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Evaluation of Government Funding in RTDI from a Systems Perspective in Austria

Reaching out to the Future Needs Radical Change

Towards a New Policy for Innovation, Science and Technology in Austria

The Austrian Innovation System has by and large worked quite well in the past. Together with other favourable political and economic conditions, it helped Austria’s income and productivity catch up with the most advanced countries by the nineteen seventies. It was instrumental in the following decades as Austria forged ahead relative to the average of the European Union. As a consequence Austria is now one of the top five countries in the EU as measured by income per capita and is ranked among the top ten industrialized countries worldwide. Complacency is, however, the greatest danger to future prospects. Several strains are now noticeable in the Austrian Science and Technology System which make it necessary to increase innovation efforts, to boost efficiency and to foster radical changes in the innovation system.

A radical strategic shift in six dimensions

We recommend a radical strategic shift in innovation policy in the following six respects:

  • From an innovation policy in the narrow sense to a comprehensive innovation policy. The latter is interlinked with education policy and includes improvements of the framework conditions (for example competition, international openness, mobility); while the former only concentrates on the measures and institutions directly involved in science and technology.
  • From an imitation strategy to a frontrunner strategy. In a frontrunner strategy firms and researchers strive for excellence and market dominance in niches and high quality segments, increasing market shares in sophisticated industries and technology fields, and in areas or missions of particular relevance to society.
  • From fragmented public interventions to coordinated and consistent interventions derived from a vision which specifies economic objectives, external and internal challenges and the type of (market or system) failures which call for public intervention.
  • From a multitude of narrowly defined financial programmes to a flexible, dynamic policy defining broader tasks and priorities. Some broad technology and research fields important for society (missions) should be defined top down in the vision, but clusters and centres of excellence will grow bottom up, and should be funded sufficiently so as to attain international leadership.
  • From a blurred division of responsibilities between and within ministries (and other “players”) to well defined responsibilities. Ministries devise sub-strategies for their area of responsibility from the top-level vision, are coordinated on the government level by a high level commission and monitored by a Council for Science, Research and Innovation.
  • From managing public intervention by bureaucratic procedures to modern public management techniques. Goals are pursued either by internal competence centres in ministries or by delegation to outside agencies (agencification). Agencies are free to choose instruments and are controlled according to pre-defined output criteria, not by means of micro-interventions.

The report summarises about fifty recommendations for major or minor improvements of the Austrian System of Science, Research and Innovation which will enable a strategy shift and make the system fit for future requirements.

9 Special Reports, 1 Synthesis Report and summaries in english and german language: Evaluation of Government Funding in RTDI from a Systems Perspective in Austria