FFG: "Innovation Works" – Investments in research and innovation throughout Austria

Austria as a research location in 2022: Record call volume of 1.9 billion euros

The Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG balance sheet for 2022 contained impressive figures: with the support of the FFG, last year a total of 3.1 billion euros was invested in industry-oriented research and broadband infrastructure in Austria. Of this sum, 1 billion euros was invested in research premiums; over 1.6 billion euros in FFG-funded projects; and a further almost 300 million euros from EU and ESA funds. Through this strong funding support for innovative projects, the FFG is making a lasting contribution to stabilising and strengthening Austria’s economy.

The two FFG Managing Directors Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner explained why it is important right now to provide impetus through research funding in order to drive forward a sustainable transformation of the economy: “In light of the multiple and extraordinary challenges facing the economy, it was particularly important to increase support in order to facilitate innovative projects and, in so doing, to drive the modernisation of important companies and industries. Funding is an investment in the future. In an economic upswing, these projects create precisely the momentum needed to be at the forefront of new growth and increasing profitability.”

Innovative companies are winners in the battle for talent

Against this background, the FFG has chosen “Innovation Works” as its theme for 2023. It builds on the insights and directions taken in the previous year which have made it eminently clear how in the battle for talent it is important for employers to demonstrate their strength as innovators and offer prospects for further development.

Jürgen Janger, WIFO Senior Economist who presented the results of the WIFO study on innovations and investments made by Austrian companies during the crisis at the press conference, confirmed that the FFG plays a pivotal role as a driving force in this area: “Austrian companies are still in crisis mode. The far-reaching changes of recent years, the planning uncertainty and the often-changing framework conditions have led to restraint in the field of R&D. However, it is very clear that innovative companies that continue to invest in research and generate fresh momentum are better able to get through the crisis.”

More optimism among innovative companies

Overall, innovation activities in the corporate sector declined last year. This confirms once again that investments in innovation – specifically product innovations – are highly cyclical. However, companies receiving FFG funding showed much lower investment declines. The share of product innovations does not decline significantly in FFG-funded companies, and the probability of a new product launch is twice as high in FFG-funded companies than in those not in receipt of funding. Unsurprisingly, funded companies are also more optimistic about the future. While investments in product innovations are also strongly linked to company size in the case of non-funded companies (large companies tend to remain active while smaller ones stop investing in times of crisis), the FFG compensates for the disadvantages faced by smaller companies: those receiving FFG funding continue to conduct research even in times of crisis, regardless of their size.

High demand for funding

Generally, Austria’s companies are innovators. Despite the huge funding volume available, 45% of all applications were rejected last year, 20% due to a lack of funds. “There are more good ideas than we can support,” says the FFG management. The FFG allocates funding according to the following criteria: 25% goes to company-driven innovation projects, 33% is awarded based on thematic priorities in the form of calls which, last year, lay in the areas of energy transition, mobility transition and life sciences; 12% of the funding volume was used for structures and human potential, invested in competence centres, qualifications and talent promotion; and at 30%, a large proportion of last year’s FFG funding went to the infrastructure sector, especially to broadband expansion and zero emission mobility projects.

Full focus on the Twin Transition

The FFG addresses the major issues for the twin sustainability and digitalisation transition. The funding volume for sustainability projects increased further in 2022: 64% of funding was invested in climate-related projects, equivalent to 586 million euros, up 18% over 2021. “This is a huge incentive for the energy and mobility transition to achieve climate neutrality,” says Klaus Pseiner.  Sustainability and environmental relevance have also been important criteria in project assessments for many years.

A total of 455 million euros was invested in digitalisation projects, or 50% of the funding volume, as Henrietta Egerth explains: “The digital transformation needs innovative projects, especially measures to improve infrastructure. In this context, broadband funding is essential to strengthen international competitiveness and, above all, to integrate rural areas into high-performance networks.” As a result, the funds for broadband expansion have been significantly expanded. While a total of 1.1 billion euros were invested in the years 2015 to 2021, in the previous year the budget was massively increased, with 875 million euros made available for new calls.

International alliances for the major challenges

The FFG also manages almost all RTI-related EU programmes such as the Digital Europe Programme and Eureka, as well as the largest and most competitive programme, Horizon Europe, which provides 95 billion euros of funding. As a result of active and successful participation, Austria’s research stakeholders are valued as partners and the quality of Austria’s research and innovation achievements is highlighted. Here, too, it is apparent that Horizon projects with FFG participation are more successful than those run without FFG support.

In 2022, Austria celebrated 35 years of cooperation with the European Space Agency, and with a remarkable record: a total of 16.9 billion euros was made available over the period, with 231 million euros coming from Austria alone. And if that was not enough, Austria also provides a reserve astronaut – Carmen Possnig. In addition to 20 years of the European Space Policy Institute in Vienna, 2023 also brings the launch of the mission to Jupiter. 

Further development rather than stagnation – in all areas

Continuous development is also the recipe for the success of the FFG. With new programmes and priorities, the FFG has advanced from a pure R&D funding agency to become an innovation funding agency. It acts not only as an innovation centre but is also an indispensable hub between politics, business, and science. Today, FFG processes all funding applications entirely digitally, and the organisation has an excellent and highly international network. In a survey on customer satisfaction, the FFG’s funding recipients give a very good report: 93% see the FFG in only a positive or neutral light. In addition, 80% of respondents said that they would not have conducted their project without the support of the FFG. “The FFG encourages and supports innovation, and we embody this in our daily activities. Our aim is to constantly expand and improve our range of services, to ensure fast and efficient processing and thus to motivate more companies to apply for funding. Therefore, we are very proud that our achievements are perceived so positively. We want to continue to do everything we can to strengthen Austria as a research and business location,” says Henrietta Egerth. 

FFG results for 2022 at a glance

Last year, 912 million euros were pledged to the research community. The FFG’s largest customer group is companies, but funding was also awarded to cooperative partnerships, especially with universities and institutes. A significant part of the funding went to innovative start-ups, with the total funding for start-ups and scale-ups in 2022 amounting to over 82 million euros for 850 projects. A total of 5,628 projects were approved in 2022 to support research, development and innovation projects run by 4,838 organisations.



Mag. Matthis PRABITZ
T 0043577556017