The Austrian innovation ecosystem and public funding support

Whether through community-driven ecosystems or governmental incentives, we have never seen innovation support in Europe to be this energetic. From Austrian national strategies, regional clusters, local initiatives or EU innovation funding, there are dozens of innovation ecosystems around the country helping the boldest and the brightest to scale up their ideas. Are you a scientist, member of the large industry, public university or a small enterprise working on your next breakthrough? If the answer is yes, then some of the innovation ecosystems listed in this article might come in handy for you. Additionally, we collate these with compatible EU research & innovation funds that co-fund development and commercialization of innovation.

Boosting Research & Innovation European wide

Starting a top-down approach, European Union´s strong push for realizing the goal of “Europe becoming a global innovation leader” can be felt through many of Commission´s strategies and allocated funds. Perhaps the clearest quantitative impact indicator whether boosting research & innovation in Europe is successful could be the percentage of EU gross domestic product (GDP) invested in R&D. The goal here is to increase public and private investments in research and innovation from 2.01% of EU GDP in 2014 to 3% by 2030 which roughly translates to €5,9 billion and substantial funding opportunities.

  • Within Horizon 2020, consortia of researchers, small and medium enterprises, industry, universities can request the EC to fund their large research & innovation projects across numerous research topics and countries. SMEs and startups can receive funding additionally for leaner technological & economic feasibility studies, transnational expansions and business coaching.
  • The European Institute of Innovation and Technology supports the ‘knowledge triangle’ of business, education and research through its Innovation communities where innovators in the digital, climate, sustainable energy, health, raw materials and food sectors can attend business development acceleration programs,  academies, summer schools and run for prizes.

Austria & its road to innovation leadership

Moving on to Austrian framework, Austria´s national research, technology and innovation strategy under the title “Der Weg zum Innovation Leader” lies in strengthening R&I activities to put Austria on the forefront of Europe´s most innovative countries. In its Research & Technology Report 2018, the government´s analysis portraits a diverse and positive impression of Austrian research, technology and innovation progress. Since 2005, the country has more than doubled its R&I investments from 2,37% to 3,19%!

  • Austria´s research infrastructure is immense, 1286 research facilities across 91 research areas lie across the country.
  • Strengthening Austrian companies (particularly small and medium-sized enterprises) through improving the framework conditions can be found at the core of Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW) vision. The core objective of the government is also to further advance digitalisation of domestic economic players, clearly supported through many funding opportunities.
  • The Austrian Economic Chamber is working on improving conditions for companies established in Austria and offers a comprehensive set of services for innovators and business owners.
  • National funding opportunities having the potential to turn these strategies and research activities into reality could be best implemented through the Österreichische Forschungsförderungs- gesellschaft (FFG). The FFG´s activities are aim to strengthen Austria as a research and innovation centre on the global market and their services aim to inform, support and implement R&I projects. There are more than 80 funding programs, but to name a few: Early Stage – single firm project, Production of the Future, Energy Research, Smart and Digital Services 
  • Austrian Startups: this non-profit and independent think thank based in Vienna but operating through out of the country has for its focus to improve framework conditions of entrepreneurship and innovation in Austria. Through its community events and resources their activities are aimed at inspiring the next generation of innovators and transmitting their needs to policy makers. The recently published Austrian Start Up agenda, aimed at Austrian politicians and drafted with the support of many Austrian commercial partners, sets a strategy for Austrian ecosystem improvements. Read it here. 

Regional innovation clusters

The recently established Silicon Alps Electronic Cluster brings together Austrian players from industry, science and public authorities to develop and position the electronics and microelectronics sector. To boost the competiveness and innovative performance of its members, To raise the added value in Carinthia and Styria, To promote the location’s international visibility, To enhance the location’s attractiveness for start-ups and business establishment. Some attractive activities are:

  • Fact Finding Missions – trips to countries in and outside Europe with the aim to get better acquainted with international markets, build contacts or expand operations.
  • Academy – a learning platform to add value to South Austrian economic players through the blended learning methods, a mix of online and face-to-face sessions.
  • Advanced Manufacturing Cluster and other clusters

Styrian science and business incubator

The Science Park Graz has been around for 15 years and has now grown into the central research and innovation ecosystem for Styrian region. Thanks to its strong cooperation with Graz University, Styrian Chamber of Commerce and the City of Graz it is able to lead innovators on the fastest way for turning ideas into prototypes and finished products. Are you from Steiremark and have an idea? Fill out the application form here.

Vienna´s accelerators, incubators and services

TU Wien Innovation Incubation Center with its TUW i²ncubator program helps TUW scientists and students to either bring disruptive research or promising early-stage projects to market. The Start Academy is focused on “How to turn research into reality” whereas funding is facilitated through the aws Jumpstart initiative, fundraising through the network, access to personalized trainings, mentorship, an EIR program, well-equipped work spaces and meeting rooms in our FounderSpace, as well as strong inter-/national network.

EU Research and Innovation funding support: RTDS Group supports researchers, innovators and the industry representatives with proposal development and writing, administrative, communicative and budgetary aspects of participation in large EU funded research and innovation projects.

Impact Hub Vienna is a social innovation lab and business incubator in the heart of Vienna. The Hub offers its own unique ecosystem, a diverse community of members and creative support to develop ideas further. Currently there are 9 accelerator programs running with 2 of them open for application:

weXelerate accepts 100 high potential startups from all over the world to the multi-corporate accelerator program each year. Each 4 month accelerator program aims at supporting start- and scale ups with market entry, growth and expansion to new markets by connecting them to relevant stakeholder groups.

Pioneers.io  

Pioneers.io has evolved into one of the most influential and well-known innovation ecosystems in Vienna. With its far reaching media support and corporate involvement, this innovation hub turned into an ultimate meeting point for 2500 bold, pioneering entrepreneurs to look into the future and beyond. Find out more here.  

This is a non-exhaustive list of communities, supporting services and governmental incentives reachable in and from Austria. If you think we missed something out, please drop me an email at povh@rtds-group.com.

Ana F. Povh

Ana F. Povh

Consultant