New materials are an integral part of highly innovative areas of technology. Many key technologies would not be viable without the application of new materials, including:
- Information technology
- Environmental technology
- Defence technology
- Energy technology
- Transport technology
- Manufacturing technology
Wood is an extremely important material in Austria and both the Austrian wood and timber industry as well as Austrian companies dedicated to engineering wood composites have taken on a leading international role. Mechanical and chemical processing turns timber into new industrial composites, which then provide the basis for innovative products.
In the melamine sector, Borealis Agrolinz Melamine GmbH from Linz is the market leader in Europe and number two in the world. A brand new product developed by Agrolinz Melamine International (AMI) and the Linz-based centre of excellence, Wood K plus , recently won the most prestigious European award for the forestry and timber industry, the Schweighofer Prize. Sold under the name “Hiperwood”, the new material is a composite created with a melamine base that can withstand extreme heat and looks set to revolutionise the production of prefabricated houses or windows.
Isosport , headquartered in Eisenstadt, is the world market leader in synthetic materials for the ski and snowboard industry. The company is also a leading provider of quality thermoplastic materials for the construction, automotive, record, sport and leisure industries. The company’s products are sold in over 40 countries worldwide.
In this segment there is a Tyrolean company that is always mentioned, PLANSEE SE , the world market leader in powder metallurgically produced high performance materials. PLANSEE has been developing, producing and selling innovative products made from refractory metals and metallic composite materials since 1921. PLANSEE products are used in the automotive industry as well as for electronics, medical technology, energy and coating technology, right through to aviation and space travel. The company has facilities at 34 locations in 16 countries.
An increasing number of Austrian institutes are specialising in the research of new materials.
Research activities at Institute of Materials Science primarily address materials that are of key importance for mechanical engineering: from metals, polymers and ceramics through to composite materials.
The focus of research conducted by Institute of Materials Science and Testing of Plastics in Leoben lies in the mechanical behaviour of plastics, synthetics and composites when subjected to impact, sustained loading and fatigue stress. The institute also researches the importance polymer materials could play in sustainable growth and offers comprehensive R&D services for industry.
Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) is Austria’s largest non-university research centre. The research of the Mobility Department's business unit “Light Metals Technologies” is centred around new aluminium and magnesium alloys for the automotive industry. A team of around 30 experts develop and test new lightweight components from composite materials that aim to reduce the weight of vehicles and to guarantee better safety.
The APMT project – Advanced Polymeric Materials and Process Technologies – brings together eight scientific partners from Upper Austria, the plastics technology transfer centre (Wels) and eight corporate partners. Together they develop brand-new, multifunctional polymer materials offering better properties and performance for the construction and automotive industries.
Austria is not only an important international player for research in new materials, it is also a key location for trade fairs. INTERTOOL is a cross-industry, cross-border trade fair for industrial manufacturing technology. The entire market of innovative products, services and solutions is reflected here and presented as six trade fairs all under one roof.
Clusters and networks
Austria provides exceptional frame conditions for promoting successful cluster activities in the new materials sector. The spectrum is extremely broad, with smaller companies joining industry networks and thereby increasing efficiency. Networks of partners from science and business enable competencies to be bundled, covering the entire value creation chain. This guarantees that products can be efficiently developed and brought to market.
The most important and largest Plastics Cluster has been set up in Upper Austria and has developed into a centre of excellence for new materials. The Plastics Cluster brings together over 380 companies from the areas of:
- Plastics processing
- Plastics mechanical engineering
- Mould and toolmaking
- Manufacture and trading in commodities and recycled materials
- Services and institutes for plastics technology
- R&D transfer centres
Materials sciences in Styria
In Styria alone there are over 1,100 companies who work in the new materials sector. The best overview of innovative, export-focused technology companies and institutions in the industry can be found at the platform for exchanging Technology and Science , supported by the Styrian Business Promotion Agency, Steirische Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft mbH.
The Materialcluster Styria (in German) bundles the expertise of every Styrian company, institution and scientific facility working in the materials sector and connects 5 universities, 2 universities of applied science, 22 impulse centres and the Science Park Graz.
Platform for wood polymer composites
Since March 2010 there has been a new platform in Austria for wood polymer composites. An array of Austria companies, among them some global market leaders, have gathered their strengths into the WPC Plattform Austria to secure even better opportunities on the booming world market. The activities of the new platform lie in the fields of
- R&D projects
- Technology development
- Profitability and feasibility
- Public relations
Members cover every stage of the value chain, from preparing raw materials or wood, manufacturing tools, mechanical engineering and processing right through to scientific institutions.