A new campaign, launched today, asks EU leaders to place science collaboration before politics, as the UK’s and Switzerland's participation in the EU's world-leading research and innovation programme Horizon Europe hangs in the balance.
Call for open collaboration
The campaign, ‘Stick to Science’, calls for an open and collaborative research and innovation landscape in Europe that is free from political barriers. The entire European scientific community is invited to sign this initiative as of 8 February under the dedicated website www.stick-to-science.eu.
It comes as the UK’s and Switzerland’s participation in the EU’s research and innovation programme continues to be stalled by politics. The UK’s final association to Horizon Europe, the EU’s €95.5 billion research and innovation programme, remains tangled up in post-Brexit trade arrangements, while Switzerland also remains locked out of parts of the programme, pending government talks. In both cases, the EU is putting political disputes ahead of science collaboration.
Europe is missing out on scientific opportunities
Switzerland and the UK are two long-standing and academically important partners in the European research and innovation landscape. The current situation means that the work of some of the best minds in Europe's science and excellent research infrastructures are missing out on the additional scientific knowledge and resources of UK and Swiss institutions. These circumstances prevent Europe’s top scientists from working together to tackle global challenges such as climate change, pandemics, and food security.
UK and Switzerland, if to be associated, are estimated to add another €18 billion to the Horizon Europe budget of €95.5 billion representing a top-up of 18%, and allowing greater collaborative resources for Europe to be put into world-leading research projects.
Support from top scientists
Among the first supporters of the campaign from across the European research and innovation community are among others Nobel Prizes winners, Fields medalists, entrepreneurs and innovators, research funding/performing bodies and umbrella organisations, heads of higher education institutions and research institutes, in total comprising over 200 individuals from the whole Europe who have pledged support for the campaign so far.
Hampering science collaboration across borders risks a long-lasting effect on European society, warn the campaign’s supporters.
The campaign is asking the EU, UK, and Switzerland to rapidly conclude the formal process of association to Horizon Europe, so that society, as a whole, can benefit from European-wide scientific collaboration.
Voices of the science community
Professor Ludovic Thilly, Chair of the Executive Board, Coimbra Group, representing 41 universities across Europe said:
‘We cannot accept any longer that scientific cooperation be held hostage to bilateral politics. A decade of cooperation with our British and Swiss partners is at risk of being jeopardised and this at a period of time when global challenges have never required so much international research cooperation.
The Coimbra group has long been calling for a swift agreement on the association of both Switzerland and the United Kingdom to Horizon Europe. We now urge the European Union institutions and its member states, the Swiss government and the British government to act responsibly and take a long-term, constructive stance on the situation.’
Professor Kurt Deketelaere, Secretary General, The League of European Research Universities (LERU), representing 23 leading universities pushing the frontiers of innovative research said:
‘The quick association of Switzerland and the UK to Horizon Europe is vital to continue close collaboration and to tackle the many societal challenges that lay in front of us. A further delay simply for political reasons is unacceptable.’