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Swiss non-association to Horizon Europe and Erasmus+: lose-lose situation

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) has released new data showing the negative effects of Switzerland’s continuing non-association to Horizon Europe.

Since 2021, Switzerland is no longer associated with European programmes. Swiss researchers can still participate in collaborative projects in Horizon Europe. Their participation is funded through the transitional measures managed by the Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).

However, the EPFL analysis show that the first signs of eroding competitiveness of Swiss research are emerging. This is specifically evidenced in a drop in the number of European collaborations that the EPFL researchers are invited to join, the first relocations of start-ups, as well as the exclusion of projects and markets deemed strategic by the European Union, particularly in the field of quantum research.

European programmes are an essential tool for guaranteeing scientific excellence and increasing EPFL’s impact. In addition to the 600 jobs that depend directly on them, they promote its attractiveness to international talent, its ability to collaborate and strengthen its academic and industrial leadership. They also enable its start-ups to grow and its industrial partners to have access to strategic markets.

ACA advocated on multiple occasions for the importance of Switzerland’s association to both Horizon Europe and Erasmus+ programmes (e.g. see ACA position paper issued in June 2021). Similar calls have been made by many European higher education and research stakeholders striving for excellence in the European Research Area and the European Education Area through their collaboration with Swiss partners.

The latest call has come from students (the European Students’ Union and VSS-UNES-USU) urging the Swiss government and the European Commission to constructively work on a common solution for the reassociation of the country to Erasmus+. The students argue that while Swiss institutions offer a diversified range of learning and cultural experiences for the European youth, the lack of a unified structure of access to these institutions puts both European and Swiss young people at a disadvantage, especially in regard to the financial aid available for mobility. This call was also supported by the European University Foundation.