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Approximately 600’000, or 99% of companies registered in Switzerland are classified as SME’s  (small, medium enterprises). And with 2/3 of all employees in Switzerland now employed by an SME, it is clear that these form the backbone of the Swiss economy. Contributing to the importance of SME’s is the fact that in 2023, foreign acquisition by Swiss SME’s was up 1.3% vs previous year to set a new record of 76 acquisitions for the year.


But it is not only with regards to foreign acquisitions that Swiss SME’s lead the way. In fact SME companies are often seen as the driving force behind much of the innovation taking place in Switzerland.

The above statement can be substantiated in part by ETH University Professor,  Martin Wörter. Professor Wörter heads the Innovation Economics Division at the KOF Swiss Economic Institute, responsible for an Innovation Survey – conducted among Swiss companies once every three years on behalf of SECO.

In addition, the European Commission’s, Eurostat statistics evaluates start-up performances across Europe.  These illustrate that innovation is consistently driven by SMEs. Give the high percentage of SME’s operating in Switzerland, this would seem like good news indeed!


 Switzerland the Global Innovation Leader

The Global Innovation Index survey has named Switzerland as the innovation global leader for several years. And Switzerland has a thriving start-up ecosystem producing amazing companies in the fields of AI, Medtech, and Drones to name just three.

Switzerland’s innovation and flexibility can also be evidenced through its start-up network infrastructure. For example:


SME and Start-up Support

The Swiss government helps viable SME’s and start-ups secure bank loans by funding loan guarantee cooperatives. Other private organisations include Swisspeers. This is a platform offering Swiss startup business loans from investors. Further examples:

  • SECO – the Swiss Secretariat for Economic Affairs – operates an SME portal to support SME’s in all business areas.
  • Funding Start-ups specifically for the IT Sector is the newly re-named Founderful (previously “Wingman Ventures”). Technically an SME itself, Founderful has raised US$85M for Fund II to bolster Swiss tech innovation. The firm champions local startups in robotics, AI, and cleantech.
    • Founded in 2019, the company has had a tangible impact on the Swiss startup ecosystem.
    • An initial funding pool of US$60 million for 40 Start-ups created more than 1’000 jobs. Notable achievements include Wingtra, (Drones for Survey data) De Poly (Circular Economy for Plastics) and Corintis, (Cooling technology for computer chips) which secured over US$350 million in follow-on funding.



In Conclusion

With 99% of companies in Switzerland classified as SME’s (includes Start-ups) and with a state-of-the-art eco-system and award winning innovation ethos, it is easy to see why Switzerland has become a world leader in innovation and flexibility.

This success has also created a demand for specialists from all sectors in either permanent – or project contractor roles. And whether in aircraft, drone, AI, Blockchain, ICT or a plethora of other sectors – the demand for skilled specialists in Switzerland is high. And with a world leading support eco-system in place, it is difficult to see why this demand would slow down any time soon.

The innovative entrepreneurs working in SME’s and Start-ups in Switzerland play a vital role in the success story of Swiss business innovation.

Steve Jobs the founder of Apple once said:  “Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘if I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.’ People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”  

Cue: Swiss SME’s and Start-ups!


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