Higher Education for S3 in Lower Austria

Lower Austria is a region defined by its proximity to Vienna, the country’s capital city with high levels of research and innovation, and many leading HEIs. Higher Education is dominated by Universities of Applied Sciences, accounting for half the overall number of students, compared to 20% nationally. The region also hosts a leading HEI catering for continuous professional development and lifelong learning, namely the Donau-Universität Krems, which has about 40% of the overall student population. 

Austria has a relatively low allocation of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF), which in the 2014-2020 programming period have been used as co-financing for a single national Operational Programme. A well-developed system of multi-level governance has been put into place, with a specific department of the federal ministry for Science, Research and the Economy being responsible for interacting with the states and distributing the ESIF via intermediary regional bodies. Furthermore, much of the national budget for R&I has been spent on the same programmes funded by the ESIF that follow the smart specialisation approach. 

Main conclusions and recommendations

  • Lower Austria lacks the critical mass of university research to be at the knowledge frontier. Given its successful record of partnerships with Viennese universities, it may be advisable to also engage in partnership-based foresight by taking account of scientific developments that may have an impact, perhaps even a disruptive one, on the technologies and sectors that are currently responsible for Lower Austria’s dynamic innovation development. 
  • Lower Austria may want to extend its attention to sustainability in its biotechnology sectors to a broader consideration of social, ethical and ecological threats or opportunities for innovation in the whole range of its key technology areas and high tech sectors. 
  • While Lower Austria seems to have established a remarkably effective interlinkage between different types of institutions in its regional ecosystem, there are not enough national incentives to promote cooperation between universities and UAS that would benefit from complementary time lines and business orientation. Political lobbying for national funding incentives to promote such cooperation would benefit innovation dynamics in both Lower Austria and the country as a whole.
  • The success of Donau University Krems in offering continuing professional development and attracting students from outside the region and even Austria may be extended more systematically - in cooperation with the UAS, the Viennese Universities in Lower Austria, IST Austria and the non-university research institutes – to cover the key technology areas that have been successful priorities of regional innovation. 
  • The outstanding international success of IST Austria may not have an immediate relevance for regional cooperation research and innovation projects but could perhaps still be used more systematically to its advantage. 

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