Future of Research in Austria: Leader in the European Union

PeopleOther ♦ Published: April 24, 2024; 14:06 ♦ (Vindobona)

In an unprecedented phase of development, Austria's research landscape has set out to achieve the highest research quota within the European Union. The year 2024 marks a turning point in which the country achieves a research quota of 3.34% of gross domestic product (GDP) - a record figure that puts Austria on the ambitious path to the top in Europe.

Austria wants more cutting-edge research and innovation in the heart of Europe. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / National Eye Institute, CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

With a research budget of 16.6 billion euros, the government is sending out a clear signal of its focus on innovation and the future, a commitment that is particularly important in the current geopolitical situation. "Innovation is the key to a strong business location in Austria," affirmed Minister of Labor and Economic Affairs Martin Kocher. By consistently increasing R&D expenditure, Austria is not only positioning itself as an innovation leader but also as a provider of answers to global challenges.

Research funding in Austria is based on a solid foundation, with around two-thirds coming from the corporate sector. This shows a clear trend towards strengthening the high-tech sector, which serves as a driver for sustainable economic growth. The government's ambitious plans, backed by a targeted policy and support from the Ministry of Climate Protection as the largest public funder of applied research, are signs of a new era.

Leonore Gewessler, the Minister for Climate Protection, emphasizes the crucial role of research funding for Austria's green and digital transformation. With an increase in funding for the RTI Pact and additional funding from the Climate and Energy Fund, the country is demonstrating its commitment to sustainable and competitive research.

The potential and ambition of the Austrian research landscape are also shared by the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber (WKÖ) and its President Harald Mahrer, who emphasizes the need for a strong innovation ecosystem and the connection to international research elites. He sees Austria's future in cutting-edge research and competition with innovation leaders such as South Korea.

Focus on research in Austria

Another milestone is the RTI conference in Vienna, which sparked a discussion about the future funding of research. Increased investment is required for Austria's ambitions to become one of the world's top 5 research nations. Science Minister Martin Polaschek called for more funding for basic research at universities and an effective transfer of research results to industry.

The conference also emphasized the importance of research for the business location and for the prosperity of the country. It emphasized how research can contribute to improving the quality of life, finding innovative solutions to the challenges of our time, and strengthening Austria's international position.

Austria's research landscape is characterized by a remarkable diversity - from medical research to projects that aim to reduce the use of antibiotics and sleeping pills. However, despite this positive dynamic and increasing R&D capacities, there is still an awareness that there are still hurdles to overcome. There is a need for further expansion of innovation networks and a willingness to invest that also overcomes social skepticism towards science.

A critical view from BioNTech co-founder Christoph Huber points out that Europe, and therefore also Austria, must strengthen its creative and scientific mindset. Europe must offer more room for risk-takers and provide young people with the best framework conditions for research and innovation.

The vision for Austria's research is clear: it is a pursuit of excellence, a goal to attract and retain the best minds, and the will to increase the research quota to at least 4 percent. "Investing in research is more important than investing in traffic circles", a guiding principle that could establish itself as a programmatic guideline for Austria's path to becoming a leading science nation.