36. Switzerland

36.1. SMEs in the national economy

SMEs, defined as firms with fewer than 250 employees, constituted 99.3% of Swiss enterprises in 2013, employing 66.9% of the labour force. Micro-enterprises with up to 9 employees accounted for the majority of SMEs (69.6%), employing 16.5% of the country’s workforce.

Table ‎36.1. Distribution of firms in Switzerland, 2013
(By firm size, percentage of all firms)

Firm size (employees)



All firms



SMEs (1-249)



Micro (1-9)



Small (10-49)



Medium (50-249)



Large (250 +)



Note: Data include financial enterprises with the exception of holding companies (ISIC Rev. 4, sector 642). Non-employer enterprises are not included.

Source: (OECD, 2017[1]).

36.2. National policy framework to support SMEs in public procurement

The main focus for Switzerland in supporting SMEs in public procurement was ensuring favourable operating conditions for them. Swiss legislation does not provide specific advantages, restrictions, quotas or objectives for SME participation in government procurement. Rather, it takes into account the specific needs of SMEs and guarantees non-discriminatory, open and transparent competition in government procurement markets. Swiss SMEs’ participation in international procurement markets constitutes one of the guiding principles of the country’s policy. The WTO/GPA membership, the bilateral agreements with the EU on government procurement, and the free trade agreements with other trade partners are an important pillar of Swiss foreign economic policy. Such a legal framework guarantees non-discriminatory, open and transparent competition on government procurement markets, thereby contributing to increase SMEs’ export opportunities and competiveness.

In particular, the following measures and practices are among the focus areas for Swiss policy to facilitate SME participation in government procurement.

Dividing contracts into lots, stipulated through the Ordinance on Government Procurement, enabled contracts to be better adapted to the size of SMEs. This way, SMEs are able to participate in large-scale procurement while not having to commit too many resources. Additionally, the contracting authority can benefit from greater competition, less concentration of risks, and positive effects on value for money by enabling more bidders to participate.

Allowing bidders to group into consortia and to subcontract in order to facilitate access to important public procurement contracts are other measures foreseen by Swiss legislation.

Swiss legislation on public procurement also leaves sufficient room to introduce sustainability criteria in the procurement process, while ensuring that the core principles of non-discrimination and transparency apply.

In order to reduce the administrative burden for SMEs, confederation entities may have recourse to a tool known as the “Individual Declaration”. This is a form used to collect information from bidders on the basic terms for a bidder’s participation in a public bidding procedure. At the Federal level, bidders may register on a list if they meet the qualification criteria.

Swiss law also provides bidders with the opportunity to submit alternative solutions in their bids, in particular for contracts that include an innovative aspect. The alternative must enable the bidder to submit a bid that allows the object of the contract to be achieved in a manner different from that envisaged by the contracting entity. To ensure that the procurement meets the actual needs of the contracting entity over time, there must be a dialogue between the entity and the bidders.

36.3. Implementation mechanisms

The Swiss Government considers SMEs’ needs very closely. With a policy specifically targeted at those needs, the federal government is invested in optimising the public procurement framework in a sustainable way. To that end, the Swiss Government holds regular exchanges and contacts with business operators. Furthermore, there is a dedicated webpage that provides information to suppliers on the public procurement portal. In addition to the regular training courses, contracting authorities are provided additional guidance through conferences, for example on bid partitioning and sustainable procurement.

There is an electronic platform (www.simap.ch) shared by the federal government, cantons and communes for public procurement purposes. It offers a simple procedure for public contract-awarding authorities to post their tenders and, if need be, any relevant tender documents. Interested suppliers are given an overview of all existing contracts across Switzerland and can download both the tenders and tender documents. They can also ask questions on a question/answer forum on the portal.


[1] OECD (2017), Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2017: An OECD Scoreboard, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/fin_sme_ent-2017-en.

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