NZZ SME Barometer: Confident SMEs - AI presupposes adjustments

The NZZ SME Barometer sheds light on the competitive situation of SMEs in Switzerland. Despite fears of further deterioration in local conditions, the barometer indicates a slight improvement for 2023 compared with the previous year. However, 60 percent of respondents expect to have to adapt their business model in the next five years due to the emergence of AI.

A total of 326 executives responded to the survey this year from March 31 to April 24, 2023, with 61 percent from companies with fewer than 250 employees.

As in previous years, NZZ and Kalaidos wanted to know what particularly concerns companies and how they think various factors will develop over the next twelve months.

The NZZ SME Barometer calculated from the expectations can theoretically take a value between -100 (one hundred percent of respondents expect a significant deterioration in all categories) and +100 (one hundred percent significant improvement). Only the responses from SMEs are included in its calculation.

For 2023, the overall index shows a slight improvement in the competitive situation with +0.7 compared with -4.1 in the previous year. This is primarily based on expected improvements in the company's own strengths. The business leaders surveyed are also less pessimistic about doing business with foreign countries in 2023 than in the previous year. "The fact that the majority of them expect a further deterioration in local conditions, on the other hand, should give Swiss policymakers pause for thought," comments Peter A. Fischer, Chief Economist of the NZZ.

Of particular concern are the continuing lack of personnel, legal regulations, the general conditions in Switzerland, including the unresolved relationship with the EU, and the currency situation.

(Graphics: zVg. NZZ)

Supply chains: No more problems expected

Supply chain reliability has not deteriorated as much as forecast for most companies in 2022. Hardly any new problems are expected either. A minority of just over one-fifth have adjusted their supply chains in the past 24 months by relocating back to developed countries (21%) and relocating to other emerging markets (28%). Only about one-third of the companies maintain business relationships with China. They see the country's importance as a production location declining, but as a sales market continuing to grow.

Adjustments needed due to AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now the field in which companies see the greatest opportunities. However, three-fifths of business leaders believe that the dangers and risks of AI are underestimated. An equal number believe that their companies will have to adapt their business model in the next five years because of it. 45 percent want to increase their own research and development efforts because of the emergence of AI.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung NZZ interviewed in cooperation with the Kalaidos University of Applied Sciences participants of the Swiss Economic Forum on their expectations and concerns. From the responses, it calculates the NZZ SME Barometerwhich provides information on the competitive situation of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Switzerland.

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