Austria: Pacesetter for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
Austria's educational and research centres not only supply the required experts and specialists but for several years now have also already focused on the next industrial era. For example, the Vienna and Graz Universities of Technology develop data proof manufacturing concepts and solutions for intelligent production. Moreover, the LIT Factory at Johannes Kepler University Linz carries out research into frontier production technologies featuring a high level of digital and process engineering innovation potential.
Austria targetedly promotes the "production of the future". Within the context of the Research and Technology Initiative 2019, it has also made an additional EUR 20 million available for cooperation projects between the scientific and business communities. The so-called COMET Centres (Competence Centers for Excellent Technologies) also make an important contribution. They deal with various issues involving Industry 4.0 and IIoT. Furthermore, in order to targetedly develop cognitive production systems and products, the COMET industrial research centre Pro2Future was established to focus on the collaboration between regional industrial partners and internationally networked research.
Working hand in hand to reach the top
In particular, the intensive cooperation of business and science pays off, as demonstrated by the research project "Power Semiconductor and Electronics Manufacturing 4.0", also known as SemI40. 37 partners from five countries are conducting research on further developing autonomous factories under the leadership of Infineon Austria, which has already laid important foundations for the production of the future thanks to its semiconductor and system solutions.
Several universities in Austria such as the Vienna University of Technology and Alpen-Adria University of Klagenfurt are involved in Seml40. From a corporate perspective, Infineon Austria is being supported by AVL List, amongst others. In addition to intelligent production, which should be implemented through a flexible production facility along with visualisation and digitalisation processes, the focus is particularly on data security both inside and also outside of factories. With a funding volume of EUR 62 million, SemI40 ranks among the biggest Industry 4.0 projects in Europe.
Silicon Austria Labs (SAL), a top European research centre for electric-based systems, was set up to support companies in Austria in carrying out research in the fields of sensor systems, RF systems (wireless connections), power electronics (electrical energy converters) and system integration at a global research level, and thus create the basis for new types of products and processes.
Many international companies move to Austria to conduct research. In October 2016, the French IT service provider Atos opened its competence centre for Industry 4.0 in Vienna-Aspern. The same applies to Siemens Austria. Products and systems for industrial automation are being developed at the Siemens Industrial Manufacturing, Engineering and Application (SIMEA) plant. Infineon will invest EUR 1.6 billion by 2025 to construct a new, fully automated chip factory to manufacture 300 mm thin wafers at its production site in Villach. The Swiss technology group ABB is building a research campus in Upper Austria, in which 1,000 employees will conduct research into developing the factory of the future. The globally leading technology and service company Bosch operates international competence centres for mobility technology in Vienna, Linz and Hallein. Moreover, the developers in Vienna make valuable contributions within the Bosch Group in the field of connected mobility.
Not only domestic companies but international firms as well benefit from extensive funding programmes, the fourteen percent research tax credit and the fundamentally attractive taxation system in Austria. In this regard, the 30 percent tax deduction for migrants working as scientists and researchers is particularly appealing. As a result, 30 percent of the income of these researchers is tax-free over a period of five years.
A fresh wind from the startup community is blowing
The strong startup scene in Austria naturally also plays a decisive role in creating the basis for the new industrial age. Startup hubs such as weXelerate and Talent-Garden create the required ecosystem for young innovative companies. Austrian startups provide a breath of fresh air in old manufacturing facilities with solutions such as the performance management system for industrial plants developed by kpibench or the Industry 4.0 software of Holo-Lights for HoloLens.
The Austrian software specialist nxtControl aims to radically revolutionize the world of automation from the bottom up, and has been part of the French industrial group Schneider Electric since the year 2017. The hidden champion from Lower Austria develops software solutions steering processes in automated production systems and the coordination between automation and IT. Industry professionals already consider nxtControl to be the global technology leader for control systems. Above all, smaller and medium-sized enterprises which want to more strongly link production profit from this know-how.
For the most part, European economies allowed Silicon Valley to take the lead when it comes to the digital transformation in the consumer sector. Now they have a major new opportunity. European companies can leverage completely new production and revenue potential thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things. However, the fourth industrial revolution is frequently a vision of the future for medium-sized firms. The European economy needs a conductor such as Austria which fuses the competencies of business and sciences with the ideas of innovative startups on an international level, and thus actively shapes the future.
Read also the blog post about Digital Trends in Austria: From Mixed Reality to Smart Factory.