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A turbo boost for Austria as a research location – new funding programs and initiatives

August 29, 2014

Research spending nearly doubled

Since 1995 Austria has come close to doubling its research ratio i.e. research spending in relation to the country’s gross domestic product, from about 1.5 percent of GDP to the current level of 2.88 percent. In international comparison, investments in research and development (R&D) climbed by 27 percent from EUR 6.8 billion to EUR 8.7 billion annually between 2007 and 2012 (the most recent international reference period). The average rise in the EU during this period was 17 percent.

With respect to patent applications, Austria is ranked sixth among 28 EU member states according to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014. In order to further stimulate this rapid catching-up process, the Austrian Government is turbocharging growth in research spending on the part of companies and scientific institutions thanks to a series of new initiatives and funding programs.

Four knowledge transfer centers
The Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy has approved the funding of four new knowledge transfer centers in the amount of EUR 11.25 million from 2014 to 2018 as a means of accelerating the commercial realization and exploitation of scientific findings at universities. Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, attaches particular importance to knowledge transfer. The four new knowledge transfer centers are designed to bundle research activities being carried out in western Austria (project coordination by the University of Innsbruck), in the eastern part of the country (Medical University of Vienna), and in the southern region of Austria (Graz University of Technology). Moreover, a supraregional center for life sciences has been set up (University of Vienna). “In addition to application-oriented research, we are focusing for the first time on the transfer of knowledge from the humanities, social, and cultural sciences,” says Minister Mitterlehner. A total of EUR 2.25 million is available up until 2018 for know-how transfer in these three areas. As an accompanying measure, funding in the amount of EUR 5 million has also been put at the disposal of universities to cover patent costs in the period 2013-2018.

Prototype development: turning inventions into products more quickly
Since the end of 2013, the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy has also been promoting prototype development originating in research conducted by universities. A total of EUR 1.43 million was already granted in the first round to help fund 15 projects. The next round will take place in the fall of 2014. Successful projects include the development of a new type of sensor in the field of nanotechnology, a microscopy system featuring enhanced performance and new chemical methods, e.g. to enable the more efficient preparation of biofuels. On balance, an additional sum of approximately EUR 20 million has been made available up until the year 2018 to promote the commercial exploitation of research findings. This consists of EUR 11.25 million for the knowledge centers, EUR 5 million to fund patents and EUR 3 million to promote the development of prototypes.

EUR 30 million for Industry 4.0
The Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy is also supporting the business community with several funding programs, e.g. Research Studios Austria, the program “Research Competencies for the Economy,” the Service Initiative and aws ProTrans. This is designed to promote the conversion of research facilities and companies based in Austria to Industry 4.0. Starting in the fall of 2014, more than EUR 30 million will be made available to support Industry 4.0 processes. Tenders for the funds will be held in 2014 and 2015.

Pilot factories test research results
Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology will commit an additional EUR 250 million in funding in the coming years. This will be coordinated by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), investment grants by the public financing bank Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH – aws (Austria Business Service) and pilot factories set up for testing purposes, e.g. in the field of production processes. The first pilot plant is due to start in 2015 in cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology. Five additional pilot factories will be established in order to take different sectors and regional requirements into account.