This section examines the rate of individual participation in the various phases of entrepreneurship for Switzerland as compared with other innovation-driven countries. We discuss potential entrepreneurs, individuals with the intention of starting businesses, people starting and running new businesses (early-stage entrepreneurs), those running established businesses, and the discontinuation of businesses.
The GEM data collection for Switzerland yields entrepreneurial profiles along three important dimensions. Entrepreneurial attitudes, perceptions, and intentions reflect the degree to which individuals tend to appreciate entrepreneurship, both in terms of general attitudes and in terms of self-perceptions: how many individuals recognize business opportunities, how many believe they have the skills and knowledge to exploit such opportunities, and for how many would fear of failure prevent them exploiting such opportunities? Entrepreneurial activity measures the observed involvement in several phases of entrepreneurial activity. It also tracks the degree to which entrepreneurial activities are driven by opportunity and/or necessity. Moreover, discontinuations of entrepreneurial activity (and the reasons for doing so) are estimated based on the GEM Adult Population Surveys. Finally, entrepreneurial aspirations are of key importance in addressing the (socio) economic impact of entrepreneurial behavior. Of particular interest are those entrepreneurs who expect to create jobs, to be involved in international trade, and/or to contribute to the society by offering new products and services.
1.1 Entrepreneurial Attitudes
Fostering entrepreneurial awareness and positive attitudes toward entrepreneurship is high on Switzerland’s policy agenda. The idea is that evolving attitudes and perceptions toward entrepreneurship could affect those individuals wishing to venture into entrepreneurship. However, the key factor that determines whether someone progresses to entrepreneurship is not the perception of opportunities for start-ups or of (matching) personal capabilities: context also plays a role. Factors such as the availability of (good) job alternatives in an economy can make a difference for those who perceive market opportunities and have confidence in their own entrepreneurial capabilities, and help to determine whether they engage in independent entrepreneurial activity or not. So, while in some societies positive attitudes and perceptions toward entrepreneurship may be instrumental in achieving new (highvalue) entrepreneurial activities, in many others they are certainly not, on their own, sufficient reason for people to choose to engage in entrepreneurial activity. For example, there may be other excellent options available to individuals. Bearing this in mind, we can see in Table 1 how Switzerland compares in terms of entrepreneurial perceptions and attitudes to other innovation-driven economies in general and to the comparison group in particular.
Table 1: Entrepreneurial Perceptions,
Intentions and Societal Attitudes
in Innovation-Driven Economies, 2011
The perceptions of entrepreneurial opportunities in Table 1 reflect the percentage of individuals who believe there are opportunities to start a business in the area they live in. Perceived capabilities reflect the percentages of individuals who believe they have the required skills and knowledge to start a new business. The measure of fear of failure (when it comes to starting your own business) applies to these individuals only. Entrepreneurial intentions are defined by the percentage of individuals who expect to start a business within the next three years (those who are currently already entrepreneurially active are excluded from this measure). For all four measures we should consider that cultural differences and business-cycle patterns are an important explanation for the differences in perceptions across countries.
In the 2011 census the perceived opportunities to start a business are in Switzerland considerably higher than in previous years. This boost in perceived opportunities sets Switzerland apart from neighboring countries and the U.S. Nordic countries, such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway, remain on top when it comes to available opportunities. Switzerland shows, as in previous years, a rather high perception of capabilities paired with a very low fear of failure. While Switzerland’s perception of capabilities is at least as good as or even better than the European benchmark, it still lags behind United States inhabitants’ very strong belief in their own capacity to start a business. The entrepreneurial intentions of Swiss inhabitants (10%) are on a par with the average for innovation-driven countries. Most remarkable are the differences between Switzerland, Germany, and France. While in Germany only 5% of the individuals expect to start a business in the next three years, almost one-fifth of the French think about setting up a new business.
R. Baldegger, S. Alberton, F. Hacklin, A. Brülhart, A. Huber and O. Saglam (2012) Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2011 — Report on Switzerland, Fribourg