Europa-Tagung: ERA Council Austria presents benchmarking study and recommendations for achieving top performance in RTI
On 26 November 2016, this year's "Europa-Tagung" (Europe Conference) took place in Vienna, assembling around 350 participants. The conference is organised annually by the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy. This year's conference was dedicated to a "Reality Check on Austria's Path towards Becoming an Innovation Leader". The ERA Council Austria, the advisory body for Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, Reinhold Mitterlehner, on EU research policy issues, presented a benchmarking study comparing the innovation systems of Austria, Denmark and Sweden. "We consciously orient ourselves towards the innovation leaders in Europe and have the long-term objective of advancing again torwards this top group of countries. For this, we require joint efforts and a clear commitment of all players involved in politics, science and business," Federal Minister Mitterlehner said. The study had been commissioned by the ERA Council and was carried out by Joanneum Research. Sweden and Denmark are currently at the top of the European Innovation Union Scoreboard.
Helga Nowotny, Chair of the ERA Council and now also a member of the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development, emphasised that "Under the framework of its RTI Strategy, Austria has undertaken to advance towards the group of innovation leaders in Europe by 2020. This is still a correct target, but we have to ask ourselves what we can do even better, in order to become an Innovation Leader also under difficult budgetary framework conditions".
The study had analysed research and innovation measures and institutions in Sweden and Denmark, comparing them with Austria. Denmark and Sweden both invest more in research than Austria, while at the same time also succeeding better than Austria in transforming the funds they invest into more innovation and greater economic dynamics. In higher education, both Sweden and Denmark link funding of their higher education institutions to the number of student places, giving them a solid financial basis for top-level performance in research and teaching. By contrast, compared with Sweden and Denmark, Austria is better integrated into the European Research Area and is regarded as a model concerning the instruments and structures supporting Austrian researchers in HORIZON 2020 and other European initiatives by these two countries.
Based on the findings of the study, the ERA Council had drawn up a set of recommendations which were presented to Vice-Chancellor Mitterlehner and were then also highlighted and discussed at the conference. Amongst other issues, the ERA Council warned against merely pumping more money into the Austrian innovation system, saying that Austria needs more money in exchange for more output which also needs to be scrutinised. The Chair of the ERA Council stressed that "more output also requires better decision-making structures, focussing efforts and further economic policy stimuli which make it easier for enterprises to establish themselves in Austria and to grow." Another recommendation is to introduce funding for student places, despite the general scarcity of funds.
Vice-Chancellor and Federal Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner welcomed the study, saying the comparison with the two top innovation countries provided a further motivation boost for Austria to further enhance its efforts. "Funds by themselves do not create innovation. We therefore have to optimise existing structures and further strengthen knowledge transfer between science and industry", he said.
The most recent "Cockpit Report" of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG was also published at the conference and highlights Austria's current quite successful performance in HORIZON 2020. Since the start of HORIZON 2020 in January 2014, Austria has retrieved funds to the amount of €320 million. This corresponds to 2.8% of all funds awarded under HORIZON 2020, and is clearly above Austria's scale of contributions to the EU budget of around 2.4% per year. "Austria is a net recipient in research. But what is even more important is having access to the most state-of-the-art knowledge in Europe and building up long-term networks. Thus the European Research Area substantially contributes to our target of becoming one of the innovation leaders", the Vice-Chancellor concluded.
For further information:
BMWFW - press release (in German)
Europa-Tagung: documents and presentations
Photo: by L. Schedl