Anglo-Swiss Deal to Boost Science R & D

The UK and Switzerland have signed up to a bilateral deal to boost cooperation in scientific research, after both nations were excluded from the European Union's Horizon programme. David Sapsted reports.


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Under the memorandum of understanding signed in London on Thursday, the nations' two main funding agencies - UK Research and Innovation and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) - will invest in joint projects in fields such as bioscience and medicine, computing and AI, and space.Markus Leitner, the Swiss ambassador in London, cited the QS World University Rankings to point out that nine of the ten best universities in Europe were in the UK or Switzerland.He described the MoU as "a clear political signal by our governments to the scientific community and funding agencies that we want to invest in more joint projects". Mr Leitner added: “We are pushing international collaboration wherever we can get it.”The UK and Switzerland have both been excluded from the €96 billion (£81.2 billion) Horizon Europe funding programme for political reasons. Brussels remains at loggerheads with London over the Northern Ireland protocol, while Switzerland, which has never been an EU member, has been excluded after rejecting proposals for an overarching treaty with the bloc.However, both nations remain keen to become associate members of Horizon to enable greater cooperation in the continent's scientific endeavours.

Already 15 per cent of European professors leaving the UK

George Freeman, UK science minister, who signed the MoU with his Swiss counterpart Guy Parmelin, pointed out that exclusion from Horizon since Brexit had resulted in 15 per cent of European professors leaving the UK.He said that if the EU continued to block access to Horizon, the UK would “take the opportunity to do more globally — within Europe and beyond".He added: "Being a science superpower means deepening our international relationships with leading research and development economies like Switzerland.“With a new prime minister and government, there is a moment when we should see whether the EU will remove its block but unless there is rapid movement, we need to move quickly to repair the damage and set up an international Plan B."This Anglo-Swiss agreement is the first of a number I am negotiating. I was recently in Israel, which will follow next."

Universities reaction

Jamie Arrowsmith, the head of Universities UK International, told the BBC that while he welcomed the Swiss deal, he said the interests of everybody, including global science, would be "best served by all parties agreeing to remove political impediments, and proceeding to ratify UK and Swiss association to Horizon Europe".

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