 2014. The report is the first to present a complete picture of Switzerland’s participation in Horizon 2020 during the period of its partial association from 2014 to 2016, and also discusses the consequences of full association since 1 January 2017.

On the reference date 6 March 2018, Switzerland had 1,942 project participations (2.4% of all participations so far in Horizon 2020), with committed funding of CHF 1,141.1 million (3.5% of all funding awarded to date in Horizon 2020). Of these funds, 58.1% comes from the EU (for the areas in which Switzerland is or was associated) and 41.9% directly from the Confederation (for the areas in which Switzerland had third-country status, 2014-2016). A total of 422 projects in Horizon 2020 are coordinated by people from Switzerland (2.6% of all coordinations in Horizon 2020).

Of the various types of Swiss higher education institution, the ETH Domain and the cantonal universities tend to be very active in the EU framework programmes (543 participations, 28% and 392 participations, 20.2% respectively). That said, under Horizon 2020 SMEs are for the first time involved in more projects than the cantonal universities, and so now lie in second place behind the ETH Domain (413 participations, 21.3%). This is in part due to the fact that Switzerland was excluded from the European Research Council’s (ERC) first two calls for funding for basic research projects in 2014; in Horizon 2020, meanwhile, SMEs are particularly encouraged to apply for funding. The EU framework programmes are currently the main source of public funding for research and innovation for Swiss businesses, in particular for SMEs. 

The research proposals in which at least one Swiss project partner is involved are of particularly high quality. Their average success rate (proposal acceptance rate) is 15.9%, compared to the European average of 13.6%. The rates in the ERC programme are even higher, with 21.2% of project proposals involving researchers in Switzerland accepted, compared to a European average of 12.7%. This shows that researchers in Switzerland are more than competitive on the international stage.

The Confederation made compulsory contributions of CHF 724 million to the European Union from the launch of Horizon 2020 to the end of 2017 (not including payments to the nuclear programmes Euratom and ITER, the international experimental thermonuclear reactor). According to the most recent official data from the European Commission (as at 6 March 2018), between 2014 and 2017 Swiss institutions received a total of CHF 654 million from the EU (not including Euratom and ITER). This means that Switzerland’s payments to the EU to date are CHF 70 million higher than the amount researchers in Switzerland have received in funding from Europe. The final balance - either net inflow or outflow - can only be calculated once Horizon 2020 comes to an end. However, there are other factors which are more important for Switzerland, such as the possibility for Swiss researchers to compete directly with the best of the world’s researchers, and to collaborate in joint projects with the best players in research and industry in all kinds of areas. This also allows them to translate research findings into marketable products throughout the EU.

International cooperation and competition form a key part of Switzerland’s policy on promoting education, research and innovation (ERI). The Federal Council underlined this in launching an international ERI strategy in July 2018. Switzerland has been involved in the FPs since 1987, in varying ways. The latest figures demonstrate that this participation provides an important basis for the stability of research in Switzerland and its subsequent contribution to the economy.


How the European framework programmes operate
The FPs are the EU’s main instrument for implementing its common science and innovation policy. Projects proposals are drawn up by researchers in one or more countries and assessed by independent experts. If a project proposal is accepted, the project receives EU funding either in the form of grants to individuals (e.g. ERC grants) or to project consortia formed from several scientific institutions and companies in several countries. EU funds are distributed on a competitive basis according to project merit; there are no country quotas.

The FPs’ budget has been increased continuously since the first programme was established. The themes and instruments have been adapted over time to respond to the changing needs in society and politics in Europe.

Switzerland’s status in the FPs
Switzerland has had varying status in the FPs over the years:
1987-2003, FP1 to FP6, Third country
2004-2013, FPs 6 and 7, Full association
2014-2016, Horizon 2020 (FP8), Partial association
2017-2020, Horizon 2020 (FP8), Full association