Switzerland is drawing on its science diplomacy experience to help set up the construction and governance of the South East European International Institute for Sustainable Technologies (SEEIIST) – the first large research infrastructure in the Western Balkans.

This regional project, which main missions are Science for Peace; Scientific Excellence; International Collaboration; Sustainable development of society; Education; Technology Transfer; Development of powerful digital network; High performance computing and Big Data handling, is involving Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Republic of Kosovo, Montenegro, the Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia – Croatia and Greece as observing members – cooperating to deliver the €200 million research lab that would apply advances in particle physics to medical technologies and use proton or ion beams to deliver precision treatment of tumours, sparing healthy tissue.

The design phase of the project is completed, but it now needs a long-term legal entity, and agreement on where the facility will be built. While Switzerland is offering to help with the governance, the project still needs EU money. SEEIIST expects EU cohesion funds for the Western Balkans, along with contributions from EU pre-accession funds, and contributions from member governments. In 2020, the EU announced a new enlargement strategy that includes an economic development plan for the Western Balkans. SEEIIST was included in the region’s own agenda on research and innovation, but still, it needs EU structural and cohesion funds to move forward, as it was not included in the European Commission’s economic and investment plan for the region.

It will therefore be key for the nursing researchers to follow up on this development and within EU enlargement opportunities, move nursing research into SEEIIST and make sure these developments make healthcare ecosystems resilient.