© Innosuisse
Innovation © Innosuisse

The  Swiss economy thrives on innovation and Switzerland regularly tops the global innovation indexes. The amount of patents and registered trademarks and designs is a clear indication of the high level of innovation in Switzerland and so is the number of people employed in knowledge-intensive sectors. Also the proportion of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME) bringing new products and processes to the market exceeds that of the surrounding countries. 

Similar to the area of research, there is a strong belief in the bottom-up approach when it comes to innovation in Switzerland. While the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) sets out overall (legal) framework for innovation support, Innosuisse is the Swiss innovation promotion agency. It encourages scientific innovation in Switzerland by providing funding, advisory services and networks to improve the Swiss economy. Whereas Swiss businesses undertake and finance a large part of their Research and Innovation (R&I) activities, the total amount of public funding for innovation activities is much lower than for basic research and is paid only to publicly-oriented R&I partners, such as public universities and research and technology organizations carrying out applied research with or for Swiss enterprises.  With this policy, Switzerland is an exception amongst the member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Switzerland’s innovation policy starts from the assumption that the generation of innovation is a core task of industry and SME and that the businesses have to put, in large parts, their own efforts and money in it. Generally, the Swiss state only intervenes rarely into the innovation process. It focuses on setting the legal framework and providing the necessary infrastructure.

Apart from funding R&I projecs, there is a strong emphasis on mentoring, coaching, teaching business knowledge and entrepreneurship skills as well as proving small companies and start-ups with a network of partners in the R&I sector as well as along their value chain. Support is also available for export and internationalisation. Apart from the federal institutions, the 26 cantons have their own innovation strategies and offer numerous regional innovation promotion initiatives.  There are various innovation support mechanisms depending on geographic location, sector or type of company.