UCL hosts roundtable of UK-Swiss research leaders
2 December 2021
The second in a series of UCL European Institute convened roundtables on European research collaboration convened university leaders from the UK and Switzerland to reflect on bilateral cooperation and the evolving politics of Horizon Europe association.
On 26 November 2021, UCL Vice-Provost for Research, Innovation and Global Engagement Professor David Price and Professor Joël Mesot, President of ETH Zurich, co-hosted a closed roundtable discussion ‘The UK-Swiss-EU Research Relationship: Opportunities and Shared Priorities’.
The roundtable, chaired by UCL European Institute Executive Director and Pro-Vice-Provost for Europe, Dr Uta Staiger, and with opening remarks from the Swiss and UK Ambassadors, provided an opportunity to reflect on the opportunities for bilateral cooperation between the UK and Switzerland; approaches to managing uncertainty regarding association to Horizon Europe; and shared priorities for the future of European research.
Discussions which included representatives from leading UK and Swiss institutions, funding and representative bodies, underlined the potential for a UK-Swiss lead agency agreement and roadmap for long-term cooperation; reciprocal access to large-scale research infrastructures; and student and doctoral mobility.
In response to an account of the lasting damage inflicted on the Swiss research system following their exclusion from Horizon Europe (2014-2016, and from 2021 onwards) UK sector representatives reflected on the wisdom of the Swiss approach to managing uncertainty relating to association, by mirroring EU funding programmes to preserve ‘strategic space’ for association in the medium-term.
The session closed with a discussion on the EU's increasing emphasis on ‘strategic autonomy’, noting that the evolving approach to associated countries under Horizon Europe will determine the long-term sustainability of the programme's global ambitions.
Dr Uta Staiger said: ‘UCL was delighted to convene such a timely and wide-ranging discussion between UK and Swiss research leaders, which underlined our mutual appetite for closer bilateral cooperation and provided useful insights into Swiss approaches to managing and mitigating uncertainty with respect to Horizon Europe’.
This event was part of a series of curated policy conversations, convened by the European Institute, and designed to strengthen UK ties with continental European research systems, post-Brexit. The series began in July 2021 with an event hosted by UCL President & Provost Dr Michael Spence and UCL European Institute Visiting Professor Carlos Moedas (now Mayor of Lisbon).
For an in-depth exploration of the differential impact of disruptive relations with the EU on the UK and Swiss higher education systems, please see the recent European Institute policy paper ‘In and out of the European Research Area: System and Institutional Resilience in the UK and Switzerland’ written by Professor Tatiana Fumasoli to inform this event.