In such cases, Swiss companies are often unsure whether and how they can participate in these programmes, and whether access to EU aid money is also covered by the bilateral agreements. Agreements are becoming increasingly important within the context of international commerce. Given the different written laws and forms of legal practice that exist across the world and the different interpretations of the law that are culturally conditioned, it is impossible to devote too much attention to devising «good» agreements. Model agreements have proven to be useful, particularly for companies with little experience in this area between Switzerland and the EU.
The EU offers many different programmes which are financed by a variety of sources.
Structural and Cohesion Funds
The four Structural Funds are used to finance structural assistance in the areas of agriculture, regional development, social policy and fishing, whereas the Cohesion Fund provides financial support for projects relating to the environment and transport infrastructure. The aim of the funds is to support those countries and regions that have underdeveloped structures, thereby reducing disparities within the EU.
Financial assistance is provided not only through the European Commission, but also through regional authorities. As a result, these authorities share responsibility for implementing the programmes.
The financial support provided by the four Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund is of particular interest to Swiss companies, as WTO regulations apply to the tendering process where public procurement is concerned. This means that Swiss companies have the same rights to participate in the tendering process as those of other countries. In addition, the EU and Switzerland have reached a bilateral agreement to extend the scope of application of WTO regulations.
According to this agreement, Swiss companies have access to the financial support available for all infrastructure projects, which often involve transport and the environment. However, such access is denied in cases where the financial support is intended to directly benefit local industry.
As far as other EU support programmes are concerned, Swiss firms do not generally enjoy the same opportunities as their EU counterparts, and it is basically impossible for them to participate. With this in mind, it is essential that the conditions for participating in a programme or tendering process are clarified on a case-by-case basis.
Programmes outside the EU (e.g. TACIS, CARDS)
The EuropeAid Co-operation Office is responsible for implementing the external aid instruments of the European Commission. Financial resources are provided by the European Union’s budget and the European Development Fund. These programmes are only available to companies from EU countries or the countries benefiting from the assistance. It is basically impossible for Swiss companies to participate.
7th Framework Programme for Research and Development
The 7th Framework Programme for Research and Development (7th FRP) is the EU’s most important instrument for funding research in Europe and has a total budget of 54.6 billion euros. The objective of this programme is to strengthen Europe as a research location and to thus promote growth and employment through cross-border networking of European research capacity.
Four major objectives have been established and, accordingly, four specific main programmes have been set up, in accordance with which European research activities are to be structured:
The Cooperation programme aims to promote cooperation and to intensify cross-border links between industry and research.
The aim of the Ideas programme is to intensify research at the frontiers of knowledge, i.e. to discover new knowledge which will fundamentally change the way we view the world and our way of life.
In the case of the People programme considerable funds will be provided, in order to improve the career prospects of researchers in Europe and to attract a larger number of qualified young researchers.
With the aid of the Capacities programme powerful resources are to be made available to researchers, in order to enable them to improve the quality and competitiveness of European research.
In addition, the direct measures of the Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the measures of EURATOM in the areas of fusion research as well as nuclear fission and radiation protection will be funded from the 7th Framework Programme.
Thanks to the bilateral agreement regarding Switzerland’s participation in the 7th FRP (2007 - 2013), Swiss researchers have the same rights as their partners from EU Member States to participate in the projects of the 7th FRP and to apply for appropriate funding from Brussels.
In order to further improve the conditions for Swiss participation in the EU FRP, the State Secretariat for Education and Research is instructing the information network Euresearch to inform and advise those researchers who are interested in participating in the European research cooperation.
Euresearch has a registered office in Berne with national contact points to the EU Framework Programme as well as regional advisory centres at 10 university sites. In addition, Euresearch works with the SwissCore contact office in Brussels. The State Secretariat for Education and Research is also providing funding of CHF 7,000 for Swiss SMEs which are participating for the first time in a project proposal for the 7th FRP.
KTI/CTI – Innovation Promotion Agency
The KTI/CTI is the Swiss Confederation's innovation promotion agency. It has been supporting the transfer of technology between higher education and businesses for 60 years. The intention is to convert new knowledge discovered in laboratories into projects, so that it can be transferred to the marketplace.
At least one company and one institution collaborate in each promotional project (it is also possible for partners from the EU to get involved). Using the bottom-up principle, the partners are able to choose the subject of their project for themselves. As a rule, the company taking part covers at least 50% of project costs.