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Knowledge and technology transfer

Knowledge transfer and intensified use of the scientific research base are emphasised as significant factors in the EU strategy Europe 2020 and in the Austrian national reform programme to implement that strategy, just as they are in the RTI Strategy of the Austrian Federal Government (“Becoming an Innovation Leader”), in Open Innovation and in the IPR Strategy.

The targeted use of academic knowledge and inventions in society, the arts, business and politics has drawn growing attention in the scientific and innovation policy sphere as a major pillar of the “third mission” in recent years. This trend has also pushed the universities to take more responsibility not just as holders of knowledge but also as conveyors of knowledge in business and society. In highly developed economies, where knowledge has become the most important production factor, the universities have an instrumental part to play in maintaining competitiveness and resolving societal problems. A study conducted last year by the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO) provides compelling evidence of the economic and social effects of universities specifically in their function as entrepreneurial universities: Austria is among the EU leaders in its percentage of business enterprises that collaborate with universities (for major companies, 57% in Austria versus 33% in the EU; for SMEs, 30% versus 28%). Nearly 90 percent of business enterprises that collaborate with universities have introduced innovations onto the market.

The Austrian universities and public research institutions such as the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST-Austria) and the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) are committed to a professional strategic transfer of knowledge and technology. They have institutionalised it by implementing and further developing their strategies on intellectual property rights and exploitation in the scope of performance agreements. The strategies have a threefold intent: optimise the structure and presentation of how to handle intellectual ownership of research results, further professionalise the management of technology transfer, as well as push and accelerate the collaborative activities between universities and research institutions with the business community.

The actions and initiatives of the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) to strengthen knowledge and technology transfer are coordinated with and have reciprocal leveraging effects on each other. Funding programmes such as Knowledge Transfer Centres (until 31 December 2020) or Spin-off Fellowships provide important incentives for advancing strategies on university intellectual property rights and their exploitation.

The Knowledge Transfer Centres and Exploitation of IPR programme distributed about 20 million euros in aid from 2014 to 2018 to take concrete steps in this area. It made sure, through improved inter-university management structures, that exploitable knowledge at the universities is identified as effectively as possible and fed more quickly into appropriate exploitation channels (e.g. through patents or spin-offs). Aid to the knowledge transfer centres to the tune of 6 million euros will continue until 2021 from the coffers of the National Foundation for Research, Technology and Development.

The Spin-Off Fellowships programme is another important lever for increasing the number of start-ups from universities and public research institutions and for identifying early on potential candidates willing to begin start-ups. Up to 40 start-up teams are to be supported with a total of 15 million euros under this funding programme.

The Austrian Entrepreneurship Award Phönix also supports start-ups, spin-offs and prototypes by awarding a prize to research and development results that were implemented with economic success.

The next awards ceremony, the Phönix 2019, will be held at the headquarters of the Federation of Austrian Industries (Haus der Industrie) on 14 October 2019.

The National Contact Point for Knowledge Transfer and Intellectual Property (NCP-IP) coordinates national knowledge transfer activities and deepens contacts with other comparable institutions in the EU Member States. Since its founding, the NCP has staged about 50 events on the subject of knowledge transfer. Since the first year of the project in 2014, the model agreement database IPAG of the NCP-IP has recorded about 19,000 hits accessing model contracts for technology transfer, which are current and available free of charge. These standard contracts reduce administrative costs while offering universities, research institutions and business enterprises an important tool for positioning themselves in the negotiation process.


Study: WIFO, Economic and Social Effects of Universities, 2017 (in German only)