There is a well-known saying in English that says: “Necessity is the mother of invention” in German the same parole: “Not macht erfinderisch”.
Never has this been more relevant than on 10. November 2022, when the UK and Switzerland signed a collaboration agreement intended to deepen ties between their respective research and innovation communities.
Coming on the back of the two nations being side-lined by the EU from participation in the Horizon Europe project – this new cooperation between the UK and Switzerland is designed by two of the world’s leaders in research and innovation – to combine forces and presumably achieve greater chances of success.
In order to get the cooperation under way, a memorandum of understanding was signed in London on 10. November 2022, by the head of Swiss Economic Affairs, Mr. Guy Parmelin and George Freeman the UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation.
So what is planned for the joint collaboration? According to Swiss Minister Parmelin, both countries are already world leaders in research and innovation – and the shared values that the two nations obviously have “make us natural partners.”
The agreement will focus on three key areas:
- Deep Science
- Industrial commercialisation
- International standards and regulation
The above includes topics like quantum science, space and nuclear fusion. And the UK is also expected to be a key partner in Switzerland’s plans to launch a quantum research initiative next year.
Further cooperation could take the form of other joint initiatives and delegation visits for example and a planned Anglo-Swiss Research Collaboration Council will be assembled to oversee all activities.
Looking back to reasons for this new cooperation – Switzerland rejected an overarching framework agreement with the EU last year, and has been downgraded to non-associate status in the Horizon Europe program. Both the UK and Switzerland are blocked from participation in the CHF94.5 billion Horizon program because of political disputes with the EU. And given the fact that together, the UK and Switzerland have ten of Europe’s top 20 research universities, including Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology, the ETH Zurich and the EPFL in Lausanne – another famous saying comes to mind, which is – “cutting ones nose off to spite the face”. Surely, a non participation in the Horizon program by these two nations can only be the EU’s loss?
In an interview with the Financial Times, Markus Leitner, the Swiss Ambassador in London stated that “It is a clear political signal by our governments to the scientific community and funding agencies that we want to invest in more joint projects,” he continued “We are pushing international collaboration wherever we can get it.”
This could lead to some potentially interesting developments for skilled workers from both countries. And given that since Brexit it has been extremely difficult for UK workers to move to Switzerland to work, who knows what the future situation may be in this regard. We will keep you posted!
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