The 25th meeting of the Joint Committee for Research and Innovation between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) / Euratom took place on 27 October. Discussions focused on implementation of the existing agreement between Switzerland and the EU on Horizon 2020, the Euratom programme and the international fusion reactor ITER.
This year’s meeting was held via video conference because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Swiss delegation explained that Switzerland’s quantitative participation in the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020 (2014-2020) has steadily increased since Switzerland became fully associated to the programme at the beginning of 2017. However, participation is still lower than in the previous generation (7th Framework Programme, 2007-2013). This is because Switzerland only enjoyed partial association to Horizon 2020 between 2014 and 2016. Nonetheless, Switzerland is still the most active non-EU member state in terms of the number of project participations and coordinations. This highlights the huge importance of the EU Research and Innovation Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation in Switzerland.
Last meeting under Horizon 2020
Other topics of the meeting included Horizon 2020 initiatives in the digital domain such as high-performance computing and artificial intelligence. The delegations also discussed participation in the Euratom programme and the progress made in the ITER project, to which Switzerland and its research institutions are making significant financial and scientific contributions. As Horizon 2020 expires at the end of this year, this was the last meeting of the Joint Committee in this programme generation. The successor programme Horizon Europe and other related programmes and initiatives will commence on 1 January 2021. Switzerland is seeking to seamlessly continue its association to these programmes.
The Joint Committee for Research and Innovation, which comprises representatives from Switzerland and the EU Commission, meets once a year to monitor the implementation of the existing R&I agreement between Switzerland and the EU. This year’s meeting was co-chaired by Philipp Langer, Head of EU Framework Programmes (deputy director-general level) at the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI, and Signe Ratso, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation. On the Swiss side, SERI was joined by representatives from the Directorate for European Affairs, the Federal Finance Administration and the Swiss mission in Brussels.
The EU Framework Programmes
The EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation are the European Union’s main instrument for promoting research and innovation and implementing pan-European strategies such as the European Research and Innovation Area. Switzerland has been associated to the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation since 2004 through a research agreement forming part of the Bilateral Agreements I and three follow-up agreements. Association enables researchers from Swiss universities, companies and other institutions to participate in calls for projects together with researchers from the EU. The EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation have become the second most important source of public funding for Swiss researchers after the Swiss National Science Foundation, and the main source for Swiss companies.