State Secretary Martina Hirayama attended the informal meeting of ministers responsible for research and innovation from the EU member states in Prague (Czech Republic) on 21 and 22 July. The event, which takes place twice a year, focused on two different policy debates, namely synergies in the funding of research and innovation in Europe, and possible measures in the area of research and innovation in response to Russia's military aggression in Ukraine. State Secretary Hirayama also held bilateral talks with the representatives from Romania, Finland, Norway and Lithuania.
The discussions on synergies in funding research and innovation in Europe aimed to break down barriers in the use of different and complementary EU programmes. By seeking synergies, research and innovation could contribute to an even greater extent to tackling major societal, environmental and economic challenges.
Martina Hirayama, State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, explained the pillars of Switzerland’s research and innovation system. She underlined the importance of the bottom-up approach in public research and innovation funding and the importance of basic research for Switzerland. In the European context, State Secretary Hirayama affirmed that the funds for the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation should continue to be used for research and innovation as a priority, despite synergies with other programmes. Furthermore, Martina Hirayama emphasised that Switzerland is ready to start negotiations on association to the Horizon 2021-2027 package. In this context, she mentioned the release of the Switzerland’s second contribution to selected EU member states by Parliament at the end of 2021. She also set out the Federal Council’s new approach, which aims to intensify exploratory talks with the EU on institutional matters.
Following that discussion, the ministers turned their attention to current events in Ukraine. The focus was on how funds could be mobilised to rebuild the research and innovation ecosystem in Ukraine. Examples of good practice at national level that could support researchers in Ukraine were also shared.
State Secretary Martina Hirayama referred to the recently drafted Lugano Declaration, adopted by Ukraine and Switzerland with the support of international partners at the end of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in early July, which is intended to provide an initial framework for the political process of Ukraine’s reconstruction.
On the fringes of the meeting, State Secretary Hirayama held bilateral talks with, among others, the Romanian Minister for Research, Innovation and Digitalisation, Sebastian Burduja, the Lithuanian Vice-Minister for Education and Science, Gintautas Jak¨tas, the Norwegian State Secretary for Education and Research, Oddmund Lökensgard Hoel, and the Finnish State Secretary for Economic Affairs, Ann-Mari Kemell. They discussed bilateral research and innovation cooperation and Switzerland’s association to Horizon Europe.
Switzerland’s status regarding Horizon Europe
For the time being, Switzerland is treated as a non-associated third country in Horizon Europe, the EU-s current framework programme for research and innovation, and related programmes and initiatives. Under this status, researchers in Switzerland can participate in calls for proposals to a limited extent. They receive funding directly from the Confederation instead of from the European Commission. The Federal Council’s declared aim is for Switzerland to be associated to Horizon Europe as quickly as possible.