July 3, 2023

CSEM's relation with Horizon Europe: an interview with Erika Györvary

Since the European Federal Council abandoned the Framework Agreement, Switzerland is now considered as a non-associated third country in terms of scientific research within Europe. As a result, It has been excluded from the new "Horizon Europe" research program, according to the European Commission document published on 22 June 2021. This situation has had a long-term impact on CSEM and the Swiss research and ecosystem. European projects allow CSEM to work in close collaboration with international academic and industrial teams, bringing complementary skills to conduct world-class quality research and development. CSEM interviewed Erika GYÖRVARY, Lead of EU Affairs, to gain insights into the current situation.

European flag

3 key messages of this interview:

The impact of the exclusion is more serious in the long-term than currently visible.

International strategic research partners are important for information flow and to prevent Switzerland becoming an isolated island in the global research landscape.

Reintegration is key for the future, as science cannot be contained by borders

CSEM: As Switzerland is currently considered a non-associated third country, what access does it actually have to European projects?

Erika Györvary: Currently, Swiss partners can participate in most of the collaborative project in the Horizon Europe 2021-2027 frame program (editor's note: consisting of the Horizon Europe Framework Program, the Euratom program, the Digital Europe program and the ITER research infrastructure project), but we can no longer coordinate any European projects.

This means that we cannot exert the same influence on European research strategies as before, which limits our possibilities to affect the themes of European research and development. Moreover, Swiss partners are excluded from certain strategic areas of Horizon Europe, including quantum, space, and cybersecurity on the grounds of European sovereignty.

Switzerland is also excluded from mono-beneficiary programs, such as the European Research Council (ERC) and the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator, with the former being relevant for university researchers and the latter for small to medium enterprises (SMEs). However, we have Swiss transitional measures in place for both cases.

Furthermore, Switzerland is also totally excluded from the whole Digital Europe & ITER research infrastructure programs. This is source of concern for CSEM, as we cannot access calls for proposals for new infrastructure and equipment. For example, we were unable to join our strategic research partners in a Digital Europe TEF-call proposal called PREVAIL (Partnership for Realization and Validation of AI hardware Leadership). CEA-Leti, Fraunhofer, imec and VTT won the PREVAIL tender which had a budget of 156 million euros! PREVAIL represents essential preparatory work for the technological foundation of the European Chips Act, where Switzerland will also be partly excluded because we cannot participate in the Digital Europe calls!

Eligibility and funding Swiss participants in the Horizon Package 2023© SERI

How is the funding at the moment?

The Swiss Confederation allocated five billion Swiss francs as part of the federal decree on Swiss participation in the Horizon package 2021-2027 and 625 million Swiss francs in funding for 2023 calls for proposals. The Swiss Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research (SERI) uses these funds to finance researchers and innovators in collaborative projects, as well as to set up other transitional measures implemented by the Swiss National Science Foundation, Innosuisse, or the European Space Agency.

What are the impacts of this new situation on CSEM?

We have not experienced the same negative economic impact as felt by the Swiss universities, as CSEM focuses more on collaborative programs within Horizon Europe rather than mono-beneficiary programs. The biggest challenge for CSEM has been the uncertainty and lack of clarity surrounding the situation, which has resulted in a significant amount of extra effort on our part to decode exactly what is going on. On the other hand, while the situation is not currently alarming, it does pose a risk for certain domains where we have been partially excluded due to the European sovereignty plan. For example, in the case of atomic clocks, CSEM is no longer even solicited in the higher technology readiness level (TRL) calls, and we are excluded without discussion.

It's worth noting that the development of atomic clocks takes between 10-15 years, and while our atomic clock technologies for the Galileo system* are still assured for the next 5-10 years, we will not even be considered for the new generation of atomic clocks that will be selected for the Galileo system*. This product will then be on the market for the next 10-20 years, during which time we will lose our leadership and industrial base in this area. We will also be at a disadvantage in developing new areas, such as quantum sensors (magnetometers, gyroscopes, etc.).

Furthermore, the brain drain of the best scientists and research companies is a concern. The best researchers, who would normally have come to Switzerland, will prefer to stay in the EU due to better scientific prospects. Additionally, Swiss universities will become less attractive as employers for foreign researchers. We are seeing Swiss research companies moving their research-oriented units to EU as well. Adding to this, the EU has just excluded Switzerland from the body that coordinates the development of scientific infrastructure. Therefore, it’s imperative that Switzerland regains full association quickly, or we risk being sidelined for many years.

*Galileo System: Galileo is the European Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS), being developed by the European Commission

Can we hope that an association with Horizon Europe is still possible for Switzerland?

Yes, Switzerland can still hope for association with Horizon Europe, and the negotiations with the European Union have begun again. The Swiss Federal Council remain committed to achieving full association with Horizon Europe and related programs and initiatives as soon as possible.

The transitional measures put in place by SERI cannot replace the benefits of open collaboration with European partners. The reverse is also true—in new Horizon Europe Innovation Action projects in areas such as quantum, space, and cybersecurity, European solutions will not be optimal in international competition without the cutting-edge expertise of Swiss partners. It is like building a huge ship and using a poor engine because better adapted engines cannot be accessed. Research and development should not be limited by borders. When science is held hostage, everyone loses.

What will happen if Switzerland's reintegration fails?

If Switzerland fails to reintegrate, the EU will continue to strengthen its sovereignty while Switzerland becomes increasingly excluded. Therefore, Switzerland must quickly return to full association or risk being left out for many years.

What actions has CSEM taken to deal with this new situation?

Despite the challenging circumstances, we are committed to doing our best. In fact, with the recent launch of the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023-2024, we plan to submit further projects in research areas where we still have capacity.

We recognize that European strategic partnerships are more important than ever, and we are proud to collaborate with other innovation centers and research technology organizations (RTOs) such as the Heterogeneous Technology Alliance (HTA), including FhG Microelectronic, VTT and CEA-Leti. We will also remain active in various European industry and research associations like EARTO, EPoSS, AENEAS, and INSIDE and contribute to important European research decisions.

Our efforts have already yielded results: CSEM and our European project partners have won several new Horizon Europe projects. Additionally, CSEM coordinates nine new Swiss clusters in the prestigious and strategic Chips Joint Undertaking projects, which provide financial support at the European and national level for projects that enable industries to design, manufacture, and use innovative technologies in electronic components and systems.

"Research and development should not be limited by borders"

About the interviewee

Dr. Erika Györvary is the Lead of European Affairs at CSEM. She received her MSc, Lic Tech and Dr in Physical Chemistry from the Faculty of Chemical Engineering at Åbo Akademi University, Finland. Her Dr-work in biosensing she did in collaboration with the Center for Ultrastructure Research, University of Agricultural Sciences, Austria. Where she thereafter stayed as a PostDoc. Before joining CSEM she worked as a senior scientist at IMA, Integrated Microsystems Austria. At CSEM she started as Nanotechnology Expert. She is a founding member of CSEM Brasil in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, member of several international boards (RTO, alliances, start-ups, associations), a member of MedTech WG of EARTO, leading the WG Green ECS at EPoSS and the Health platform of HTA (Alliance: CSEM, CEA-LETI, FhG, VTT). She has published several articles in well know scientific journals, has initiated many EU-projects, industry mandates and has given presentations worldwide.

List of Chips JU projects including Swiss Clusters coordinated by CSEM

  • AGRARSENSE >> Smart, digitalized components and systems for data-based Agriculture and Forestry
  • LOLIPOP IOT >> Photonic integration project that enables the silicon nitride platform to make the next step and fully flourish
  • HICONNECTS >> Heterogeneous Integration for Connectivity and Sustainability
  • NEWLIFE >> New remote non-invasive monitoring solutions for ensuring the health of mothers and babies before and after birth
  • REBECCA >> Research on Breast Cancer induced chronic conditions supported by Causal Analysis of multi-source data
  • SUSTRONICS >> Sustainable and green electronics for circular economy.
  • EECONE- European - >> Ecosystem for green Electronics.
  • RESILIENT TRUST >>Trusted SMEs for Sustainable Growth of Europeans Economical Backbone to Strengthen the Digital Sovereignty.
  • 14AMI >> 14Angstroms Module Integration.

List of Horizon Europe projects with the participation of CSEM

  • ECLIPSE >> ECL-based Infectious Pathogen (bio)SEnsor
  • LOLIPOP >> Lithium NiObate empowered siLIcon nitride Platform for fragmentation free OPeration in the visible and the NIR
  • GENEX >> New end-to-end digital framework for optimized manufacturing and maintenance of next generation aircraft composite structures
  • SPRINTER >> Low-coSt and energy-efficient hybrid Photonic integrated circuits for fibeR-optic, free-space optIcal and mmWave commuNication systems supporting Time critical networking in industrial EnviRonments
  • FLASH-COMP >> Flawless and sustainable production of composite parts through a human centred digital approach
  • SIC4GRID >> Next generation modular SIC-based advanced power electronics converters for enhanced renewables integration into the grid
  • TRIUMPH >> Triple junction solar modules based on perovskites and silicon for high performance, low-cost and small environmental footprint
  • RESILEX >> Resilient Enhancement for the Silicon Industry Leveraging the European matriX
  • PATTERN >> Next generation ultra‐high‐speed microwave photonic integrated circuits using advanced hybrid integration
  • SOLID >> Sustainable manufacturing and optimized materials and interfaces for lithium metal batteries with digital quality control
  • INCHILDHEALTH >> Identifying determinants for indoor air quality and their health impact in environments for children: measures to improve indoor air quality and reduce disease burdens
  • PILATUS PV >> Digitalised pilot lines for silicon heterojunction tunnel interdigitated back contact solar cells and modules.
  • PEPPERONI PV >> Pilot line for European Production of PEROvskite-Silicon taNdem modules on Industrial scale
  • CLUSTEC >> Scalable Continuous Variable Cluster State Quantum Technologies
  • VALHALLA >> Perovskite solar cells with enhanced stability and applicability
  • EROSS-IOD >> European Robotic Orbital Support Services In-Orbit Demonstration
  • NETHELIX >> Intelligent digital toolbox towards more sustainable and safer extraction of mineral resources
  • MADE-3D >> Multi-Material Design using 3D Printing
  • LIBRA >> Light based multisensing system for screening of pathogens and nutrients in bioreactors
  • PHOREVER >> PHOtonic integrated OCT-enhanced flow cytometry for canceR and cardiovascular diagnostics enabled by Extracellular VEsicles discRimination
  • I-EDGE >> Nanomechanical Hardware Platforms for Edge Computing
  • TRIQUETRA >> Toolbox for assessing and mitigating Climate Change risks and natural hazards threatening cultural heritage
  • SEAMLESS-PV >> Development of advanced manufacturing equipment and processes aimed at the seamless integration of multifunctional PV solutions, enabling the deployment of IPV sectors
  • GLOCALFLEX >> A Global as well as Local Flexibility Marketplace to Demonstrate Grid Balancing Mechanisms through Cross-sectoral Interconnected and Integrated Energy Ecosystems enabling Automatic Flexibility Trading
  • NEMO >> Next-generation battery Models and battery electronics development
  • PHOENIX >> Building more reliable and performant batteries by embedding sensors and self-healing functionalities to detect degradation and repair damage via advanced Battery Management System
  • RECIRCULATE >> Reuse of batteries through characterization, smart logistics, automated pack and module dismantling and repackaging and a blockchain enabled marketplace.
  • TRACE >> Integration and Harmonization of Logistics Operations
  • NANOIMMUNOERA >> Nanotechnology -enabled detection of clinically relevant antibodies for early cancer diagnosis and immunotherapy monitoring
  • DAIEdge >> A network of excellence for distributed, trustworthy, efficient and scalable AI at the Edge
  • EverPV >> New delamination methods for photovoltaic panels recycling and reusing.