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Horizon Europe: Swiss researchers under pressure to relocate or forgo EU grants

The government will cover funding shortfalls due to Switzerland's exclusion from key EU research programmes. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced that Swiss-based researchers who were recently awarded Horizon Europe research grants will need to do their work outside Switzerland in the absence of an agreement with the EU.

This content was published on January 12, 2022 - 13:35
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“We are now starting to see the direct effects of our exclusion from Horizon Europe. The first to be affected are the highly talented researchers at the beginning of their research career,” said Detlef Günther, Vice President for Research at the Swiss federal technology institute ETH Zurich, in a press releaseExternal link.

On Monday, the ERC announcedExternal link it had awarded €619 million (CHF649 million) to 397 scientists and scholars under its new research and innovation grant funding within Horizon Europe. Among them were 28 researchers at Swiss universities, including 11 at ETH Zurich.

The researchers, however, will have to relocate to an institution in the EU or a Horizon Europe eligible country to carry out their projects because Switzerland is now considered a non-associated third country to the scheme.

“The proposals submitted with Swiss host institutions and which have been selected for funding may remain eligible if their host institution is replaced with a legal entity established in an eligible country,” announced the ERC in a statement.

This is after talks on a larger framework agreement with the EU broke down in May 2021, leaving Switzerland outside the Horizon Europe programme. Swiss universities are no longer eligible for programme funding, but an exception was made for this round of grants because the call for proposals was already made before negotiations broke down.

In the press release, ETH Zurich said that due to Switzerland’s non-association its 11 researchers will not receive the grants, but that the funding will be covered by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation.

“It is a great relief in this difficult situation and helps ETH Zurich to keep these talented researchers in Switzerland,” said Günther. However, he added that this can’t be a replacement for international competition, and that Switzerland should quickly re-​establish its full association with European research funding.

In September, the Swiss government announced it would cover research funding shortfalls resulting from the country’s exclusion from EU programmes.

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