Responsibility for society

The Annual Report 2019 of the FFG

Research and innovation advance the economy and society. In 2019 the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), on behalf of the Federal Government, made EUR 773 million available for this purpose.

 Klaus Pseiner and Henrietta Egerth, FFG managing directors

FFG Managing Directors Klaus Pseiner and Henrietta Egerth
Credit: FFG/Astrid Knie

Anyone able to adapt quickly and find new solutions to changing framework conditions can return to renewed growth more rapidly. Studies show that innovative businesses create more jobs, have higher export rates and are better able to overcome economic challenges than others. FFG funding allows businesses to better exploit their innovative potential, to bring innovations to market quickly, and so increase their competitiveness.

But research can do far more, because innovative ideas are absolutely essential for successful digital transformation, the simultaneous greening of the economy and for solving urgent social challenges.

Applying the right levers

The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) is the central organisation for the promotion and financing of research, development and innovation in Austria. It acts on behalf of its owners, the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW). The FFG also closely cooperates with other ministries such as the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT), the Federal Ministry of Finance (BMF), the regional governments and other organisations.

In the past year, the FFG approved a total of EUR 773 million (including loans and guarantees) for 3,853 projects. This also includes EUR 155 million in funding from the BMLRT for 308 broadband expansion projects. A total of 3,692 organisations have taken part in FFG-funded projects (some in more than one project), of which 1,558 were first-time recipients of FFG grants. This has also achieved the important aim of significantly raising the number of innovative Austrian businesses.

However, it was by no means possible to fund all those projects classified by the juries and panels of experts as worthy of support. Due to budget constraints, 440 projects which had successfully completed the selection process were denied funding – a further EUR 157 million would have been necessary for these projects.

Business location bolstered

Research and development projects which receive FFG funding significantly strengthen the power of Austria’s export economy: projects supported by the FFG generated 82% of their licence revenues and 91% of their turnover abroad.

Industrial projects accounted for 63 percent (EUR 392 million) of the EUR 618 million in funding approved for research and innovation projects (broadband funds not included). Of this sum, EUR 223 million went to large enterprises (36% of the total volume) and EUR 169 million to small and medium-sized enterprises (27% of the total volume). Austrian universities received EUR 75 million (12%), competence centres EUR 84 million (14%) and non-university research institutes EUR 53 million (9%). Another EUR 14 million went to other organisations (e.g. associations, local authorities). Two thirds of all projects are cooperative projects, in which scientific institutes work closely together with businesses and other organisations (e.g. industrial associations, public authorities, etc.).

A quarter have a climate impact

Around a quarter of the FFG’s funding has a direct impact on the climate, and not just through traffic or alternative energy projects. Many other projects – for example in production technologies – have clear direct or indirect effects on saving resources or reducing waste and residual materials.
From a regional perspective on funding distribution, the three federal provinces Vienna, Styria and Upper Austria once again topped the FFG statistics in 2019. The FFG awarded EUR 180 million to projects from Styria, EUR 138 million to those from Vienna, and EUR 128 million to those from Upper Austria.

In terms of funding allocation by sector, the largest funding volumes were awarded to businesses in the IT and communications technology industry, and projects related to production (at EUR 145 million and EUR 147 million respectively, each representing roughly a quarter of the total funding). EUR 81 million (13%) was dedicated to energy and environmental topics, EUR 78 million (13%) to life sciences, and EUR 63 million (10%) to mobility projects. However, today practically every research or innovation project also includes a strong digitalisation element. More than half of all projects receiving FFG funding are concerned either directly or indirectly with digitalisation aspects.   

Services extended further

The FFG is a strong partner for business and society, not only by providing direct funding for innovative projects but also by offering support through a range of targeted services. It acts as the Austrian National Contact Point for Horizon 2020, the EU's  Programme for Research and Innovation, and other international programmes such as EUREKA and Eurostars in close coordination with the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and is the docking station to the international aerospace world. It implements national aerospace policy and represents Austria on international aerospace committees. Austrian representation in the European Space Agency ESA in coordination with the Ministry for Climate Action (BMK) is of special strategic importance in this context.
The FFG's services range from project-specific assistance through to support in strategically positioning companies and organisations within the European research and innovation environment. In its capacity as the National Contact Point for Horizon 2020, the FFG carried out a total of 150 training courses & workshops, checked a total of 1,000 proposals and conducted over 30,000 advisory sessions on the EU research programme in the past year. The successes speak for themselves: Austrian businesses and institutes demonstrated their commitment by securing around EUR 1.4 billion in EU funding and participating in over 2,300 projects.

Research premium on the increase

Since 2013, the FFG has provided assessments on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Finance for businesses wishing to claim a research premium in their tax return. These assessments determine whether the projects represent eligible research and experimental development as defined in the Austrian Income Tax Act. The assessments are provided free of charge to businesses. The research premium was most recently increased to 14% for financial years from 2018. In the calendar year 2019, a total of 2,722 annual assessments for research premium applications totalling EUR 904 million were requested by businesses and/or their tax representatives. With an average processing time of six weeks, the FFG was able to complete the assessments much more quickly than the prescribed time limit (max 4 months).