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Insight 17.07.2023

Fostering Climate Innovation in Switzerland

Fostering Climate Innovation in Switzerland

The Swiss Climate Foundation is an important catalyst for climate innovation in Switzerland. Having joined the Foundation at the start of 2022, we took the opportunity to speak to its Managing Director Vincent Eckert.

Vincent, can you explain what the Swiss Climate Foundation is and how it functions?

The Swiss Climate Foundation, founded in 2008, brings together 31 Swiss banks, insurers and other service providers to drive climate action in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It has developed an innovative financing mechanism to mobilise significant sums for climate innovation projects in the local economy. Under the Swiss CO₂ tax law, one third of the collected tax money is reimbursed to companies based on their annual payroll, which the members donate to the Foundation. This money is then channelled towards climate projects led by Swiss SMEs. This creates a win-win situation, supporting both climate action and the local economy.

Initially, the Foundation also supported energy-saving projects and efforts by companies to set voluntary energy efficiency targets. Since 2022, the Foundation has focused exclusively on climate innovation. What motivated this change?

To meet Switzerland’s emissions reduction targets, we must reconsider every aspect of our economy, from energy, buildings and transport to food, fashion and more. This requires us to think outside the box to come up with solutions that do not yet exist or that have previously been seen as impossible.

Supporting climate innovation projects is critical to help unlock the solutions needed across all sectors of the economy to transition to a net-zero future.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are important incubators of new ideas and are often the first to break down barriers and challenge existing constraints to come up with innovative solutions. However, they often lack the financial resources to put their ideas into practice and bring them to market in order to unleash their full potential. This is why supporting SMEs that are pioneering climate solutions is a practical way of accelerating the transition to a net-zero future.

How do you decide which projects to support?

The Foundation’s office checks funding applications for completeness, and then the decision-making body evaluates them in a two-stage process. Both of those entities are made up of delegates from partner companies, who bring important know-how. Decisions are based mainly on each application’s potential climate impact and the money available.

Do the innovation projects you have chosen to support show the potential to have an impact beyond Switzerland and Liechtenstein?

Switzerland is the cradle of a lot of high-tech solutions that are being used successfully across the world, and SMEs play a large role in this.

Our strengths in research and academia, combined with successful entrepreneurship, should be directed to addressing one of the world’s most pressing issues, i.e. climate change. This will also maintain the competitiveness of our economy. For solutions to have an impact, scaling is key: some of the projects supported are successfully expanding outside of Switzerland, while others are still in a very early phase of product development, which is where the Foundation’s funding is most effective.

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