Horizon 2020: Switzerland fully associated from 1 Jan 2017 on

Switzerland has ratified the protocol that extends the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons to Croatia, thus opening the door for Switzerland's full association to Horizon 2020.

On 16 December 2016, the Swiss Parliament adopted the application law for Art.121a of the Constitution, respecting the Bilateral Agreements with the EU in all aspects. On the same day, the Swiss Federal Council ratified the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia, thus fulfilling the necessary condition for Switzerland’s full association to Horizon 2020 as of 2017. As a consequence the status of Switzerland for the EU Framework Programme "Horizon 2020" (2014-2020) will change from partial to full association.

The negotiations with the European Union on the association of Switzerland to Horizon 2020 had been suspended following the adoption of the popular vote against mass immigration on 9 February 2014. Meanwhile, an agreement with the European Commission (EC) providing a partial and provisory association to Horizon 2020 had been found. The agreement offered companies, researchers​ and institutions in Switzerland access to priorities 'Excellent Science' and 'Spreading Excellence and Widening Participation' as well as to activities falling under EURATOM and International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) until the end of 2016.

The condition to be fully associated to Horizon 2020 as of 1 January 2017 was the ratification of the protocol extending the free movement of persons to Croatia. With this condition fulfilled, Swiss researchers and institutions will as of 1 January 2017 be able to participate in all parts of Horizon 2020, under the same conditions as Member States of the EU and other Associated Countries.

For more information and updated fact sheets on Swiss participation in H2020, please refer to the related Euresearch news.

Sources: Swisscore, Euresearch

Unit costs for clinical studies: More flexibility now

The European Commission has just published a revisedDecision On Unit Costs For Clinical Studies.
Changes in the possibilities of using unit costs for clinical studies concern:
- The introduction of the possibility to use different reimbursement methods (actual or unit costs) for the different categories of eligible costs included in the Commission decision;
- The definition of the conditions under which the unit costs can be modified during the implementation of the action;
- An update of the scope of the decision by mentioning the new Clinical Trial Regulation EU No 536/2014 and more consistent use of the term 'clinical study';
- More consistent use of the term 'patient or study participant', thereby taking into account that healthy volunteers (in accordance with EU rules and international practice) take part in certain clinical studies;
- More consistent use of the terms 'beneficiaries and third parties'.

In particular the first two changes introduce significant additional flexibility into the use of these unit costs, which will facilitate the use of unit costs for clinical studies:

- Applicants can now decide for most cost items whether they want to be reimbursed on the basis of unit costs or actual costs. Only for the costs of personnel directly assigned to the conduct of clinical studies, each beneficiary may only choose one form - unit costs per patient or actual costs - with the exception of personnel costs for horizontal tasks, such as study monitoring or study coordination, which can always be charged as direct costs.

- The rules now specify that the unit costs can be amended (through a formal amendment) when changes in the protocol or errors occurred in the identification of costs recorded in the beneficiary's certified or auditable accounts for year N-1 or in the application of the methodology to calculate these unit costs.

Sources: EC, Euresearch

ERC to re-launch Synergy Grants in 2018

After a thorough assessment of the ongoing projects funded through the pilot calls in 2012 and 2013, the ERC Scientific Council decided to reinstate the Synergy Grant funding scheme in 2018.

The objective of the Synergy Grant is to enable a small group of principal investigators and their teams to bring together complementary skills, knowledge and resources in new ways, in order to jointly address research problems in free-spirited ways, potentially leading to major breakthroughs that scientists would not be able to achieve working alone. The funding scheme intends to promote substantial advances at the frontiers of knowledge, and to encourage new productive lines of enquiry and new methods and techniques, including unconventional approaches and investigations at the crossroads of established disciplines.

In 2012 and 2013, the ERC opened two competitions for Synergy Grants on a pilot basis. An assessment of the 24 projects funded in these calls, including visits to the research teams by Scientific Council members, came to the conclusion that such grants would be a valuable addition to the main ERC funding schemes - part of the EU's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation - which are targeted at individual researchers.

Full ERC press release

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