FFG: Recovering from the crisis through national research and development
40 percent more applications in the pandemic year; EUR 855 million of funding approved
"2020 was an exceptional year. But the 2020 pandemic also encouraged innovation and research," said Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner, Managing Directors of the FFG, on Wednesday. During 2020, the year of the pandemic, the FFG General Programmes received 40% more project proposals than usual, with requests for a research premium exceeding a billion euros for the first time. In the end, the national funding agency provided EUR 855 million in funding for 4,231 projects: EUR 572 million for 3,917 research projects and EUR 283 million for 314 broadband projects. In 2020, EUR 165 million was invested in climate-related projects and EUR 263 million in digitalisation projects.
Federal Minister Margarete Schramböck, FFG-Managing Director Henrietta Egerth, Federal Minister Leonore Gewessler, FFG-Managing Director Klaus Pseiner
Photocredit: BMDW/Hartberger - Download in high resolution
Focus on green technologies and digitalisation
The Federal Government's financing is focused on actively investing in the development and roll-out of green technologies and renewable energy to achieve the climate transition and meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. With over 70% of its power generated by renewables, Austria is well positioned to reassert its leading position in this sector on the international stage, and to create new jobs. Innovative solutions for climate protection will play a vital role in achieving this goal.
A second focal area will be to expand Austria's digital capacities. These will be key to shaping our future, especially in the fields of production, mobility and society. The crisis caused by COVID-19 has shown how important a reliable digital infrastructure, digital tools and digital qualifications have become for modern society, especially for home schooling and working from home. There will also be a greater focus on artificial intelligence, ecommerce, cyber security, and smart factories, to equip companies with the digital expertise they need during a global pandemic.
Distribution of FFG funding in 2020 by organisation type (excluding broadband funds): EUR 572 million in total, of which 38% to large enterprises, 35% to SMEs, 11% to universities, 9% to research institutions, 5% to competence centres.
Source: FFG funding statistics 2020
Research leads to Austrian innovations
In view of the current health and economic crisis, as well as the climate crisis, from a macroeconomic perspective research funding is becoming more relevant than ever before. "Research and development in general, and the FFG with its programmes in particular, can serve as an important economic driver over the short and medium term," said Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner. During an economic crisis research funding must be made available quickly so that companies can retain their qualified employees and create additional jobs over the short term. "What is decisive for the output of our innovation system is the speed at which new ideas and research findings can be implemented and put to economic use," they explained.
Corona Emergency Call 2020: A success
The Corona Emergency Call allowed the FFG to quickly mobilise existing R&D expertise and capacities in Austria. In March 2020, the Federal Government called for more research into vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics and prevention, and to bring applications to the market. 143 projects were submitted within a very short time. Additional jury meetings were organised, and funding was approved for 51 projects. The project results are already being implemented, demonstrating the significant potential inherent in Austria's life sciences sector, particularly among SMEs, which account for 80% of the projects.
Cooperation at all levels
Never before has the FFG been able to stimulate such a level of project activity through its funding programmes, making a significant contribution to combatting the health and economic crisis. "We will be dealing with the economic crisis for a long time. The challenges for Austria as a location for innovation are great because companies are expected to reduce their RTI expenditure, as indicated by the WIFO Business Cycle Survey," said the FFG Managing Directors. However, Austria's research strategy has proven its worth. The FFG's broad-based funding programmes encourage resilience by following an anti-cyclical approach, and make up for gaps in R&D expenditures. The FFG also supports participation in the EU's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme. "We want to once again achieve an above average success rate for Austrian participants in Horizon Europe, and to provide our research community with the best possible support and advice. We take care to ensure that national measures are designed to align with EU programmes," explainManed the two FFG Managing Directors, Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner.
The pandemic has also shown the importance of a well-developed innovation system and positive cooperation between business, research institutions, civil society organisations and public administration. "FFG expertise and commitment encourages efficient and transparent funding as a means of promoting Austrian innovation. That means we make access to funding as simple as possible, but as secure as necessary, to ensure the appropriate use of taxpayers' money," concluded Egerth and Pseiner.
The Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) is the national funding agency of the Republic of Austria. The FFG's contracting bodies and owner representatives include the Federal Ministry of Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW). The FFG manages the allocation of broadband funds for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) and participation in the EU's Horizon Europe research and innovation programme for the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF). The FFG also manages funding programmes for individual regional governments and the Climate and Energy Fund.
Further Inquiry Note:
Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)
+43 5 7755-6017