Just recently the latest edition of the Austrian Start Up Monitor was published. The report, once again, shows that Austria has a very dynamic founder scene. Just think of Prescreen, mySugar, Bitpanda or Bitmovin; Austria has spawned numerous, internationally well-known flagships within the startup community.
More than 2,600 startups have been founded in Austria since 2009. With 29%, IT and software development remain the two most important industries for startups. Over the last few years consumer goods (10%), life sciences (10%), creative industries (9%), and education (currently 6%) have all seen growth. Nearly 60% of startups have utilized at least one public support measure during the COVID crisis.
An important factor for the competitiveness is the ability to innovate. The Austrian government knows about the importance of assisting startups and companies in their efforts to perform R&D and has established an intense network of support. Thanks to these measures, Austria today has an R&D quota of 3,23% of the GDP, ranking 2nd in Europe.
What are the most important factors that you should take into consideration when thinking about your first steps of internationalisation?
1. Location and infrastructure
From a geographical perspective, Austria is located in the heart of Europe, and thus offers a unique starting point, especially to the German-speaking DACH region, which is the largest European region sharing a common language, consisting of close to 100 million inhabitants, and exhibiting a high purchasing power.
As the Austrian market itself is relatively small, it is possible to test your products and services here, with a reduced investment (both in terms of personal and financial investment). Whenever you are then ready to venture out into other markets, you will find an extensive network of support, e.g. with the trade promotion organisation of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber “Advantage Austria”, currently present in more than 70 countries. Austria is an export champion – therefore you will easily find experts and employees having wide experience in working internationally.
Which brings me straight to the next factor:
2. Talents and know-how
The standard of education in Austria is extremely high, when compared globally. According to the World Competitiveness Yearbook, Austria ranks 1st worldwide regarding workforce productivity and 2nd regarding individual worker motivation. Our “dual” system of apprenticeship is quite unique and ensures practice-oriented education. The government is steadily enhancing and adapting the list of apprenticeships, e.g. by introducing a new one for “coding”.
3. Funding and financing
On a federal level, the two most important funding organisations for startups are the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG and the funding bank AWS. FFG offers funding especially for highly innovative research projects of Austrian startups and companies, starting with smaller programmes like the “Innovation cheque” for creating an idea in collaboration with a research centre (max. 12.500 €, cash grant of 80%) or the program “feasibility study” for the external valuation of a R&D idea (max. 48.000 €, cash grant of 60%). Their largest program is the “basic programme”, open for all types of topics at any point of the year.
In addition, there is the “R&D fiscal premium” of 14% which can be requested together with the tax declaration.
AWS offers a pre-seed and seed-program for high-technology startups. And as the federal funding bank AWS has state-credits with a low interest rate which may be combined with state guarantees, assisting the financing of investment projects.
4. Ecosystem and support
ABA just recently published an overview of the Austrian startup ecosystem:
And of course, you can always get in direct contact with us and utilise our free-of-charge assistance and support for foreign companies and startups!
Managing Director ABA – Invest in Austria