Cooperation and development: Opportunities available for SMEs

Projects organized abroad by the Swiss government offer interesting prospects for Swiss companies. Here is the process explained. 

Switzerland has a significant budget to foster development. Between 2017 and 2020, over CHF 11 billion will be allocated to it. Both the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE) call on Swiss companies to carry out their projects abroad.

The Economic Cooperation and Development division of SECO often works with businesses on the planning, realization and evaluation of its programs. This usually means public procurement contracts. The DFAE also confers contracts on the private sector to carry out specific projects, particularly in the area of international cooperation (cooperation for development, cooperation with Eastern Europe and humanitarian aid). 

Between 2006 and 2010, the Director of Development and Cooperation (DDC) entrusted the Swiss private sector with orders and contracts worth CHF 95.5 million.

Calls for tender 

Public calls for tender are launched regularly. SECO projects feature on its website (SECO Start-up Fund – SSF) and are published on the information portal on procurement in Switzerland (

The SECO selects the most cost-effective tenders, with a view to making efficient use of public funds. The principles of transparency, equal treatment of tenderers and competition prevail. For smaller contracts, and under certain circumstances, contracts can sometimes be awarded directly or via an invitation to submit a tender.

The DFAE operates in a similar way. Contracts worth more than CHF 230,000 (goods and services) or CHF 2 million (construction) are, in principle, published on Contracts for services or construction worth less than CHF 150,000 may be awarded privately, as may contracts for goods worth less than CHF 50,000.

Contracts for services worth less than CHF 230,000 and for which a tender may be submitted are listed on the DFAE website:

Contracts are awarded in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Act on Public Procurement and the Public Procurement Order, as well as the internal guidelines of the DFAE and SECO:

How can you respond to a call for tender? 

To respond to calls for tender on, you simply need to register online. Registration does not involve any obligation. Registration provides access to the documents required to respond to the call for tender, and to the forum, which allows you to ask questions about the project. 

Regarding DFAE contracts for services worth less than CHF 230,000, interested parties are required to send their tender to the e-mail address indicated in the project. 

The legal requirements concerning awarding procedures, quotations and consultants and sectors of intervention all feature on the DFAE website, along with detailed information for tenderers:

Contracts with international bodies 

Swiss SMEs can also work with foreign or international bodies in the area of cooperation. The Swiss organization for the promotion of exports, Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE), regularly organizes sessions providing information about the calls for tender published by multilateral financial institutions to help Swiss companies position themselves.

Calls for tender launched by international institutions can be found on their websites. 

Strengths and growth sectors 

Whether for national or international contracts, Swiss SMEs stand out in services as well as in the energy, transport, water, health, farming and education sectors. Farming, food safety and the water industry are three areas of bilateral development cooperation in which the DDC invested the most in 2015, along with government reform, local administration and citizen involvement. These areas are therefore particularly attractive prospects for Swiss companies.


Last modification 02.08.2018

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