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Guidelines for Applicants: Design

These guidelines set out the procedure for applying for design funding to the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia. They also explain the assessment criteria, procedures, deadlines and appeals process. These guidelines supplement the Grant Ordinance of 27 November 2019 of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, as well as the Federal Act of 11 December 2009 on Culture Promotion and the Ordinance of 23 November 2011 on Culture Promotion.

Status: January 2023

1. General Requirements

Pro Helvetia promotes professional contemporary Swiss design with a view to ensuring its diversity as well as its national and international reach. It supports the creation of new productions, the dissemination of Swiss design outside Switzerland, international cultural exchange and exchange between Switzerland’s various linguistic regions.

As a national foundation, Pro Helvetia supplements the promotional activities of Swiss cantons and municipalities and supports only projects with a cross-regional or international appeal.

To be eligible for support, projects must

  • have a clear connection to Switzerland
  • be of nationwide importance
  • be adequately co-funded by other public or private means

2. Funding Measures

Pro Helvetia supports all areas of professional design (textile, fashion, industrial, product, service, graphic design, etc.). No funding is awarded for unique items, gallery projects, arts and crafts projects, re-editions and commissioned work.

Applications for architecture projects are to be submitted to the Visual Arts division.

Applications may be submitted by design professionals or by event organising institutions. The formats for which applications can be submitted are explained in the following sections:

2.1. for emerging talents 
2.2. for all design professionals 
2.3. for event organising institutions

2.1 Emerging talents

Pro Helvetia defines emerging talents as design professionals up to seven years after graduation or within the first seven years after founding a company. The Arts Council supports emerging talents projects on their path to market entry. Supported projects are characterised by their design quality, a high degree of innovation and sustainable benefits, clear entrepreneurial goals and marketability. These measures can be supplemented with individual coaching.

2.1.1 Production

i. Work grants

Pro Helvetia supports the creation of innovative, sustainable and marketable design products through biannual calls for applications. The Arts Council envisages four funding phases from concept to market launch:

  • Concept development funding
  • Prototype development funding
  • Production funding
  • Project extension funding

Funded projects can be supplemented by individual coaching.

Submission in accordance with Fact Sheet for Design (Jury).

2.1.2 Trade show participation

Pro Helvetia organises delegations to major trade shows and supports the participation of individual emerging talents at trade shows.

i. Delegations

Pro Helvetia regularly organises group delegations to market-relevant platforms in Switzerland and abroad. Participation usually includes coaching, booth presence and individually organised matchmaking events. Calls for applications are announced on the designswitzerland.ch website.

See designswitzerland.ch for the application criteria

ii.  Individual participation at international trade shows

Pro Helvetia supports the individual participation of Swiss designers with clearly defined objectives at trade shows and market-relevant events outside Switzerland, in order to give designers international visibility and/or enable them to enter the global market.

No funding is available for

  • Participation at trade shows and events at which Pro Helvetia is present with a delegation
  • Trade show participation and events already supported by Pro Helvetia
  • Galleries or collectors’ fairs

Funding of up to CHF 4,000 is available for

  • Booth rental
  • Transport and insurance costs
  • Travel costs (no accommodation expenses)

Composition of application dossier

  • Reasons for attending a particular event/trade (goal setting), as well as details of meetings planned with industry partners (including concrete plans, names, etc.)
  • Details on the planned outcomes (including business plan)
  • Detailed cost and financing planning, incl. information on all requests for financial support from third parties
  • Confirmation of event participation

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.2 Information for design professionals

2.2.1 Residencies and research trips

i. Residencies (duration of up to three months)

Pro Helvetia supports residencies by design professionals to and from the countries covered by its six liaison offices (Arab region, China, Russia, South America, South Asia, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa). Cultural practitioners from Switzerland and from the regions covered by the liaison offices are eligible to apply.

More information: Residencies of the liaison offices

ii. Research trips (duration of up to four weeks)

Swiss design professionals may apply for research trips all over the world. Design professionals from the regions covered by the liaison offices may apply for research trips to Switzerland.

More information: Research trips

iii. Co-creation

With a pilot measure, Pro Helvetia supports co-creation projects between artists and cultural practitioners from Switzerland and from the regions covered by its liaison offices (Arab region, China, Russia, South America, South Asia, West Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa).

The co-creation grant is aimed at tandems who want to develop project ideas further, building on exchanges from previous residencies, research trips or other experience of collaboration. Applications for co-creation grants can be submitted on an ongoing basis via myprohelvtia.ch.

More information: Co-creation Support

iv. Art, science and technology

Pro Helvetia supports residencies at the interface of art, science and technology in collaboration with CERN in Geneva, South Africa, India and Chile. These residencies are aimed at practitioners from all arts disciplines that are promoted by Pro Helvetia.

More information: Guidelines for Applicants: Innovation & Society

2.2.2 Critical reflection

Each year up to 2024, Pro Helvetia is launching a theme-based call for projects that are intended to stimulate opinion forming and critical discussions on the role of art and culture in society. Eligible for support are exemplary, transdisciplinary projects that seek new forms of critical reflection on contemporary art production and art criticism, and that appeal to different types of audiences.

More information: Dossier «Critical Reflection»

2.3 Event organising institutions

Applications must be submitted by event organising institutions such as museums, festivals, publishers or similar. Organisers are expected to make an appropriate contribution to the arising costs and fees.

2.3.1 Exhibitions, knowledge exchange and publications with social relevance

The promotion of socially relevant design projects aims to strengthen the role of design in society. Thematic exhibition and publication projects are supported, as is the exchange of knowledge between design professionals at specialist events open to the public. Projects must be characterised by a profound engagement with societal issues and relate to the contemporary work of designers of national importance, whose projects have a national and international impact, as evidenced by their participation at trade shows or events over a period of several years.

i. Funding for thematic exhibitions and knowledge exchange

Pro Helvetia supports thematic events involving Swiss designers at internationally reputed design institutions. Support is also provided for the content-related participation of specialists in public events held abroad that deal with the societal impact of Swiss design. In Switzerland, the Arts Council promotes exchange between Switzerland’s language regions.

Funding is available for

  • Transport and insurance costs
  • Travel costs (return ticket, economy class, no accommodation expenses)

The Design & Interactive Media division is unable to consider funding requests for

  • Solo exhibitions or exhibitions of private collections or by galleries
  • Knowledge exchange and exhibitions at schools and universities

Application deadlines: see Section 5

ii. Funding for thematic publications

Reputable Swiss publishers may request grants to cover the printing costs of thematic publications of national importance and dealing with the societal impact of Swiss design in a substantiated manner.

Funding is awarded to publications that

  • contain a substantial piece of design theory
  • critically examine their subject matter in light of the current state of knowledge

The Design & Interactive Media division is unable to consider funding requests for

  • Exhibition catalogues, journals, commemorative publications, reference works, monographs, bibliophile editions as well as new and revised editions of publications
  • Self-published or paid publications

Application deadlines: see Section 5

2.3.2 Events combining artistic disciplines

This category refers to events or festivals that present productions from various artistic disciplines. As a rule, productions from at least three disciplines must be envisaged. Otherwise, applications must be submitted to the division primarily responsible for the event. Events combining different artistic disciplines are assessed according to the same criteria regarding form and content that apply to discipline-specific events. Particular importance is given to the criteria of the disciplines of which the productions are part of. Events combining artistic disciplines are supported in and outside Switzerland. In Switzerland, they are supported provided they present productions from Switzerland’s other language regions. Outside Switzerland, support is given to these events that present Swiss productions.

More information: Events combining artistic disciplines

3. Restrictions


Pro Helvetia is unable to consider funding requests if

  • the same part of the submitted project is already receiving funding by other federal bodies (e.g. Federal Office of Culture, Presence Switzerland, Swiss National Science Foundation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation)
  • the project is part of a school or university curriculum/basic training or continuing education programme (including dissertations, diploma projects, university scholarships, etc.)
  • funding is intended to cover infrastructure and equipment costs, as well as the costs of operating cultural facilities, archives and collections
  • the project does not depend on funding from Pro Helvetia

4. Application Dossier

Funding applications submitted to Pro Helvetia must contain

  • Details on the key persons involved in the project
  • Project description in conceptual and organisational terms
  • Place and date of public performance, publication or presentation
  • Detailed cost and financing plan including information on all financial assistance requested from third parties
  • Details on the amount requested from Pro Helvetia and cost justification
  • In the case of exclusively virtual projects, evidence of a convincing national or international online dissemination strategy must be provided

For other Design & Interactive Media restrictions and requirements, please refer to the corresponding formats or fact sheets.

Applications must be submitted via myprohelvetia.ch.

5. Application Deadlines and Decision Timelines

Unless otherwise stated (see Section 2), the following application deadlines apply:

Application typeApplication deadline Decision timeline
Funding requests up to CHF 25,000 ongoing, up to eight weeks prior to the event/publicationwithin eight weeks
Work grants 1 March and 1 September, at the latest four months prior to publication or completionwithin four months

6. Application Processing

6.1 Preliminary assessment

Pro Helvetia will only consider funding applications if

  • the submitted project meets the general funding requirements (see Section 1)
  • there is no valid reason for exclusion (see Section 3)
  • the application dossier is complete and has been submitted on time (see Sections 4 and 5)

6.2 Assessment of content and quality

Within the scope of its available funds, Pro Helvetia prioritises projects that most comprehensively meet the support criteria.

Pro Helvetia assesses whether

  • the project corresponds to the funding activities described in Section 2
  • the project demonstrates high artistic and professional quality
  • the project is implemented according to professional standards
  • the costs are commensurate with the expected impact
  • a lasting impact can be expected

Pro Helvetia prioritises support for projects in the field of contemporary art and culture according to their degree of originality and professional competence as well as their social and thematic relevance.

Pro Helvetia expects the remuneration of the participating artists to be in line with the recommendations of their professional associations.

In assessing applications, Pro Helvetia attaches great importance to applicants using resources in an ecologically responsible manner. Pro Helvetia may assume related additional costs (e.g. journeys by train, CO2 compensation for flights). Such costs must be contained in the budget.

Pro Helvetia also expects organisations and studios to be committed to gender equality, diversity and equal opportunities.

6.3 Decision-making bodies

Applications which are reviewed by a jury: The decision on applications is taken by the director of Pro Helvetia on recommendation of a jury.

For all other applications: Decisions are taken by the responsible division.

6.4 Decision notification

Funding decisions are communicated without a statement of reasons. On receipt of the decision, applicants can demand an official decision statement from Pro Helvetia against which an appeal can be lodged.

6.5 Obligations of recipients

The awarding of funding entails obligations for recipients. Pro Helvetia reserves the right to reduce the amount of funding or to demand that disbursed grants be restituted if recipients fail to meet their obligations. See Factsheet «Requirements for support recipients» (blue box above) or the individually drawn-up agreement for work grants.

6.6 Disbursement

Pro Helvetia disburses funding only after examining the final report, which must include a statement of account. Advance payments will be granted on request. Unless applicants notify Pro Helvetia of any delays, funding shall expire at the latest 6 months after the project’s closing date as per the application dossier.

Exceptions apply to projects that are supported through work grants. Here, the terms of disbursement of the individually drawn-up agreement apply.

6.7 Appeals

Funding decisions taken by Pro Helvetia may be appealed within 30 days of receipt. Appeals must be filed with the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht). Appeals must include the original application, as well as the grounds of the appeal and appropriate evidence, and must be signed by the appellant. The decision statement being appealed against needs to be enclosed as evidence. Appellants bear the costs of this procedure.

Appeals must be submitted to: Bundesverwaltungsgericht, Postfach, CH-9023 St. Gallen


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Upcoming maintenance work

The application portal myprohelvetia will be updated from 1.1.-7.1.2024. Due to these changes, open applications must be finalized and submitted via the current online portal (myprohelvetia.ch) by the latest 23:59 on 31 December 2023. Until this date, the deadlines and criteria outlined in the current guidelines and calls for applications apply. New applications can be created and submitted in the application portal as of 8 January 2024.