Institute of Digital Sciences Austria (IDSA) – A new, innovative University of Technology for Digitalisation and Digital Transformation in Austria
Digitalisation is transforming all areas of life at an unprecedented speed. The establishment of the new interdisciplinary Institute of Digital Sciences Austria (IDSA) in Linz, which now calls itself IT:U or Interdisciplinary Transformation University Austria, will contribute to securing Austria's digital competitiveness by training practice-oriented and innovative digitalisation experts who ensure that the digital transformation is designed to the benefit of all and according to democratic values.
Institute of Digital Sciences Austria: Genesis and concept
In summer 2020, the Austrian government announced the founding of a new technical university as a flagship project of digitalization in Austria. Subsequently, a scientific concept (PDF, 607 KB) with detailed considerations for the structure of the new university was devised by an independent scientific concept group under the chairmanship of the IT-expert and former google-manager Gerhard Eschelbeck.
Based on the final, 71 pages concept-report, the university will (amongst other):
- cover all aspects of digitalization, encompassing both the development of technical solutions and technological impact assessment by adopting an interdisciplinary approach in research and teaching
- offer a “common core" for all bachelor students in which they learn the (technical) basics of digitalisation in the first three semesters, with the possibility to later specialize in either Digital Creativity, Digital Entrepreneurship, Digital Systems or Digital Engineering
- be practice-oriented by design, by adopting a project-based teaching and research approach in “interdisciplinary labs” and by hosting regular events, thereby acting as a central hub for the exchange with business, industry and society, including NGOs or cultural institutions like Ars Electronica
- strive for excellency and internationality with English as the working language
- offer a more flexible legal framework and agile forms of organisation which will allow the IDSA to rapidly adapt to the constantly changing requirements of digital transformation
Institute of Digital Sciences Austria: Founding Process
On the 1st of July 2022 the Federal Act on the establishment of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria (the Founding Act), the legal basis for the foundation of the Institute, entered into force.
The first step was the appointment of the Constituent Convention, the strategic body of the University in the founding phase (§ 6 of the Founding Act), by the BMBWF. Two of its members were recommended by the Province of Upper Austria, three by the Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF), two by the Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK), one by the FWF - the Austrian Science Fund - and one by the FFG, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency. Its member are:
- Dipl.-Ing. Christopher Lindinger, MAS – Vice-Rector for Innovation and Researchers at the University of Linz (BMK)
- DI Katja Schechtner, MSc - Member of the AIT supervisory board (BMK)
- Dr. Wolfgang Steiner - Head of Administration in the State Parliament of Upper Austria (Upper Austria)
- Dr. Christina Rami-Mark - Managing Director of Mark Metallwarenfabrik GmbH (Upper Austria)
- Dipl.-Ing. Claudia von der Linden, MBA (IMD) - Vice Rector for Digitalisation and Change Management at TU Graz (FFG)
- Prof. Dr. Dieter Kranzlmüller – Professor for Informatics in the unit for Communication Systems and Systems Programming at LMU Munich (FWF)
- Prof. Dipl.Ing. Dr.Dr.h.c. Wilfried Eichlseder - Rector of Montanuniversität Leoben (BMBWF)
- Univ.-Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Martin Hitz – Deputy chairman of the Department of Informatics Systems at the University of Klagenfurt (BMBWF)
- Ass.Prof. DI Dr. Johanna Pirker - Assistant professor, software engineer, and researcher at the Institute of Interactive Systems and Data Science at Graz University of Technology (BMBWF)
On the 12th of October 2022, the Constituent Convention of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria constituted itself in its first joint meeting. Claudia von der Linden, Vice Rector of Graz University of Technology, was elected chairperson, Martin Hitz and Christina Rami-Mark as vice-chairpersons. One of the first tasks of the convention will be the election of the founding president. Therefore the Constituent Convention adopted its own rules of procedure (PDF, 155 KB).
On June 15, 2023, the Constituent Convention agreed on the strategic principles (not accessible) (PDF, 978 KB) of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria in the founding phase, which further specify the orientation of the new university.
Stefanie Lindstaedt appointed as founding president
On March 5th, the founding convention appointed Univ.-Prof.in Dipl.Ing.in Dr.in Stefanie Lindstaedt, professor of computer science, director of the Institute for Interactive Systems and Data Science at TU Graz, and CEO of the Know Center, the research center for trustworthy AI and data science, as the founding president of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria, with a simple majority.
The founding president (§ 8 of the Founding Act) will lead and represent the University for a term of four years and will be responsible for tasks such as preparing the operating business of the University, concluding employment and service contracts, or establishing the GmbH in accordance with § 10 of the founding act.
On July 7, 2023, Dr. Stefanie Lindstaedt officially took office as the new founding president of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria.
Institute of Digital Sciences Austria Act: New permanent legal basis under parliamentary review
Following the founding and launch of the new university in Linz, the Federal Act on the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria will create a permanent legal basis for the new university and replace the current Founding Act. The corresponding government bill has already been submitted for parliamentary review. It is a slim bill with only 34 paragraphs, which is limited to a few central requirements and gives the new university all the more leeway in determining its internal management, organisational, personnel and study structure. The new law is expected to come into force on 1 of July 2024.
The central stipulations are:
- there are three senior governing bodies: the President, the Board of Trustees and the University Assembly.
- in terms of staff, the only distinction made is between permanent scientific and artistic university staff (university professors and post-docs), other scientific and artistic university staff in research, art and teaching and general (non-academic) university staff.
- students - similar to those at universities of applied sciences and private universities - are in a private-law (educational) relationship with the university, which guarantees that the study structure can be continuously adapted and adjusted.
The advisory board for the founding phase
The advisory board for the founding phase supports the university, particularly in the development of research priorities and the range of courses offered. The rectorates of the University of Linz, the University of Art and Industrial Design Linz, the three technical Universities, the Vienna University of Technology, the Graz University of Technology, the University of Leoben, the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria and the Austrian National Union of Students heave each sent one member to the advisory board.
Institute of Digital Sciences Austria: The previous and the next steps
Together, the Constituent Convention and the Founding President, with the support of the advisory board, will establish teaching and research facilities and recruit research and teaching staff.
- In late summer and fall 2023, the new university, in cooperation with Ars Electronica, launched the FOUNDING LAB, a series of events and workshops in which students, experts and opinion leaders from various disciplines (artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and activists) join forces, to identify and develop new areas, approaches, and formats to address the challenges of digital transformation. The result of this collaborative effort will also form the basis of the new university’s future study and research programmes. Within the FOUNDING LAB Fall Term, 25 students and 21 fellows are currently involved in six thematic programme points: Infrastructure; Data & Code; Machines, Robots & Tangibles; Interfaces & Visualisations; Media; Digital Society and Politics. More information on this collaborative prototype can be found here.
- Since the end of November 2023, the new university has been called Interdisciplinary Transformation University Austria, or IT:U for short, and now has its own logo and website, which can be accessed at www.it-u.at.
- The first doctoral students should be able to be admitted in the academic year 2024/25.
- By the year 2030/31 the further schedule stipulates for the university to have around 5000 students and about 150 professors by 2036/37.
Institute of Digital Sciences Austria: Financial framework
The cost of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria will be shared between the Austrian Federal government and the province of Upper Austria from the academic year 2023/24 via a so-called 15a agreement. The financial contribution of Upper Austria comprises 50 per cent of the construction costs of new buildings required for the purposes of the university, including the associated ancillary and external facilities. The Federal government provides the permanent financing of all obligations arising in research and teaching. For the foundation phase until 2025, 45 million euros are reserved. At its full expansion in 2036/37, the university shall have a yearly budget of 150 million euros allowing for excellent research, teaching and infrastructure.
- Draft federal law on the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria (only in german)
- New website www.it-u.at
- FOUNDING LAB – IDSA x Ars Electronica
- Federal Act on the establishment of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria
- Strategic principles in the founding phase (not accessible) (PDF, 978 KB)
- Adopting rules of procedure for the constituent convention according to § 6 of the Federal Act on the establishment of the Institute of Digital Sciences Austria (PDF, 155 KB)
- Call for application: IDSA-Founding President (PDF, 75 KB)
- University of Technology for Digitalisation and Digital Transformation in Upper Austria. Report by the independent Scientific Concept Group (PDF, 607 KB)