State Secretary Martina Hirayama participated by videoconference in the informal meeting of the ministers for research and innovation of the EU member states on 21 July 2020. The biannual event focused on the dialogue about joint research and innovation activities to foster a sustainable and sovereign Europe, in particular in the context of global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Switzerland’s participation highlighted its commitment to the European Research Area and emphasised that it attaches great importance to generating and sharing knowledge at the international level.
The virtual ministerial meeting focused on coordination and cooperation in the fields of research and innovation against the background of a health crisis such as Covid-19. Germany, which currently has the EU Council Presidency and organised this ministerial meeting, wishes to utilise the experience gained from the current crisis to launch a major and pioneering initiative on pandemic prevention. Participants discussed how appropriate measures could be coordinated across Europe and how to ensure coherent communication. Switzerland supports a joint European approach.
State Secretary Hirayama stressed that bottom-up research based on excellence has the potential to provide rapid responses to crises and that funding should be geared to this. Ms Hirayama also pointed out that cross-border cooperation and facilitating the exchange between researchers are key factors in a joint European response to crisis situations such as that of Covid-19.
A further theme of the meeting was the future of the European Research Area. State Secretary Hirayama emphasised that an open and integrated European Research Area could play an important role in overcoming future crises and affirmed Switzerland’s commitment to playing its part.
Switzerland has had full associated country status in the 2014-2020 European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation since 2017. This is the eighth Framework Programme and is known as Horizon 2020. For the ninth Framework Programme (Horizon Europe 2021-2027) Switzerland is once again seeking full association status. Switzerland’s participation in EU Research Framework Programmes is part of the 2002 Bilateral Agreements I between Switzerland and the EU. It therefore expects to secure full association status for Horizon Europe and is committed to honouring its related responsibilities. Switzerland and the EU have cooperated successfully for many years in the fields of research and innovation.