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 1 September 2020 until 28 February 2021.
  • 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.
  • Financing contacts: During the project term, we make it a priority to connect the project teams with potential partners and support programs. Sustainability is very important to us and we strive to help the project participants to secure perspectives for their projects and assure the further development and use of their prototypes.

3. What constitutes a prototype?

For our purposes, a prototype is an early working system of a software-programmed tool or application. 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 and is the basis of further improvements.  

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. You can find a sample budget plan here. This spreadsheet can be downloaded under ‘File’ and used as a template. Please fill it in and upload it to the attachment section of the submission platform. You can also use an alternative 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. It may include a list of further expenses. 

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.

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. An applicant created a Google Doc and a HTML document for offline editing. The submission period ends on Thursday 14 May 2020. We recommend to apply early so we have more time to resolve any remaining questions about your submissions (Timeline).

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 for the Prototype Fund Switzerland lasts until 14 May 2020. (Timeline)

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.

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 needs to be publicly accessible (through, for instance, a public Github or Bitbucket repository). 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, 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 conditional on the achievement of the second milestone. The remaining 19% of your budget will be paid out after the Demo Day.

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 first Demo Day will take place on 2 March 2021. 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.

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.

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.

22. How does the application process work in detail?

The application period lasts 2 months and is open from 17 March to 14 May 2020. We will notify you after a maximum of 8 weeks after the submission deadline whether your application has been successful.

Please note that it might take us more time to give all the projects a fair review if the number of applicants exceeds our expectations.

23. How is the program structured?

After 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. 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.

During the grant period, you get up to 5h of external coaching tailored to your needs. We will support you in finding mentors and supporters. At the end of the grant period, you will present your prototype at the Demo Day on 2 March 2021.

24. What is expected from program participants?

During the project period we expect:

  • Active participation in the kickoff workshop on 1 September 2020 and the Demo Day on 2 March 2021.
  • 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.
  • 2-3 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. 
  • 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. We will do our best to support you with contacts to funders.

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 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 are in the process of finding out whether you will also have to pay value added taxes. You can sign up for our newsletter where we inform you when further details become available. 

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.

We will expand this list of questions continuously.