UK and Switzerland sign deal on scientific research amid Horizon snub


The United Kingdom and Switzerland have signed a new deal on scientific research programs, separate from the European Union.
Both countries stood blocked from accessing €95.5 billion of funding from the EU Horizon programs amid political tensions.

The new deal helped deepen relations in scientific research fields, the UK government said in a statement on Thursday.
The two European countries agreed to hold coordinated or joint initiatives, programs, or projects meetings, workshops, conferences, or symposia and exchange information and documentation.
The two nations are 10 of the top 20 research universities in Europe, the UK government added.

The UK and Switzerland — two scientific powerhouses excluded from the EU €96bn Horizon Europe funding program for political reasons, signed an agreement on Thursday to strengthen bilateral cooperation in research and innovation. The memorandum of understanding set to expand UK-Swiss partnerships over a wide range of subjects from quantum technology to life sciences, space, and nuclear fusion. It is a political signal by our governments to the scientific community and funding agencies that we want to invest in more joint projects, said Markus Leitner, the Swiss consul in London. We create international collaboration wherever we can get it.

The two governments maintain that the EU has blocked their membership in Horizon Europe because of political disputes with Brussels — the post-Brexit focused on the status of Northern Ireland in the UK case and the disagreement of Switzerland with the bloc over closer ties. Both countries, which have played prominent roles in previous EU science programs, remain keen to join Horizon as associate members. George Freema, UK science minister, will sign the agreement with his Swiss counterpart Guy Parmelin said if continues of Brussels the UK taking the opportunity to do more globally — within Europe and beyond.

Exclusion associate membership of Horizon is harming science in both countries. Freeman said they had seen some 15 percent of top European professors leaving the UK. On R&D of the swiss public spending in 2021 was percent 16 lower than in 2019, the Federal Statistical Office said. The fall was due mainly to the force of departure country from Horizon.

The loss of British and Swiss collaboration is also damaging European science whole. The EU mind researchers across the continent have set up the Stick to Science campaign to change. Switzerland said Leitner nine of the ten best universities in Europe are in the UK cit the QS World university rankings. The two public countries funding agencies agree UK Research and Innovation and the Swiss National Science Foundation will invest in joint projects in the field of bioscience include and medicine, computing and artificial intelligence, and space. Next year Switzerland will launch a quantum research initiative it sees the UK as a natural partner. Freeman said another shared initiative the two countries could explore would be financing and insuring the global space economy, with hubs in London and Zurich.

The message of understanding will build on an extensive base of existing collaboration. The UK is already Switzerland’s third research partner; the SNSF has funded 1,100 projects with British participants over the past five years. Freeman told the British government’s patience with Brussels would soon run out. With a new prime minister and government in a moment, we should see whether the EU will remove its block unless there is a rapid move. We need quickly move to repair the damage and set up an international Plan B. But there was unlikely to be a single overarching replacement program should the UK fail to overturn the block on Horizon membership, Freeman said.

The money of Horizon set aside seven years over may instead support a range the international activities. Bilateral agreements schemes to attract talent and international research to the UK; and multinational partnerships in specific areas. An example might be a global partnership in polar research involving the British Antarctic Survey counterparts in countries such as Norway, Chile, and Freeman was added New Zealand. Another might focus on agricultural technology with participants from countries in the developing world.

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Olivia Wilson
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