With 917 companies active in biotechnology, pharma or the medical devices business, life sciences are an important and constantly growing part of the Austrian economy. Eleven percent more businesses were located in Austria in 2017 compared to 2014. Together, these companies were responsible for a turnover exceeding 22.4 billion euros in 2017 – about 6.1 percent of the gross domestic product. From 2014, revenues increased quite substantially by 17.2%. The life science companies also employ a large chunk of the Austrian workforce. In 2017, more than 55,000 people earned a living working for an Austrian life science company, which means an increase of 7.4% compared to 2014.
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 2017, funding of the Austrian biotech sector totalled around € 289.5 million from venture capitalists, private investors, grants, loans and other contributions. A further € 23.8 million was invested in Austrian medical device companies.
Why is Austria a great place for a life science business? The Mercer Study 2018 ranked Vienna as the city with the highest standard of living in the world for the ninth consecutive time. Austrias 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 why 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 companies. This is an ongoing process with a constant stream of new initiatives and investments being added to the existing ones.
Research and Innovation
Austrian medical universities focus on state-of-the-art R&D for new therapeutic substances with more than 21,000 people involved in academic life science research and education. The Medical University of Graz is one of four Austrian Medical Universities with a significant research impact. 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.
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), Austrias largest non-university research institute with a research focus on grand societal challenges.
Arguably, much of the recent investment success would not have been possible without a government that backs innovation and supports outstanding academic research. In 2017 R&D investment was at an all-time high with 3,16% of GDP. There is also a supportive and attractive tax regime, an R&D cash premium of 14% and a maximum corporate income tax of 25%.