FFG: a plus for research and innovation is a plus for Austria
2021 year in review
Research and innovation form the basis for tackling key future challenges – from climate protection to the energy and mobility transition to the digital transformation and life sciences. The federal government is stimulating research and development with attractive funding and economic incentives and providing a real benefit for the FFG in terms of planning and budget security.
FFG: a plus for research and innovation is a plus for Austria.
FFG budget increased from 700 million euros in 2021 to 1.6 billion euros in 2022. Budgets secured until 2025.
- Innovation base expanded: approx. 70 % of companies making an initial application carry out a further research project within four years.
- FFG ensures a high level of resilience for Austria as a centre of innovation.
- Start-ups: 2021 was a top year for start-ups with 78.5 million euros of FFG funding.
- Demand from researchers remained consistently high in 2021.
- 4,977 new R&D projects approved totalling 738 million euros.
- 2,622 research premium assessments.
Recording of the press briefing 16/3/2022 (in German)
“Investment in research and innovation is of enormous significance because the speed at which new ideas and findings from research are applied and implemented determines the impact of our innovation system – especially in challenging times,” emphasise the Managing Directors of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner, on presentation of the FFG’s review of 2021 together with the Deputy Director of the Austrian Institute for SME Research (KMU Forschung Austria), Peter Kaufmann.
Over the last year, the FFG approved a total of 738 million euros of funding (incl. guarantees and loans) for 4,977 projects. This has resulted in support being provided to research, development and innovation projects from 4,884 organisations, including 3,468 companies. Furthermore, 183 million euros were invested in broadband expansion. In total, the FFG allocated 921 million euros of funding over the course of the year. A significant proportion of FFG services comprises an extensive range of advisory services. A total of 14,205 consultancy sessions were carried out during the previous year.
A total volume in excess of 3 billion euros was either transferred or initiated by the FFG in 2021. This includes around 1 billion euros of research premiums (which can only be claimed on the basis of an FFG assessment), approx. 1.8 billion euros of total project volume (€921 million of FFG funding + approx. €900 million from companies' own resources) and around 230 million euros from EU or ESA funds directed to Austria (in this case, the FFG acts as the National Contact Point).
“In 2021, research-oriented companies continued to implement projects with enormous innovative capability and demand for funding remained consistently high. The results for 2021 fill us with great optimism as we look to the near future,” say the FFG Managing Directors. “Over the last few years, Austria has made considerable effort to become a solid centre of innovation and research and has broadened its innovation base. We can be very proud of that”.
The impact of FFG funding
From a long-term perspective, the number of companies engaging in R&D has increased significantly. According to Statistics Austria, there were 2,123 companies pursuing R&D in 2004. In 2009, this figure had risen to 2,946 and in 2015 to 3,611 companies. In 2019, a total of 3,872 companies actively engaged in R&D. “The aim of broadening the innovation base has clearly succeeded over the years thanks to FFG funding,” explains Peter Kaufmann, Deputy Director of the Austrian Institute for SME Research, which has been regularly monitoring the impact of funded RTI&D projects since 1977. According to these findings, 70% of companies submitting an initial application go on to implement a new research project within 4 years.
“This high leverage effect applies in particular to young companies, SMEs and companies active in fields of business with a low level of knowledge intensity,” says Kaufmann. Thanks to the funded projects, 54% of companies were able to improve their international competitive standing and 31% maintained it. "For 85% of companies, FFG-funded projects have had a positive impact in terms of competition – the companies have either been able to improve or maintain their competitive standing,” Peter Kaufmann continues. R&D employees are recruited for around two-thirds of the project participations; a positive impact on employment due to the exploitation of the project results was noted in around 42%. Furthermore, 36% of project participations were used to tap into new fields of activity.
This is the case in particular with start-ups and companies in the oldest category (over 50 years old). This shows that FFG projects are also of interest to established companies to open up new fields of business and diversify. “The high degree of additionality brought by funding in the case of small companies and less knowledge-intensive technology groups emphasises the direct impact that research funding has on broadening the innovation base. The high level of additionality in the case of cooperative projects also reveals that knowledge and technology transfer would be significantly lower without the funding,” Peter Kaufmann continues.
FFG funding offer significantly expanded
A significant expansion in funding activities is planned for 2022 and 2023, both in terms of volume and funding programmes. “As such, the FFG will develop from a programme management agency into an innovation hub between the worlds of politics, industry and science,” say FFG Managing Directors Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner. “The FFG’s owner ministries, the Ministry for Climate Action and the Ministry for Economic Affairs, thus provide planning security and a solid basis both for funding providers and funding recipients”.
The budget earmarked for the FFG (new funds) is increasing from around 700 million euros in 2021 to over 1.6 billion euros in the current year. This increase of over 130% is due, on the one hand, to funds from the Next Generation EU programme and on the other, to new and more focused funding priorities on the part of the contracting authorities and owner ministries.
Next Generation EU – RRF
“With the Next Generation EU programme, the European Union has launched a comprehensive recovery instrument. Thanks to the initiative of our owners and contracting authorities, the FFG has been able to launch funding programmes for zero-emission bus and truck fleets, thereby supporting the purchase of hundreds of buses and over 2,000 utility vehicles, including charging infrastructure,” according to the FFG Management.
Additional funds from the EU recovery fund are also available for the expansion of the broadband network. “Together with national funds from the Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Regions and Tourism, a total of 1.4 billion euros are available up until 2026 to provide Austria with comprehensive broadband coverage by 2030”.
Additional funding from the EU recovery fund implemented on behalf of the Ministry for Science (BMBWF) will be allocated to the Quantum Austria funding initiative and participation of Austrian companies in the EU IPCEI initiatives (Important Projects of Common European Interest, strategic plans for strengthening European value chains).
Support for digital transformation further expanded
The use and integration of digital technologies is not only crucial for virtually all companies, it also plays an increasing part in other research disciplines. Over half (59%) of the funding allocated by the FFG last year – 540 million euros – has been invested in projects with a strong digitalisation focus. The FFG put together a comprehensive package to support the digital transformation of companies on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (BMDW). “This includes qualification measures as well as expertise and technology transfer through to the network of Digital Innovation Hubs with which we provide both support and infrastructure to SMEs,” explains Henrietta Egerth. “The FFG is driving technological change because we have the right tools and top experts, from supporting new ideas to the market launch”.
Greater competitiveness through sustainable innovation
The FFG has been a key player in the transformation to a sustainable economy in Austria over the last 18 years. “Only through research and creativity can we achieve the green transition and shape a sustainable and resilient economy. Digital transformation and climate protection go hand-in-hand,” stresses Klaus Pseiner. “Because digitalisation forms an important basis for the sustainable and climate-friendly transformation of the economy and society”.
Virtually half of the FFG budget – 337 million euros – was invested in climate-relevant projects in 2021. Since 2020, project applications to the FFG have been evaluated according to environmental, social and economic sustainability objectives. The green transition will be noticeably accelerated by the focal points set by the Ministry for Climate Action (BMK) in the fields of production, mobility, energy and climate-friendly cities. In particular, green tech should stimulate the economy and boost investments which are good for the environment and good for companies. Programmes such as ‘Öko-Scheck’ and ‘Green Frontrunner’ were in high demand in 2021. Green Frontrunner provides support to companies active on the global market which are seeking to further expand their leading position.
Innovation requires courage, knowledge and money
Of the 738 million euros of funding in total (broadband expansion not included), 442 million euros (59%) went to companies, of which 195 million euros were allocated to small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). Almost one quarter of the total funding was awarded to research facilities (169 million euros), and projects at universities received 104 million euros of support (14%; other organisations: 23 million euros).
FFG funding benefits both newcomers and innovation professionals, start-ups or individual researchers, companies or universities.
From FinTech to BioTech: how start-ups get going with FFG funding
Another record high was reached in 2021 with 78.5 million euros of funding allocated to start-ups. Over 1,100 start-ups have used support from the FFG to implement their ideas. Most operate in the digital technologies sector but there are also numerous start-ups in the life sciences, energy, mobility and production sectors. “Over the last few years, the FFG has been able to make a significant contribution to the growing, lively start-up scene in Austria,” say Henrietta Egerth and Klaus Pseiner. “This is reflected in the considerable growth in interest from foreign investors: from 2016 to 2021, FFG-funded Austrian start-ups have secured over a billion euros of investments”.
Connecting Austria’s researchers with Europe
As part of Horizon 2020 (programme ended on 31/12/2020), funding worth around 1.93 billion euros was committed to Austrian institutions up until autumn 2021 (data as of 1/9/2021). With around 412 million euros to date, ERC grants are currently the programme with the highest return flow from Horizon 2020 to Austria. In terms of the success rate for participations, Austria (17.3%) is ranked in 3rd place (together with the Netherlands) behind Belgium and France and has thus been able to solidify its position at a European level, despite the consistent level of strong competition.
The FFG, in its role as the National Contact Point, supports research institutions and companies in Austria with its comprehensive information and consulting services for European and international RTI programmes and initiatives. In 2021, the FFG was appointed to this role for another six years. 2021 was marked by the launch of the new Horizon Europe framework programme. It brought numerous new developments such as a cluster structure, new partnerships and so-called missions.
FFG annual results – an overview
Over the last year, the FFG approved a total of 738 million euros in funding (incl. guarantees and loans) for 4,977 projects. Support was provided to research, development and innovation projects run by 4,884 organisations, of which 3,468 were companies. Furthermore, 183 million euros were invested in expanding the broadband network. The FFG allocated a total of 921 million euros of funding during the year. A significant proportion of FFG services comprises an extensive range of advisory services. A total of 14,205 consultancy sessions were carried out during the previous year.
About the FFG
The FFG is the central hub for the funding of business-related innovation, research and development in Austria. It provides expertise and financial support with the aim of boosting the innovative activities of companies of all sizes, strengthening Austria’s position as a business location and safeguarding jobs.
The FFG 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 Federal Ministry of Defence (BMLV), the regional governments and other organisations.