Measures to compensate the effects of the strong franc have accelerated innovation projects

Berne, 25.02.2014 - The additional 100 million Swiss francs awarded to the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) by the Federal Council and parliament in September 2011 have had their intended effect: Thanks to this special funding, already existing innovation projects that may otherwise have been cancelled have been pushed forward and realised. This was the result of an external assessment by the KOF Swiss Economic Institute at the ETH Zurich and the research and consultancy agency Infras. Export-oriented small and medium-sized businesses have benefited most from the measures.

The additional funding received by CTI was completely used up in a very short time. In the time allotted (October to December 2011), the CTI was only able to assess half of the estimated 1,050 applications received. Of these, 245 project proposals were approved. CTI Director Klara Sekanina stated: “The strong response shows that innovation actors are willing to take action when provided with suitable incentives. It also shows that Swiss innovation actors find the CTI instruments launched during the period of special funding to be a motivating factor.” 

Desired target group reached

The CTI managed to reach a very large percentage of the target group: three-fourths of the companies taking part in the approved projects account for over 70% of Swiss exports; three-fourths were SMEs, one-third had never been involved in a CTI-sponsored project and 6% had never worked with a higher education institution before. On the research side, the actors maintain extensive networks, work efficiently and respond well to market developments. 

Measures have helped to further encourage innovation

In the short-term, measures have had the desired effects. According to the evaluation, the special measures were largely successful in reaching the stated aim of spurring and accelerating innovation projects. Many of these projects would have either been postponed or cancelled altogether. The companies receiving CTI funding spent significantly more on research and development and hired more research staff than similar companies that did not receive such funding. While there were no observable improvements in turnover, none were expected in the short-term. Among the other positive effects, the authors noted improved networking ties between researchers and the private sector as well as improvements in the CTI's innovation promotion activities. 

CTI performance rated "good to very good"

According to the report, the very tight time constraints placed an extremely heavy burden on both CTI experts and the CTI Secretariat. Under these conditions, the evaluation rated CTI's performance as being "good to very good". CTI developed a coherent series of instruments, adopted efficient procedures and assessed project proposals in a very short time in 34 additional evaluation meetings. The main criticism levelled against the CTI was the "first come, first served principle", which left over 500 project proposals unhandled.  

Project proposals will be examined further

By the end of 2013, the CTI estimated that 91 projects (37%) receiving special funding had already reached completion and 39 projects (16%) were in the final phase. The latter group and the remaining 115 projects (47%) are expected to reach completion by the end of 2014 or sometime afterwards. The CTI is monitoring progress on these projects and will have a clearer idea of the outcome and impact of sponsored projects by the end of 2014. 

CTI played a positive role

Two years after the special measures were taken, the CTI is seen as having played a positive role. CTI President Walter Steinlin stated: "The CTI created suitable incentives and this has had a very strong ripple effect. Higher education partners have very extensive networks and were able to respond quickly and efficiently. This enabled the CTI to reach the main objective of project promotion. Innovation activities intensified and specific projects were carried out more quickly."  

Focus on export-oriented companies

Faced with an overly strong Swiss franc, the Confederation launched a major relief package in October 2011. Part of this package was a special budget appropriation of CHF 100 million that the Confederation transferred to the CTI for the purpose of encouraging innovation. This practically doubled the amount that had originally been earmarked for regular project promotion for 2011.  

CTI measures taken on the basis of this special funding were mainly intended for export-oriented companies seeking to quickly bring innovations to the market. In addition, the aim was to encourage companies to pursue very promising innovation projects despite the economic downturn and resulting decrease in earnings. In September 2012, the CTI commissioned an external evaluation for the purpose of assessing implementation of the CTI's measures and ascertaining their impact. This evaluation report was to also include recommendations for future improvement.  

In order to enable reconsideration of the best unselected project proposals as well as unprocessed project proposals, the Swiss Parliament approved an additional budget appropriation of CHF 40 million in the spring of 2012. Therefore, applicants in these two categories were given the opportunity to resubmit their project proposals under CTI's regular project promotion budget. 247 applicants took advantage of this possibility. As a result, 120 project proposals were approved for a total of CHF 38 million in funding.

Address for enquiries

Eliane Kersten, Head of Communication, CTI, 031 324 19 95
Thomas von Stokar, CEO, Infras, 044 205 95 16


Commission for Technology and Innovation - as of 1.1.2018 Innosuisse – Swiss Innovation Promotion Agency