The University of Bern is a member of The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities. The Guild is a network of 21 universities with an excellent research track record, such as the University of Bern. Since Switzerland is currently not associated to Horizon Europe, Guild membership offers a way for the University of Bern to be involved in the making of Europe’s research and education policy.
Christian Leumann, rector at the University of Bern, likes to call The Guild “a family of European universities”. Its members have come together to strengthen the voice of researchers in political debates and give its members a trusted space for exchanges. Since its foundation in 2016, The Guild has established itself as a valued interlocutor of policymakers in Brussels. Members of the European Commission actively reach out to The Guild when they seek to understand the views of researchers.
Research excellence meets politics
All Guild members are dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in research. Together, they represent a significant share of European research funding, securing a combined 2.3 billion Euros from Horizon 2020, which represents 19% of the university share from the programme. Its successor, Horizon Europe will run until 2027 and has a combined budget of 95.5 billion Euros. Horizon Europe will be the largest research and innovation programme in the world.
“For the University of Bern, Guild membership is an opportunity to stay involved in the conversation about European research and education policy”, explained Christian Leumann. He and the researchers who joined the many working groups of The Guild hear the latest developments in Brussels early and are given a platform to make their voices heard by policymakers at EU institutions.
For instance, when the European Commission relaunched the European Research Area last year, they focused heavily on industrial innovation and applied science. The Guild has been arguing since then in favour of putting more emphasis on fundamental research. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of basic research in the context of vaccine development.
Stronger by standing together
Even though Swiss association to Horizon Europe has not yet been accomplished, Guild membership gives the University of Bern the support of twenty other universities which advocate for the position of Switzerland. The Guild has been supporting the participation of Switzerland in Horizon Europe since 2018, both directly in conversations with the European Commission and very publicly again when Horizon Europe was officially launched earlier this year.
For researchers, funding is only one part of the picture. Weaving networks and sharing ideas are just as important as raising money. Christian Leumann added: “I value the personal exchanges with other presidents of Guild universities. Given the uncertainty surrounding Swiss association to Horizon Europe, we need friends in Europe.” Guild membership gives the University of Bern a forum to collaborate with other universities in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
Henriette Graf is the institutional liaison to the Guild. If you are a researcher and would like to find out more about the different working groups in which we are involved, don’t hesitate to get in touch with her.
 The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities, “The Guild at 21,” annual report 2020-2021, https://www.the-guild.eu/publications/annual-reports/the-guild_annual-report_2020-2021_web.pdf
Text: Caspar Bienek
Image: The Guild of European Research-Intensive Universities