In spite of the fact that both nations are still excluded from a significant EU programme, the UK and Switzerland have reached a scientific collaboration agreement.
The two countries have been excluded from the EU’s multibillion-pound Horizon initiative due to political issues.The Anglo-Swiss agreement does not include any new monies.
But Swiss ambassador to the UK Markus Leitner described it as a “political signal” to researchers to deepen existing ties and find new projects.The agreement will be finalised on Thursday in London
Ambassador Markus Leitner said the UK-Swiss deal was “separate” from its efforts to join Horizon, which remained a “priority”.
The UK’s associate membership to Horizon was agreed in principle under a Brexit treaty, called the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.
However, the European Commission has repeatedly pointed out that no binding deadline for association was specified within that agreement.
According to BBC News, resulting uncertainty for the sector and fears of a “brain drain” mean that ministers say they could soon pursue their own international scheme known as “Plan B”.
UK Science Minister George Freeman said: “Being a Science superpower means deepening our international relationships with leading research and development economies like Switzerland.”
The agreement will focus on areas including artificial intelligence and turning academic discoveries into start-up businesses.
The UK and Switzerland have been trying to join the EU’s key funding scheme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, which has a budget of €95.5bn (£81.2bn) over the six years to 2027.
But the UK left the EU in January 2020 and membership of Horizon has been held up in a dispute about post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland, with London accused of treaty breaches.
Switzerland has never been a member of the European Union, but has dozens of bilateral deals with Brussels instead. Full Swiss participation of Horizon has been blocked after Switzerland rejected plans for an overarching treaty with the EU.
The EU programme brings together leading academic and industrial researchers from across member nations. People based in third countries can participate but cannot usually lead projects or access EU funds.
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