Chapter 41. Switzerland

Figure 41.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Switzerland
Figure 41.1. Structure and performance of the SME sector in Switzerland

Notes: A. For Switzerland, structural business data exclude enterprises with less than three persons employed.

Sources: Charts A, C, D: OECD Structural and Demographic Statistics Database 2018, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/sdbs-data-en; Chart B. For employer enterprise births, OECD Structural and Demographic Statistics Database 2018; for bankruptcies, Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2018:  An OECD Scoreboard; Chart E: OECD Structural and Demographic Business Statistics Database 2018, Employer Business Demography dataset.

 StatLink http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/888933925578

SME business conditions and access to strategic resources

Institutional and regulatory framework

Regulatory conditions for Swiss start-ups are accommodative. The level of administrative burden on start-ups, the costs for starting a business or the strength of insolvency regime are on par with the OECD median. However, there is a high level of administrative fragmentation between the Federal State and cantons, for instance in the support programmes to entrepreneurs. 87 different measures are available at the canton level for financing firms and start-ups. In 2017 the government launched EasyGov.swiss, an one-stop-shop allowing firms processing authorisation, application and reporting online. It is available at federal level and will be extended to cantonal and municipal authorities in 2019. Together with the SME Portal, the platforms aim to simplify administrative procedures for SMEs.

Market conditions

Switzerland is a small open economy, well integrated in the global economy, but the country has higher binding restrictions in services trade than the OECD median, particularly in computer or telecom services. These constraints tend to weigh on cross-border flows and increase domestic mark-ups. The government is actively pursuing the development of a Free Trade Agreements network. New FTAs were concluded in 2016 with the Philippines and Georgia. Negotiations are ongoing with India, South-East Asian countries, or Mercosur States.

Infrastructure

In Switzerland, network industries (energy, transport and ICT) are highly regulated and concentrated, which weigh on their competitiveness. Whereas fixed broadband is widely diffused across the country, performance in terms of price or mobile broadband penetration are around, or even below, the OECD median. The Digital Switzerland Strategy (2018-20) provides the guidelines for a digital transformation of the country and envisions developments around Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence. It includes a starter kit for cyber security for SMEs. Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, also promotes the digital transformation of energy and mobility systems via the Swiss Competence Centers for Energy Research (SCCERs).

Access to finance

The Swiss credit market is sound and SME liquidity issues have faded in the last decade. SMEs have benefited from decreasing interest rates and a lower interest rate spread. Lending standards also loosened in 2016 and venture capital markets peaked after a boom in 2015. Crowdfunding activities have been increasing at a fast pace despite the absence of a specific legislative framework. The government has focused recent efforts on alternative sources of SME finance and creating a Fintech-friendly environment. In 2017, the Federal Council lowered entry barriers to the Fintech market with a view to increasing competition. Regulatory amendments also aim to stimulate the testing of new business models.

Access to skills

The Swiss vocational education and training (VET) system is strongly employer- and market-driven and yields good labour market outcomes. However, there is mounting evidence of increasing job vacancies and skills mismatches with already ICT skills shortage and more under-qualified workers than over-qualified ones. The multiannual federal plan for the promotion of Education, Research and Innovation (ERI Dispatch) (2017-20) puts an emphasis on improving financing for professional tertiary education and making it more attractive. The Digitalisation Action Plan for ERI (2019-20) foresees strengthening digital competences in all fields of education.

Access to innovation assets

Switzerland is an innovation leader in Europe, and Swiss SMEs are more engaged in innovation activities than their OECD counterparts. In comparison, their participation in R&D and collaboration networks is less strong. They are also less proactive in digitalising internal processes. An online platform digital.swiss (2016) provides information on digitalisation and measures progress in 15 topic areas. The New Regional Policy (NRP) entered its second 8-year funding phase in 2016 with a focus on regional innovation and the structural transformation of the tourism industry. SMEs in rural areas receive coaching on knowledge sharing and collaboration with a view to promoting regional innovation systems.

The full country profile is available at https://doi.org/10.1787/34907e9c-en

References

Le Conseil Fédéral (2017), Le Conseil fédéral met en vigueur de nouvelles règles pour les FinTech, https://www.admin.ch/gov/fr/accueil/documentation/communiques.msg-id-67436.html (accessed on 11 September 2018).

OECD (2017), OECD Economic Surveys: Switzerland 2017, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/eco_surveys-che-2017-en.

SECO (2019), Free Trade Agreements, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/en/home/Aussenwirtschaftspolitik_Wirtschaftliche_Zusammenarbeit/Wirtschaftsbeziehungen/Freihandelsabkommen.html.

SECO (2018), EasyGov, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, https://www.easygov.swiss/easygov/#/en (accessed on 15 November 2018).

SECO (n.d.), Developing a Transaction Portal for Businesses, State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, https://www.egovernment.ch/en/umsetzung/schwerpunktplan/tranksaktionsportal-fur-die-wirtschaft/ (accessed on 15 November 2018).

Swiss Confederation (2018), Companies Benefit from EasyGov and SME Portal, https://www.kmu.admin.ch/kmu/en/home/New/news/2018/companies-benefit-from-easygov-and-smeportal.html (accessed on 15 November 2018).

Swiss Confederation (2018), Piano d'azione Svizzera digitale, https://www.bakom.admin.ch/bakom/it/pagina-iniziale/digitale-e-internet/strategia-svizzera-digitale.html (accessed on 15 November 2018).

Swiss Confederation (2018), The SME Portal is available in English, https://www.kmu.admin.ch/kmu/en/home/New/news/2018/the-sme-portal-is-available-in-enlgish.html.

Swiss Federation for Adult Learning (n.d.), Federal Act on Continuing Education and Training, https://alice.ch/en/continuing-education-in-switzerland/federal-act-on-continuing-education-and-training/ (accessed on 12 September 2018).

Switzerland Global Enterprise (2018), Swiss SMEs Still in Export Mode, https://www.s-ge.com/en/article/news/export-outlook (accessed on 15 November 2018).

Vujanovic, P. and C. Lewis (2017), “Ensuring a dynamic skills-training and life-long learning system in Switzerland”, No. 1444, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/438423d9-en.

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