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Swiss lack the courage for entrepreneurial success

The Swiss are not taught to take business risks

(Keystone)

Switzerland is failing to use its wealth of business and financial resources to encourage entrepreneurship, according to a new study.

The Lausanne-based business school, IMD, found the Swiss were afraid to take risks and set up in business on their own, preferring the security of being an employee.

Switzerland ranked 18th out of 37 countries in terms of entrepreneurial spirit. Although its total entrepreneurial activity, at 7.13 per cent, was higher than most EU countries, except Ireland, it lagged behind the United States, with 10.51 per cent.

This year was the first time Switzerland was included in the study, which forms part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, launched in 1999.

Encouraging signs

The study found that Switzerland had plenty of potential as a breeding ground for entrepreneurs.

The country is in a prime financial position to fund new businesses, the study said. It has abundant capital to help entrepreneurs make that all-important first step into the business world.

It also has a strong work ethic, an impressive portfolio of successful businesses and a high quality educational system.

Holding back

But the IMD remarks that despite this potential, Switzerland does not do enough to promote entrepreneurship.

Jean-Claude Strebel, Vice President of the De Vigier Foundation, which helps young people raise funds to set up in business, believes that the main obstacle is the mentality of young Swiss.

They are taught to look for security in employment by being an employee, rather than to take risks and go it alone.

"The main problem for the young Swiss people is that they have a big chance in studying and getting the know-how and experience in starting a new business...

"But [they] are very spoilt. They are expecting good jobs in good companies for good salaries, so they don't really see a big reason to take risks and start a new business," he told swissinfo.

Risk-averse

As well as being afraid of risks, IMD also found that the Swiss government and financial institutions do little to help new businesses get off the ground.

While government policy is slow to react to entrepreneurs' needs, financial institutions invest too little in venture capital.

The situation may be about to change, though - the current financial climate may spur more Swiss to take a risk and set up on their own, says Georges Haour, of the IMD and one of the authors of the report.

"A lot of the old pillars of the Swiss economy, such as ABB... are going through or have gone through difficult times," Haour told swissinfo. "So people are beginning to realise that old trees are dying and maybe it's time to plant new seeds."

The IMD's findings come as the Federal Institute of Technology announced the launch of a nationwide course teaching business acumen to scientists (see related story).

swissinfo, Joanne Shields

Key facts

The study was conducted by IMD, under the umbrella of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
It was the first time that Switzerland was included.
Switzerland ranked 18 out of 37 countries.
Some 2,000 Swiss were questioned in the survey.

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