Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Töchterle: Knowledge creates jobs – Strengthening the location through research

Research and innovation are the most important drivers of growth ­– they create jobs, strengthen the business and re-search location and provide answers to society’s greatest challenges, including climate change, scarcity of resources and the ageing population. With its Eu­­rope 2020 strategy, the EU is supporting a broad-­­based approach to innovation, which includes both social innovations and strategies for research and innovation.

Strong performance in innovation and the good position in international competition this brings with it require new knowledge to be created all the time and those in business to seize upon it quickly. What distinguishes highly developed eco­­n­­­­omies such as Austria is the fact that their stock of knowledge is constantly in­­creasing. This is because it is increasingly important to create new knowledge, new technologies and new organisational forms for the good of society itself, rather than simply absorbing knowledge through im­­porting innovation.

For knowledge and technology to be trans­­ferred successfully, it is essential that both the company and those involved in the science and research side have certain skills in innovation and knowledge management, as well as business and content-related expertise, and that RTI (research, technology, innovation) activities and organisational provisions are pre­­sent. Small and medium-sized businesses in particular must adapt their core expertise to the fast technological develop­­ment and the changes in the market these bring about. In the future, knowledge from external sources will have to be put to even more successful use through even greater integration of the (academic) research base, easier access to sources of knowledge and putting the results of research to
use quickly.

Strong knowledge locations produce strong business locations. A stable con­­nection between the commercial sector and the universities pro­­duces aca­­de­mic spin-off start-ups. Be­­cause of their re­­­­­­search orien­­­­­­tation, these companies usually also retain a lasting connection to their “incu­­bator” uni­­versity (such as through cooper­­ative research projects), and are thus of great significance for the region as a busi­­ness lo­­ca­­tion. Com­panies with an emphasis on re­­­­search often base themselves close to univer­­sities w ith a similar emphasis on research.

The number of spin-off company start-ups has increased in Austria in recent years. The absolute number is currently estimated at around 500 start-ups per year. In general, an increase in the num­ber of start-­­ups can be seen most clearly in sectors with high levels of research and technology. Of the almost 20,000 individual start-ups per year, 4,730 (that is almost a quarter) are in sectors based on re­­search and knowledge. Of these, 1,990 (around 42 per cent) are founded by academics.

A study by the university of Linz (“Bene-fits and Effects of Basic Research”, Joan-­neum Research, Andreas Schibany and Helmut Gassler, June 2010) about the effects of Graz University of Technology on economic value creation and employment showed that, between 1996 and 2007, the TU Graz produced an additional value creation effect of around 2.4 billion euros and an employment effect of around 19,100 people (jobs secured and/or cre­­ated), in addition to the jobs provided by the university itself.

Founding universities of applied sciences in new locations has made another valuable contribution to regional development and created improved access to the know­­­­ledge generated at these institutions for new groups of companies.

Further strengthening cooperation be-tween science and business. The Federal Ministry of Science and Research is further promoting the transfer of knowledge and technology at Austrian universities and public research institutions and has succeeded in building up structures which are now a significant prerequisite for further support measures.

uni:invent. In the supporting initiative uni:­invent (2004 – 2009), awareness meas­­­­ures and the establishment of a professional IPR management system has al­­lowed sustainable utilisation structures to be established at the universities. uni: invent created 38 new jobs for invention advisors at the universities and concluded 410 new research cooperation agreements and contracts. In addition, around ten spin-off companies were founded from uni:invent projects each year. Be­­tween 2007 and 2009 alone, the funding used generated 2.8 times as much in cash flow or re­­turning cash.

IP utilisation strategies of the universities. In order to strengthen the universities’ es­­­tab­­lished structures for patenting and utilisation, the development of professional intellectual property and utilisation strategies was added to the perfor­­mance agreements with the universities, in order to further increase the level of professionalisation in knowledge transfer in the public research institutions.

National contact point (

In addition, a national contact point has been set up at the Federal Ministry of Science and Research, which uses targeted measures to further strengthen cooper­­a­tion between science and business, supports public research institutions in dealing pro­fessionally with intellectual property law (workshops, training, sample contracts etc.) and represents Austria in European committees.

Phoenix 2012 – Start-ups with a future. Utilisation spin-offs are a sign of successful knowledge transfer and provide crucial stimulus for Austria as a business location. In order to make the connection bet­ween science and business even strong­­­­er and to anchor it better in the public con­­sciousn ess, I will award young, innova­­tive entrepreneurs with the business prize “Phoenix 2012 – Start-ups with a future”.

Science and business – a bright future together. We are facing the crucial question of how to secure our viability for the future and continue to expand our wealth for the coming generations. The answer lies in increased cooperation between science and business. Especially in times of economic difficulty and when prospects for the future are uncertain, re­­­search and innovation help to move the country forwards, create jobs and add value.

When compared internationally, Austria
is a leader when it comes to the intensity of cooperation between science and busi­­ness. It has a modern and well-performing research and innovation system. In order not to endanger the successes already achieved, in its RTI strategy, the Federal Government has set the aim of continuing and improving the measures implemented so far and adapting them to the changing conditions, and especially on strengthening strategic cooperation between science and business, with a particular focus on excellence and sustainability.

A central message of the RTI strategy is to double spending on basic research by 2020. Israel is an impressive example in this field. Thanks to its very high invest­­ment in basic research and successful coop­­eration between science and business, it has become one of the strongest countries in the world in research.
It is therefore my aim to create the right conditions for those teaching, researching and studying at Austrian universities and research institutions, to allow them to con­­tinue to meet the national and international challenges they face. As well as more public and private funding, this also predom­inantly means struc­­­tural measures, which are defined in the Austrian Universities Act to ensure that funding is used efficiently, to coordinate infrastructures better and, alongside cooperation between universities and other research institutions, to continue to expand and strengthen cooperation with business.

Investment in universities and research institutions pays off and creates value. With­­out sufficient financial means, there will be no more innovation in the medium to long term. Driving investment in the future is therefore an essential re­­­quire­­ment if we are to achieve our am­­bitious goals in science, research and innovation in accordance with the Feder­al Govern­ment’s RTI strategy and make Austria one of the leading countries in Europe when it comes to innovation by 2020.


BM_Toechterle_2Der 1949 geborene Autor pro­movierte nach dem Studium der Phi­­lo­lo­­gie und Germa­nistik mit einer Dis­­­ser­ta­tion in Klas­­­sischer Philologie. Es folgten der Ab­­schluss der Lehramts­prü­fung für Deutsch, La­tein und Spon­sion zum Mag. phil. sowie die Habi­­­li­tation für Klassische Philologie. Seit April 2011 ist Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Töchterle Bundes­mi­nis­ter für Wis­sen­schaft und For­schung der Republik Österreich.