Helping to turn Lower Austria into a 'land of technology'
Three cities with high-tech facilities in the Lower Austria region are working closely together under the highly successful Technopol Programme. Launched in 2004, this programme has contributed to transforming the economy of the region. This structural shift away from rural activities to making Lower Austria a location for high-tech and innovation has already created gross added value estimated at EUR 191 million and several thousand jobs. Part of this success stems from recent Technopol projects involving on-site universities and small businesses.
‘Technopols’ are areas which bring together a range of different companies and research institutions concentrating on leading technology in any one of a number of fields. Centred around the capital St. Poelten, Lower Austria's very own technopol has become a true success story over the last eight years – notably thanks to its fostering of open innovation and the active participation of all stakeholders.
The Lower Austrian Technopol Programme is an integral part of the region's Innovation Strategy, which is co-financed by the EU under the ERDF regional competitiveness and employment objective. The programme provides advice and services on innovation and technology, one of the six pillars of this strategy. It aims to do this by developing public and semi-public R&D facilities as places of 'technology-oriented business', as well as by linking R&D and business.
New technology knowledge
Under this programme, cooperation between co-located research partners, companies and educational institutions – all sharing a central thematic focus – plays a major role. By working together, they form a critical mass that helps to develop the Technopol.
The programme seeks to generate new technological knowledge and to ensure this is put to work by business. It does this by supporting applied research carried out by R&D institutions and by making existing problem-solving expertise available to the commercial sector. Last but not least, it enables open innovation by bringing together researchers, entrepreneurs and students.
The Technopols currently target three technology sectors, aligned with three specific areas where the region has a competitive advantage:
• Technopol Krems for medical biotechnology;
• Technopol Tulln for agrobiotechnology and environmental biotechnology;
• Technopol Wiener Neustadt for modern industrial technologies.
A fourth location is being considered for inclusion in the programme. It is in Wieselburg, and specialises in bioenergy, agricultural and food technology.
The programme has a number of innovative aspects. Among them are development of a common vision and strategy through biannual meetings, sharing of knowledge once or twice monthly in 'breakfast meetings', and organisation of several annual events like 'The Long Night of Research', which has attracted over 20 000 people since 2008 to visit different Technopol facilities.
Employment for recent graduates
Students are also a key focus for the programme. Around 5 200 study at the University of Applied Sciences at various Technopol locations and some 5 700 postgraduates are at the Danube University Krems.
There is close collaboration between the companies, research institutions and the University of Applied Sciences at the Technopols. At Technopol Wiener Neustadt this has led to master-level study of 'Surfaces, friction and abrasion' at the university, plus a first-class training laboratory at the Technopol's R&D facilities, all of which result in regional growth. Many students have also found jobs in such facilities.
A 2010 impact study estimated that EUR 119 million, or 62 % of the gross added value created by companies at the Technopols, directly benefited Lower Austria. Around 30 % benefited foreign countries and 8 % other Austrian provinces.
The Technopol Programme has overseen over 100 projects. It is estimated to have created almost 2 200 jobs, more than 400 of which are in start-ups.
“This programme has been the main instrument for transforming a region's economy from mainly agriculture and tourism to knowledge-intensive services and competencies.”
Claus Zeppelzauer, ecoplus, The Business Agency of Lower Austria