RESEARCH, LIFE SCIENCES
Clustering gives Austrian biotech more clout
What worked for Vienna should also go for Styria, the southern Austrian province. In another example of how enhanced co-operation propels science in EU countries, this small country is banking on great gains from its new biotechnology clustering programme.
The life sciences are recognised by the EU – in its Sixth Framework Programme for research – as a promising and innovative area for advancing our knowledge of human disorders and improving the quality of life. Austria is showing its desire to be a player in the human biotechnology field, carving out a niche which will enable it to take on the big boys in the UK, Sweden and further afield.
|Campus Vienna Biocentre is an offshoot from the University of Vienna|
© Source: LISA VR
This endeavour was given a boost following the creation of Life Science Austria Vienna Region (LISA VR), a special biotech hub. It is backed by the Centre for Innovation and Technology (ZIT) – part of the Wiener Wirtschaftsförderungsfonds – the Ecoplus development agency of Lower Austria, and Austria Wirtschaftsservice, a specialist business bank. This biotech cluster brings together some 300 researchers in 30 leading universities, biotech businesses and other research-oriented institutions.
By assembling expertise for biotech operations into one central coordination office, LISA VR provides numerous advantages not otherwise available to researchers and organisations in a small country like Austria. These benefits include help with tricky patenting and licensing issues, advice on how to set up and finance new ventures, as well as training and assistance on the business aspects of research. It also acts as a much-needed bridge between science and business.
In their footsteps
Now Styria, a mountainous region in the south, has set ambitious plans to establish a human technology hub and reinforce itself as a high-tech region. The concept of clustering is not new to Styria. In fact, Austria’s first technology park was founded in the capital Graz, in 1986. And it is already one of Europe’s leading regions in the fields of medical and human technology.
According to a study by the Industrial Science Institute, this is a sector of enormous potential, and the proposed new cluster would help to generate the necessary critical mass of expertise in this complex field to give Austria an edge. The Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Diagnostics is currently building a new centre for medical analysis devices in Graz – one of only seven centres worldwide – say regional authorities.
Other specialist research centres are falling in behind this endeavour, with a so-called “impulse centre” for human technology being built in co-operation with the University of Graz, costing around €4.36 million. Klaus Groscher, associate professor at the university’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology told The Scientist that creating such a cluster is bound to lead to breakthroughs in important fields, including tissue engineering and biocatalysis research
press and other sources
Research Contacts page
Life Science Austria (Vienna Region)Centre for Innovation and Technology (in DE)Ecoplus development agencyAustria WirtschaftsserviceKlaus Groscher (University of Graz)Gate to Austria (Styria page)Austria banks on clusters (The Scientist, 20 May 2004)