Lord Frost gives update on UK’s participation in Horizon Europe

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Switzerland’s federal council released 400,000,000 Swiss Franc (£320,674,072) last month to fund Swiss research projects once part of Horizon Europe. Bern was cut out of the programme when it unilaterally ended talks with the EU to strike a deal in July. Switzerland will be treated as a non-associated third country in the EU’s €100billion research and innovation programme.

But academics inside the country have now slammed the decision.

Yves Fluckiger, president of Swissuniversities, said: “We will, of course, develop cooperation with the United States and China, but the natural place for our researchers to collaborate remains Europe.”

The EU has relegated Switzerland to non-associated country status in the Horizon EuropeExternal link programme, notably cutting off Swiss researchers from funding by the European Commission.

Michael Hengartner, President of the ETH Board, added: “The risk of a brain drain is higher than before, even if it is impossible to quantify.

“At EPFL [Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne], we have about 20 superstars.

“If we lose two of them, it’s already serious.

“This is quickly known and our reputation suffers, that’s obvious.”

After the controversial Swiss vote to re-introduce immigration quotas for EU citizens,

Swiss participation in the EU Horizon scheme fell by half. And Swiss research lost 90 percent of its coordinator roles in European projects, said Hengartner.

Mr Hengartner added: “We were able to participate in projects, but we were deprived of their leadership, and this in areas where we are at the forefront of technology.”

It comes as the UK faces a similar scenario.

The UK was going to contribute £2.1billion annually to the programme so British scientists and researchers could have access to an array of European science projects and access to funds.

But Britain has been denied access while rows over the Northern Ireland Protocol persist, with the UK reportedly ready to trigger Article 16 if there is no significant progress.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has been told to “immediately” accept the UK into the €95.5billion (£80billion) project.

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It came from a joint statement from over 1,000 universities, 56 academies of science and thousands of the EU’s most distinguished researchers.

They have warned of a “major weakening” of Europe’s “research strength and competitiveness” if the bloc follows through with threats.

The statement reads: “We are rapidly approaching a crunch point.

“With the first Horizon Europe grant agreements approaching and new calls soon to be launched, UK association must be finalised without further delay.

“Further delays or even non-association would result in a missed opportunity and a major weakening of our collective research strength and competitiveness.

“The absence of a clear timeline for finalising UK association is now causing increasing concern and uncertainty which risks endangering current and future plans for collaboration.

“It also sends unhelpful signals to other third countries wishing to associate.”

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