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Topic management

Topic management refers to the comprehensive, targeted use of the available opportunities for intervention in order to provide support for a particular focus (topic). Direct RTI funding is an important tool in this regard, and additional tools include regulation, public procurement and fiscal measures.

The topic management performed by the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) provides the strategic framework for RTI funding and accompanying activities (definition of qualitative and quantitative targets in terms of content, development and implementation of the intervention strategy, reflection of intervention success, adaptation of the targets and further development of the intervention strategy).

After the improvements and harmonisations that have already been introduced as a part of quality management, we are going one step further: from the restructuring of the funding that is being offered to a clear, easy-to-navigate range of topics relevant to research policy, society and the economy: Energy, mobility, manufacture, ICT, human potential, space, security. This approach will lead to a more efficient, more effective use of funding. The aim of integrated portfolio management encompassing Austrian and European forms of funding is to mobilise the Austrian innovation system in a more comprehensive, accurate manner. The restructuring will not limit the funding offered in terms of content.

Advantages for the economy, the research community and research policy

  • A customer-oriented, accessible funding portfolio thanks to a reduction in the variety of programmes, less barriers thanks to better coordinated advice and funding (national, EU framework programme), access to the entire funding portfolio of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft; FFG), which now covers all forms of R&D, efficient interfaces to the ministries/commissioning parties
  • Efficient customer consulting and cooperation within the FFG thanks to the introduction of interdisciplinary topic teams (bundling of specialist and processing expertise for various instruments related to all of the strategic focuses), integrated funding advice from the FFG about national and EU funding
  • Clearly structured calendar of invitations to tender for better planning (filing of applications, funding decisions), thematic invitations to tender are synchronised for the most part, the funding instruments employed are coordinated with one another
  • Harmonised and simplified invitation to tender documents and standardised instruments with clearly defined funding requirements and evaluation criteria, use of complementarity, clear processes for instruments, coordinated mix of top-down and bottom-up instruments for selected topics
  • Uniform processing standards for harmonised invitations to tender and selection processes, manageable and stable committee structure (continuity as "programme companion"), clear roles and allocation of tasks between the FFG and ministries

Topics of the BMK

Energy:

The closely related fields of energy and the climate are on the verge of major changes. Global warming and supply security require international strategies. Austria has set its sights on the innovative restructuring of its energy system, which needs to become considerably more efficient and use a much higher portion of renewable energy sources in the future. The BMK work in the field of new energy technologies is strengthening Austria as a business location through technology competence and market leadership, and is also securing important jobs.

As part of the energy research strategy, the following key technologies have been identified:

  • Renewable energy
  • Power supply and energy efficiency
  • Bio-based industry

Mobility:

Research in the field of mobility means finding new solutions for passenger and cargo transport and taking new systematic approaches to this. Drive technologies, energy and infrastructure concepts, climate and environmental protection, social implications of mobility patterns and general usage patterns are addressed here. The Austrian air transport strategy for research, technology and innovation developed by the BMK together with the stakeholders is aimed at the entire air transport sector, both the aviation (supply) industry and the air transport industry.

This topic includes:

  • Environmentally friendly, energy-efficient, secure and low-noise vehicles for all modes of transport
  • New drive systems, alternative fuels and materials
  • Information and communication systems
  • Traffic management
  • Intelligent infrastructure
  • Technology and innovation for sustainable, barrier-free and socially affordable mobility
  • Technology and innovation for intermodal logistics chains
  • Technology for improving traffic safety
  • Transport infrastructure and measures for maintaining it
  • Expansion of existing technological key competences and development of new air transport technologies
  • Stronger integration of Austrian air transport companies into the strategically important market segments

Smart manufacturing

In order to create added value and jobs, it is essential that Austrian industry constantly finds new answers to the challenges of a globalised economy. International competition, resource scarcity, environmental standards, energy efficiency, the development of the labour market, flexibility and quality of production processes require that manufacturing research address targeted questions along the entire supply chain.

The focuses comprise:

  • High-tech materials and surfaces
  • High-capacity, resource-efficient and robust manufacturing processes
  • Flexible and versatile production systems
  • Innovation, optimisation, miniaturisation and sensor/actuator integration for products
  • Bio-based industry/biorefinery
  • Substitution and recycling of raw materials

Information and communication technology (ICT):

Information and communication technology is the backbone of our modern knowledge-based society. Its applications are used in all areas of life and the economy, and as a driver of innovation, it can revolutionise methods of industrial manufacture and services.

With five focuses, Austria is one of Europe's leaders in ICT research. In order to secure and expand this advantage, the BMK is concentrated on the following core areas:

  • Semantic systems
  • Embedded systems
  • Visual computing, the visualisation of data and applications
  • Systems-on-chips
  • Trust in IT systems
  • ICT and demographic change

Human potential:

In order to maintain and improve the current standard of living, Austria requires more qualified, motivated and creative workers. It is therefore important to encourage young people to enter the fields of the natural sciences and technology. In the area of human resources, the main aim is to get young people, and especially girls, interested in technical professions and motivate them to join these fields as well as help them to gain a foothold in them. For human resources funding in the field of research, the following development trends are of particular importance:

  • Targeted funding for young people and especially girls in the natural sciences and technology throughout their education
  • Targeted funding of women in research, technology and innovation in order to achieve equal opportunities in industrial and non-university research

Space:

Due to the complexity of the necessary capacities and the longterm nature of development, for example of satellite infrastructure, space flight is pursued in the form of (international) collaborations. The infrastructure is provided within the framework of the programmes of the European Space Agency (ESA), the EUMETSAT and the European Union in the field of satellite navigation (EGNOS/Galileo) and Earth observation (GMES). The BMK makes it possible for Austrian companies, research organisations and university institutes to actively take part in researching, the construction and the use of space infrastructure.

The focuses are:

  • Space research
  • Technologies for space flight
  • Applications for satellite-based technologies

Security:

Ensuring security is one of the core tasks of the government. Security research is generally open in terms of the topics it addresses and is interdisciplinary, also encompassing sociological aspects. Based on a political-strategic overall concept developed by the Austrian National Security Council, the following specific focuses are being worked on in addition to the focus on "Protecting critical infrastructure":

  • Executive support and equipment for emergency personnel in case of a crisis
  • Intelligent video surveillance
  • Sociopolitical aspects of security
  • Recognising and combating hazardous materials
  • National security in information and communication technology (cyber security)