Important Information – FAQ

We consider the Prototype Fund to be a prototype itself. The program is the first of its kind in Switzerland. We are continuously engaged in improving and adapting the program. We want to learn a lot, share our experiences with you, and help you achieve your plans and projects. Your feedback matters.

The Basics

1. Who can apply?

In principle: everyone with an innovative idea for a digital tool with a high potential for positive impact on democratic participation. You also need to have a Swiss work permit and be above 18 years (legal adult). The Swiss citizenship is not required. We look forward to applications from everyone – independent of origin, age, religion, sexual identity, disabilities or skin color. 

Your project idea matters! We strive to find solutions for all questions related to personnel and legal form. Let’s exchange ideas!  Find us at events, on Twitter, Telegram or write us an e-mail.

Public institutions and universities are not eligible for application. But you should check out  the CivicChallenge program. 

2. What does the Prototype Fund offer?

  • Up to CHF 100,000 in funding (mainly) for salaries over six months from 31 August 2021 until 24 February 2022.
  • At least 5 hours of individual and need-based coaching (e.g. in coding or user-centered design) during the funding period.
  • Media outreach through our network.
  • During the project period, we support the project teams in getting in touch with potential partners and funding programs. Sustainability is very important to us and we support the project participants in developing perspectives for their projects.

3. What constitutes a prototype?

For our purposes, a prototype is an early working version of a software-programmed tool or application (minimum viable product; MVP). Thus, the phase of prototyping follows after exploring the problem, testing the existing solutions and evaluating the needs of the target group. This synthesized knowledge will guide the process of prototyping. The existence of a prototype allows to test whether the tool fulfills its aims (proof of concept) and is the basis of further improvements.

As a minimum output we expect a working technical prototype of the digital tool and not (necessarily) design, communication, etc. But we also know: changes are part of the process and even an early termination of the project is possible if it turns out that there is no demand for your product. #failosophy 

4. Which kinds of projects can get funding?

We support innovative digital projects that promote smart participation in the Swiss democracy. Check out the selection criteria used by the jury.

5. How much funding can I apply for? What does the budget plan need to include?

You can apply for up to CHF 100,000 in funding (mainly) for salaries over a period of six months. We require a general project plan with about four milestones and a budget plan. The budget needs to include information about your daily (hourly) salary. It should also detail how many days (hours) are allocated to each team member and/or describe how many days (hours) you plan to spend on different type of activities. All material expenses must also be indicated in the budget plan to be submitted. The budget plan is integrated in the project application form

In principle, the funding finances your salary. More specifically, the funding supports 95% of the working hours that you put into the project. The remaining 5% are your own contribution – meaning you make a donation to your project by putting in these 5% of extra hours.

6. Can I hire external project staff for the (technical) implementation of the prototype?

Yes, this is possible. However, it is important to us that the external providers are already involved in the project during the application period. We want to be able to count on the full commitment of all persons involved in the project to insure the success of the prototype and its sustainability. 

We therefore ask you to list the external project members as team members in the form (incl. their GitHub account) and describe the division of labor with the external providers in the text. Please also describe the experience of external providers and mention any joint projects in the past. In addition to the budget, an offer should be attached to the application, showing how many external work hours will be charged, for which tasks and at what hourly/daily rate.

7. Where and when can I apply?

You can apply here. The submission period ends on 16 May 2021. We recommend to apply early so we have more time to resolve any remaining questions about your submissions (Timeline).

We provide this document for download, so that you have an easier time to work on the application as a team.

8. Who selects the projects?

A jury of experts will evaluate and rate all submissions. You can learn more about our jury members here.

9. What are the criteria?

The jury decision will be based on these project selection criteria.

10. When can I submit my project?

The application period starts on 7 April and ends on 16 May 2021.

We recommend that you apply early so we have more time to resolve any remaining questions about your submissions.

11. Can I apply with several projects at the same time?

Yes, you can. But you can only get funding for one project.

12. Can I apply with an already existing project?

Yes, you can. However, your proposal needs to be clearly defined and have its own degree of novelty, e.g. you plan to expand or enhance your existing project with a new module. In any case, you need to make clear what you will be working on during the 6-month funding period.

13. In which language can I submit my proposal?

We will review applications in English, French, German, or Italian. (Please use the English application form for an application in Italian).

The Details

14. I am working on my project as part of a team, is there anything I should be aware of?

All team members that receive funding through the Prototype Fund need to have a Swiss work permit. You need to decide on a formal team lead i.e. the team member who submits the application to the Prototype Fund. In the application form we will ask you to state the different modules within the project, and to assign each of them to a team member with a time estimate. If your project is selected by the jury, we will support you in finding the appropriate legal entity.

15. Under which license do I need to publish the software that I develop during the funding period?

The software must published under one of the open source licenses which are recognised of the Free Software Foundation or the Open Source Initiative. The code must be made publicly available (e.g. via a Git repository (e.g. Gitlab, Github or Bitbucket repository). Publishing the source code will make your project more impactful, sustainable, and trustworthy, as other citizens can build on your prototype and develop it further. If relevant for the success of your project, a delayed publication of the code can be discussed.

16. What can I use the funding for?

In principle, the funding finances your salary. More specifically, the funding supports 95% of the working hours that you put into the project. The remaining 5% are your own contribution – meaning you make a donation to your project by putting in these 5% of extra hours. If you need to get funding for expenses other than salaries, please provide details in the budget plan you will submit. 

17. What are the payment modalities?

The grant will be paid in instalments based on the achievement of the milestones that you defined at the beginning of the prototyping phase. If required, we can discuss during the prototyping phase whether the milestones need to be updated.

81% of your budget will be paid during the grant period:

  • The first instalment (27% of the project budget) will be paid out at the beginning of the grant period in September 2021, 
  • the second 27% at the beginning of November conditional on the achievement of the first milestone, and 
  • the third 27% in the beginning of January 2022 conditional on the achievement of the second milestone. 

The remaining 19% of your budget will be paid out after the Demo Day at the End of February 2022.

18. What happens after the project term?

At the end of the 6-month project term, we invite all teams to take part in a Demo Day to present your prototypes and to discuss achievements, challenges, and problems. Aside from the teams, we also invite guests and stakeholders to take part. During the project term we will connect you with mentors, sponsors, and other participants. The Demo Day will take place on 24 February 2022. As a part of the network of the Prototype Fund, you will remain closely connected to the program even after your project term has ended. 

Apart from publishing your code in one of the repositories, you will need to write a short and clear project report, part of which will be published on our website.

During the project period, we support the project teams in getting in touch with potential partners and funding programs. Sustainability is very important to us, and we support the project participants in developing perspectives for their projects.

19. Will I get feedback if my idea is not accepted for funding?

Your project submission will receive short comments from the jury or the Prototype Fund team upon request.

20. What is the goal of the Prototype Fund Switzerland?

The Prototype Fund Switzerland aims to bring to fruition project proposals that use digital means to strengthen democratic participation in Switzerland. For example, we look for projects that increase political transparency, enable and engage citizens, promote participation or support opinion formation. Which possibilities do you see for digital solutions that strengthen democracy? We can’t wait to find out.

In case you are not sure whether your project fits the bill, do not hesitate to contact us at .

21. How many projects will be selected?

A minimum of 5 projects will be selected per round.

22. How does the application process work in detail?

The application period starts on 7 April and ends on 16 May 2021. During this time you can submit your application via our website. On 22 June, we will invite the applicants who have convinced us the most to present their project to the jury. On 1 July, we will announce which projects have been selected by the jury and will be funded this round.

23. How is the program structured?

The prototyping phase will start with a kickoff workshop on 31 August 2021 and last for 6 monthsAfter the kickoff workshop, you will work on the milestones that you have set during the workshop. The Prototype Fund team will support you with weekly check-ins and bi-weekly moderated peer calls. 

During the prototyping phase, you get up to 5h of external coaching tailored to your needs (e.g. workshops on user testing, communication, data protection law, fundraising, cyber security, etc.). We will support you in finding mentors and supporters and give you access to our network. There will be two internal Mid-Demo Days, where you will present your intermediate results to the jury and receive feedback from them. At the end of the grant period, you will present your prototype at the Demo Day on 24 February 2022. Finally, there is a workshop where we reflect together on the findings from the prototyping phase and look ahead.

As we consider the Prototype Fund to be a prototype itself, we will be continuously engaged in improving and adapting the program to make our support as valuable as possible to you. Your feedback will be important.

24. What is expected from program participants?

During the project period we expect:

  • Active participation in the kickoff workshop on 31 August 2021 and the Demo Day on 24 February 2022.
  • Documentation of the milestones of your project. We will define the milestones during the Kickoff workshop and refine them during the prototyping period.
  • A description of your project for the website of the Prototype Fund.
  • Blog posts that describe your challenges and first experiences with your prototype.
  • Participation in internal surveys that will help to improve the management of the Prototype Fund.
  • Participation in the weekly check-ins, the bi-weekly moderated peer calls and further elements of the coaching program that we develop together.
  • Participation in some external communication (e.g. media, presentation at events). 

At the end of the project period, we expect:

  • A functioning prototype that has been tested by the target group.
  • The experience of the target group has been evaluated through a written questionnaire.
  • An updated description of your prototype for the website of the Prototype Fund.
  • Your project has been published under an Open Source license and your code is publicly accessible, for example via GitHub or Bitbucket. A delayed publication of the code can be discussed in exceptional cases. 
  • A short and concise project report based on your blog posts for publication on the website.
  • Interest and commitment to continue developing your prototype after the end of the grant period.

25. Who manages the Prototype Fund? Who provides the money for the Prototype Fund?

The Prototype Fund is implemented by a dedicated team, which works for the non-profit assocation Opendata.ch. The Prototype Fund Switzerland is enabled by the Mercator Foundation Switzerland

We consider the Prototype Fund to be a prototype itself. The program is the first of its kind in Switzerland. We are continuously engaged in improving and adapting the program. We want to learn a lot, share our experiences with you, and help you achieve your plans and projects. Your feedback is important.

26. Do I have to pay taxes on the grants?

You will definitely have to pay regular income tax. We make the VAT provisions for your project funding.

27. What are the ten most important security risks according to the OWASP?

We recommend to have a look at the list of the ten most important security risks according to the OWASP. This is a good start for your reflection about security risks in your project.

28. How much time do the program participants have to allocate during the prototyping phase?

Basically, the amount of time to be planned depends on the amount of funding, the number of team members and your daily rate. As a rule, however, it corresponds to an average of approx. 80 – 160 % of the staff during half a year. Also, a certain flexibility of the project team, especially the project leads, is expected to participate in the program (workshops, check-ins, etc.).

29. What is the role of open source software during and after the development of the prototype?

Only open source software should be used during prototype development (e.g. sound engine), especially if software is purchased with Prototype Fund grant money.

At the end of the prototyping phase, the software you develop must be released under one of the open source licenses which are recognised of the Free Software Foundation or the Open Source Initiative. The code must be made publicly available via a Git repository (e.g. Gitlab, Github or Bitbucket repository). Publishing the source code will make your project more impactful, sustainable, and trustworthy, as other citizens can build on your prototype and develop it further. If relevant for the success of your project, a delayed publication of the code can be discussed.

We will expand this list of questions continuously.