Government tries to stir up spirit of enterprise

The programme is designed to help students become entrepreneurs. epfl

The government has announced additional funding for a training programme to help boost the number of start-ups in Switzerland.

This content was published on May 24, 2004 - 18:25

The aim is to encourage entrepreneurial thinking and innovation among students and boost economic growth.

On Monday the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology unveiled details of how it hopes to help more young entrepreneurs set up in business on their own.

The programme has a four-year budget of SFr16 million ($12.5 million) for entrepreneurial programmes and courses across the country.

The institute in charge of organising the courses says it expects to attract some 1,500 students every year and encourage about 400 people to set up their own companies.

The initiative, dubbed “Venturelab”, comes amid criticism from the Swiss business community and the Academy of Engineering Sciences that start-ups are not being offered enough financial support and that Switzerland is lagging behind as a centre for innovation.

Could try harder

Roman Balzan of the St Gallen-based Institute for Young Enterprises said more could be done to encourage would-be entrepreneurs to go into business.

“The business environment is not favourable to young entrepreneurs. University graduates primarily want to work for big companies rather than set up in business on their own,” Balzan told swissinfo.

“There is a distinct lack of know-how and not enough courage to try things it out,” he added.

Balzan said one problem was that banks had in the past been reluctant to provide the necessary start-up capital for new businesses.

But he acknowledged that things had improved slightly and that financing was now more readily available.

Red tape

Bureaucratic hurdles are seen as another major obstacle to setting up in business, even though the federal authorities have pledged to reduce the amount of paperwork involved.

Armand Lombard, president of a consultancy for start-ups in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, welcomed the development of training programmes, but denied that the country was unattractive to young entrepreneurs.

“One in ten start-ups survives in the United States, while surveys show that in the French-speaking part of Switzerland the success rate is 90 per cent,” said Lombard.

But he accepts that what is missing in Switzerland is both a spirit of entrepreneurship and adequate funding.

“Swiss investors are not really used to pumping money into small companies, because they only see the risks involved.”


Key facts

Some 99.7% of Swiss companies have fewer than 250 employees.
There are about 310,000 private companies in Switzerland.
Training courses for young entrepreneurs will start later this year.

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In brief

The federal authorities have launched training courses for students to set up their own businesses.

The programme comes amid criticism that Switzerland risks lagging behind other countries if it does not do more to promote innovation.

The main obstacles for start-ups are a lack of entrepreneurial courage, shortage of risk capital and bureaucratic hurdles.

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