Life Sciences: an Overview

Life sciences (or biosciences) are among the most important future-oriented areas of research, economy and society. Austria not only has a strong tradition in medicine, but also draws on a growing, active and internationally respected scientific community in all disciplines of the field. Life sciences are of course also an important economic factor for Austria with currently some 350 companies and a total of over 28,000 employees.

Modern biosciences and biotechnology are recognised as key technologies of the 21st century. Not only do they drive progress in the field of medicine and in the development of new diagnostic methods, novel therapies and medical technology – life sciences also play a major role in industrial manufacturing, agriculture and the environment. Integrated concepts such as system biology, modern methods in molecular biology, genetic engineering and bioinformatics provide new insights leading to marketable products and processes.

Life Sciences as an Economic Factor

In 2007, Austria’s 350 life science companies (including pharmaceutical companies) generated revenue of more than 8.6 billion euro. Around half of the companies regularly carry out research and development activities, spending a total of 814 million euro or 9.4% of total turnover in the sector on R&D. A total of just over 5,000 people work in research and development in the life sciences sector, a sector that is marked by very high research intensity, innovation and growth. This is also reflected in the large number of patent applications and the growing number of business start-ups.

Scientific Research in the Life Sciences Sector

In Austria, the life sciences sector has a differentiated, very active scientific community, which is strongly supported by a number of university and non-university institutes. In 2007, a total of over 760 million euro was spent on research and development in the fields of biology, botany and zoology as well as human and veterinary medicine (the majority being spent on human medicine).

Meeting Social Challenges

An aging population, increasing health awareness, food quality or issues related to protection of the environment and waste disposal – modern biosciences and biotechnology are of key relevance in providing solutions to many issues of social importance. Many of the everyday products and processes we take for granted today only exist as the result of huge research efforts and long product development times requiring substantial financial investment largely provided through public funding.

(Statistical data: Austrian Research and Technology Report 2010, Life Sciences Austria).