“Involve Switzerland and UK again in European research”

Switzerland and the United Kingdom must re-join the European research programme Horizon as soon as possible, in the opinion of the Dutch higher education institutions and research institutions.

photo Patera / Shutterstock

The European Union cannot afford to exclude Switzerland and the United Kingdom from the programme, according to a position paper from Neth-ER, the organisation that represents the interests of Dutch education and research in Brussels.

That position paper, which was published today, is a brochure with viewpoints on European research. It is the vision that Neth-ER is going to promote on behalf of the affiliated organisations.


Switzerland and the UK are heavyweights in the world of scientific research. It is important for Europe to allow those countries to take part in international research, in Neth-ER’s view.

Since Brexit, the UK cannot continue with the research programme under the same terms as before; talks are still under way on that. Switzerland was not permitted to take part anymore after negotiations with the EU on free trade and migration ran aground.

The Dutch research institutions feel that this situation must not be allowed to continue much longer. Moreover, other like-minded nations should get access to the programme as well; that is not unusual. There are currently 16 countries from outside the EU that are taking part in the research programme, including Norway, Turkey, Israel and Ukraine. Talks with Morocco are ongoing and, somewhat further away, with New Zealand.

Knowledge or cattle

Neth-ER is enthusiastic about the Horizon Europe programme, in which researchers can apply for funding. The Netherlands generally does well out of the programme: it appears that for every euro we get back 1.70 euros in funding.

Some countries see less return for their contribution and would prefer the money to be spent on agricultural subsidies and other funds. In Europe a battle is raging for ‘knowledge or cattle’, as it is sometimes known.

Maybe the Netherlands is actually too successful, according to Eveline Crone, Vice President of the European Research Council (ERC), which is also part of the Horizon programme. She feels that knowledge and money ought to be distributed more fairly among the Member States.

Measures have indeed been taken to that end, with researchers from specific countries being included with the other groupings; in that way they were able to learn from one another.


But according to Neth-ER, in the end the money must continue to go to the best researchers, irrespective of their country of origin. It takes the view that it would be better for countries that are less strong in scientific matters to focus on restructuring and investments. The ‘widening instrument’ should ultimately become unnecessary.

Participants in Neth-ER include not only the Dutch higher education institutions and research institutions but also the Dutch National Students' Association (ISO), the Dutch Student Union (LSVb), the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Dutch Research Council (NWO) and the MBO Council.

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