Life Science in Austria
Advancing Austrian life science at the heart of Europe
The life science industry in Austria is fully diversified with companies large and small as well as a number of multinational companies headquartered in or with facilities here – though it is small to medium-sized companies that predominate across a whole range of disciplines.
The truly remarkable factor in the Austrian life science scene is the degree of cooperation between producers, networks of suppliers and service providers all within a short distance, meaning that the results are truly “Made in Austria!”
- Facts and figures
- Doing business in Austria
Facts & Figures
Austria has over 210 life science companies employing approximately 11,500 people. Over 90% of these are small and medium sized companies. Additionally, there are around 600 companies acting as suppliers to the industry for components and services meaning that in many cases the value chain is entirely Austrian. In addition to well-known large multinationals (including Sandoz, Roche, Greiner Bio-One, Med-EL, Baxter and Otto Bock, Boehringer-Ingelheim), many of the other companies are themselves market leaders and are well known to global industry experts. For a small country with a population of just over 8 million, that marks a very significant contribution to life science in Europe. It is also a key component of the Austrian economy and one that is valued and supported by the national and regional governments.
This thriving environment of successful and innovative companies has put Austria firmly on the European life science map. The combination of global players with research facilities in Austria and young, dynamic start-ups in close cooperation with excellent universities creates an ideal environment for the development, growth and prosperity of the Austrian life science industry.
The average Austrian biotechnology company is just 7 years old, yet the industry has reached a critical mass within a very short time period and has grown into a major economic force.
Doing business in Austria
In recent years, the strength of the growing life science sector has been reflected in the increasing interest shown by international business in doing deals with companies in Austria. And it is not just the proliferation of corporate deals that shows Austria in a good light, the country is also proving to be an attractive location for operations and significant inward investment for a number of multinational companies.
These investments come on top of a whole series of international venture capital investments in Austrian life science companies. In 2010, funding of the Austrian biotech sector totalled around €79 million from venture capitalists, private investors, grants, loans and other contributions. A further €37 million was invested in Austrian medical technology companies.
So why does Austria have such a great reputation for life science investment? According to a Nature publication, Austria ranks 5th regarding the proportion of the country`s research that is in the top 1% of most-cited papers. The New York-based Reputation Institute has conducted a study that shows Austria is ranked ninth out of 50 countries in terms of trust, reputation, admiration and positive image. Also, the Mercer Study 2011 ranked Vienna as the city with the highest standard of living in the world. Austria’s extensive infrastructure and its enviable location at the geographic heart of Europe are also significant reasons. Add in additional factors such as the excellence of the Austrian workforce, the renowned quality of its education system and the top-tier status of its research institutions, and it is easy to see how many companies find Austria a compelling location for doing business.
Great infrastructure is a key driver of the life science industry in Austria. Across Austria, a succession of science parks, incubators and tech transfer initiatives has ensured the growth of the indigenous industry as well as attracting a plethora of established multinational concerns. This is an ongoing process with a constant stream of new initiatives and investments being added to the existing ones.
Research and teaching
Austrian medical universities focus on state-of-the-art R&D for new therapeutic substances with more than 55,000 people involved in medical research. The Medical University of Graz is one of three Austrian Medical Universities with a significant research impact. The university focuses on four international research areas (Cardiovascular Research, Cancer Research, Molecular Bases of Lipid Associated Diseases, Neuroscience) and a Cross-Sectional Topic “Sustainable Health Research”. The Innsbruck Medical University focuses on molecular biosciences, neurosciences, cancer research, molecular imaging and sports medicine. Innsbruck Medical University also hosts several internationally renowned projects including the “Austrian Proteomic Platform” and “Oncotyrol” which both attract scientists from all over the world. The Medical University of Vienna is strong in interdisciplinary and translational research as well as in clinical programmes covering multiple disciplines including allergology & immunology, oncology, neuroscience and vascular medicine.Besides the medical universities, there are also renowned academic bodies that significantly contribute to life sciences research in Austria and that have generated many successful life science spin-offs.
Alongside the universities, the Austrian Academy of Sciences (AAS) is the leading organisation promoting non-university based academic research institutions in Austria. It is also worth noting the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria), a PhD granting institution located in the Vienna Woods and one of the principle locations of research in the natural sciences including bioscience and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), Austria’s largest non-university research institute with a research focus on grand societal challenges.
Funding of research and innovation
Arguably, much of the recent investment success would not have been possible without a government that backs innovation and supports outstanding academic research. The resulting cutting-edge research at Austrian universities is the source of technology transfer to the many start-up companies proliferating in the Austrian life science scene. The Austrian government is committed to this burgeoning sector and is helping to foster a business environment that allows these young spin-off companies to thrive. With R&D investment in 2011 at an all-time high of 2.79 % of GDP, Austria already invests far more into R&D than the EU average which was 2.01% in 2009 (Innovation Union Competitiveness Report 2011). The government’s new strategy for research, development and innovation aims even higher: to make Austria an innovation leader within the European Union and to raise the share of R&D investment to 3.76% of GDP by 2020. There is also a very supportive and attractive tax regime, an R&D cash premium of 10% and a maximum corporate income tax of 25%.