“A hammer blow for research and innovation”

The end of the framework agreement with the European Union will have negative consequences both on education and on the Swiss economy, explains Luciana Vaccaro, rector of the HES-SO.

Working and look in to microscope in lab

© Getty Images
Working and look in to microscope in lab

The Federal Council’s decision to withdraw from the framework agreement with the European Union has shocked research and higher education circles. “It’s a real blow, because it excludes us from a large number of projects. Swiss universities are relegated to a secondary role in research, ”explains Luciana Vaccaro, rector of the HES-SO. ETHs and universities will also lose the possibility of participating in important programs, such as those of the European Research Council (ERC).

The fact of no longer being a participant in the Horizon Europe program will not only deprive Switzerland of financial resources. “It will be a big loss of leadership in the field of research and it is also a big damage to image” because the isolationist tendency of Switzerland, which had already manifested itself with free movement in 2014, is often misunderstood abroad. To this will be added the loss of network, and therefore of contacts and exchanges with international circles, due to a lack of presence. “Money is not everything, recalls Luciana Vaccaro. We live in a global world. ”

Global impoverishment

Concretely, the impact will be felt in the long term, as much in higher education as in the economy or the daily life of the population. “At HES-SO, over the past four years we have benefited from € 18 million of EU research funding. These are projects that have a concrete impact on the ground and in people’s lives. We collaborate with local businesses, we innovate, this creates assistant positions, who are then engaged in education or in the economy. If there are fewer projects, young researchers will more easily accept positions abroad and there will be fewer possibilities to train the next generation, ”explains Luciana Vaccaro.

The end of funding will also have rapid effects on start-ups, since Switzerland will not financially compensate for leaving the European program. Between 2019 and 2020, around fifty of these “young shoots” benefited from a windfall of 100 million euros. However, in recent weeks, they have seen the funds that were about to be allocated to them slip away. This lack of opportunities is likely to push many of them to move abroad to develop their ideas. And the jobs that go with it.

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