Horizon 2020: researchers in Switzerland can again apply for ERC grants

Photo of the outstanding researcher, Regina Kiener, professor of law at Zurich University. ©  Valérie Chételat

According to the SERI, Switzerland and the EU have agreed on a partial association to Horizon 2020 as of 15 September. This means that researchers in Switzerland can again apply for grants of the European Research Council (ERC). The SNSF has therefore decided not to issue a call for SNSF Advanced Grants.

As the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) announced today on its website, the partial association agreed with the EU will provisionally take effect as of mid-September. The corresponding agreement is expected to be signed in December.

No SNSF call for Advanced Grants

The agreement stipulates, in particular, that researchers in Switzerland may again apply for the highly coveted and competitive ERC grants as of 15 September. Based on the information from the SERI, the SNSF has decided not to issue a call for SNSF Advanced Grants within the scope of its Temporary Backup Schemes. Applications for ERC Advanced Grants can be submitted to the ERC until 21 October 2014.

Full association must be the goal!

For the SNSF, the agreement with the EU on partial association in Horizon 2020, lasting till the end of 2016, is a step in the right direction. Access to the highly competitive funding schemes of the European Research Council (ERC) is crucial for maintaining the international competitiveness of Swiss research at the highest level. Martin Vetterli, president of the SNSF Research Council, welcomes the partial association: "We are relieved about this stopgap solution. It gives Switzerland a breathing space and a little more time. As of 2017, however, we again face the threat of exclusion from the European research programmes. Therefore we are still concerned about the long-term competitiveness of Swiss research. A permanent solution is needed."

From the SNSF's point of view, the temporary partial association in Horizon 2020 is therefore not a fully satisfactory solution. Switzerland could again be downgraded to third-country status after 2016. Hence full participation in Horizon 2020 without any time limits must continue to be the goal in further negotiations with the EU.

Transitional measures to be financed by the Confederation

Also according to the SERI, the Confederation has given an assurance that it will finance the SNSF Starting and Consolidator Grants offered as transitional measures by the SNSF. Applications submitted for these grants will be evaluated by the SNSF as planned. The SNSF will be responsible for administering the grants until their expiry.