OSTA Exploratory Study

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A High-Tech Lab with Low-Tech Legos

Engineering teams use them, kids use them, and we all have all made the unpleasant mistake of stepping on to them at least once in our life: Legos.

Long touted as a staple toy for the kids around of the world, the colorful bricks have garnered more and more attention in recent years for their varied applications and benefits over the past years.

Research conducted by the American Marketing Association has shown that Legos foster our creativity. And a separate study in the peer-reviewed journal, Early Child Development and Care, shows that they enable success in mathematics as well.

Richard Moser, an Austrian soft matter physicist at the Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, has now enhanced our understanding and application of Legos with his latest research.

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Measuring Millennia in “Devil’s Hole”

On the verge of the historic COP21 agreement, climate scientists and policy makers have set their sights on the future. Recently, that future has come to include the pollution-reduction pledges of the Paris agreement, which would permit the atmospheric temperature to increase only 2.7o Celsius by 2100.

To arrive at these precise calculations and conclusions, the climate community relies on accurate climate models such as those provided by Austrian scientists at the University of Innsbruck, who are currently scavenging through the subsurface of Nevada to shine new light on historical climate developments.

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Molecules, start your engines!

The Molecule-car Race International is not your conventional car race. Hosted later this year in Toulouse, France, the Molecule-car Race International will be the world’s first car race in which each vehicle is a molecule!

Austrian scientists will be among the participants in this first-ever edition of the Molecule-car Race International. A joint team consisting of scientists from Graz University of Technology & Rice University has created the world’s first single-molecule car!

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The Millet Project

When was the last time you ate millet?

If you answered never, Austrian scientist Dr. Patricia Bubner wants to change that. Her bold goal looks to "diversify agriculture and our diet by the cultivation and consumption of lesser-known grains such as millets."

The reasoning behind Bubner's activities is a compelling one, as she notes in the "The Millet Project", which is supported by the University of California at Berkeley:

 

Cereal grains go back a long way in human civilization. And what a variety we cultivated! Yet today, corn, wheat and rice comprise at least 89% of worldwide cereal production, in spite of the large variety of cereals traditionally available in different parts of the world. This, in turn, has caused losses in the variety of food and consequently nutrients in our diet, which together have adverse environmental and nutritional impacts.

 

Read more about Patricia's efforts in Salzburger Nachrichten , Kleine Zeitung, Tiroler Tageszeitung, as well as local US press

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Austrian Chlamydia Vaccination Breakthrough

 

Chlamydia is the pathogen that causes one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Annually, over 100 million people contract the bacterial infection, which in severe cases can lead to blindness and infertility.

 

Human Pap smear showing chlamydial infection. Source: Harvard

 

These symptoms, however, could now become a thing of the past. An international research team led by Dr. Georg Stary from the University Clinic of Dermatology at the Medical University of Vienna have discovered how to stimulate the immune response to Chlamydiae, both efficiently and preventively. In effect, providing a pathway for chlamydia vaccinations.

 

 

The research findings of the team were recently published in Science magazine, the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary. In their research study, Dr. Stary and his team were able to mimic a Chlamydia infection in a mouse, using nanotechnology. They then developed a protective vaccine, which activates two waves of immune cells. Stary points out the importance of their discovery, stating if “the infection is not picked up in the early stages, it can progress into a chronic form and then antibiotics are mostly ineffective."

Vaccinations against chlamydia have been direly requested by the medical world, especially, as “…previous attempts to immunize humans against Chlamydia infections not only failed but, in some cases, even made them more susceptible to infection with Chlamydiae,” Stary notes.

According to MedUni Vienna-Dermatology, the new findings could also lead to the successful development of an effective strategy for vaccinating against other types of mucosal infection.

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Austria = Europe's Crowdfunding Pioneer


Crowdfunding can take ridiculous measures as Kickstarter’s 2014 potato salad campaign demonstrated. However, the necessity, and economic impact of crowdfunding remains undisputed.

The World Bank in its 2013 report highlights the rapid 524% compound annual growth rate for rewards-based crowdfunding between 2009 and 2012. This is due to the fact that crowdfunding remains one of the cheapest and easiest forms of capital formation till date.

Despite the tremendous market and potential of crowdfunding, its success has largely been reserved and focused within North America, the region raising 59% of worldwide capital in 2012.

To foster entrepreneurial growth in Austria, the Austrian Council of Ministers recently approved a new crowdfunding bill, considered to be at the legislative forefront of crowdfunding legislation in Europe. In recent years Austrians have warmed up to the idea of crowdfunding. A 2013 survey show 56% of Austrians surveyed as being positive about crowdfunding and the idea investing small amounts of money into concrete projects in return for interest or revenue shares. 

Reinhold Mitterlehner, Austria’s Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Science, Research and Economy, underlined that crowdfunding is considered to be a “meaningful complement to traditional credit financing” and aims to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit in Austria. Vice Chancellor Mitterlehner believes that crowdfunding platforms provide startups with immediate, “…feedback on their product ideas directly from the market, and that at a very early phase”.

 

 

Austria is ready to embrace this new legislation change with local platforms such as conda.at, 1000x1000.at wemakeit.com and greenrocket.com complementing the international platform leaders; Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

 

 

The following changes have been reflected in the new Austrian crowdfunding law:

 

  • In the future, the obligation to publish a complete capital market prospectus will first apply starting with an issue volume of EUR 5 million. At present this limit is EUR 250,000.
  • The requirement to put together a prospectus for issue volumes between EUR 250,000 and EUR 5 million has also been changed. In the future, only a simplified prospectus (prospectus requirement light) is required for an issue volume of between EUR 1.5 million and EUR 5 million.
  • One investor can invest up to EUR 5,000 per project.
  • This EUR 5,000 limit can be surpassed if the investor earns a net salary of more than EURE 2,500 per month. In this case, the investor is allowed to invest double his net monthly earnings.
  • One option is for investors to invest ten percent of his or her financial assets if this amount exceeds EUR 5,000 
  • Similar to the Consumer Protection Law, investors have the right to withdraw within two weeks.
  • Issuers may not raise more than EUR 5 million in capital over a seven year period, less the amounts already paid back to investors. If this threshold is exceeded, the company is required to issue a capital market prospectus.
  • The investment is made with the issuing SME or via crowdfunding platforms. 

 

Similar legislative initiatives have been conducted on a local level in the US. The District of Columbia amongst others passing a novel legislation change in October 2014. The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking approving crowdfunding rules that allow entrepreneurs to raise as much as $2 million from city residents and businesses. The maximum amount a funder can invest varies

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Austrian ‘eGlasses’ Receives Google Research Award

eGlasses Application - Source: eGlasses

 

A team of the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria was able to secure one of the Google Research Awards 2015, funding their cutting-edge research on smart clothing, and its interoperability with augmented devices.

One of Googles numerous academic outreach programs. Source: Google

 

Google Research Award are granted to top universities around the world in order to support the work of world-class full-time faculty members, and to advance Google’s products and services. In 2015, 808 applications from over 55 countries, and six continents were submitted, but only 112 projects were awarded a one-year Google grant.

 

 

David Lindlbauer and his team in Hagenberg’s Media Interaction Lab have been working on the eGlasses Project which is focused on the development of an open platform of multisensory electronic glasses.

 

eGlasses Logo - Source: eGlasses

 

The project appears to be Austria’s answer to Google Glass, and has raised Google’s interest in the group’s approach to perceptual media. With the 2014 acquisition of Nest, Google is positioned to apply projects such as eGlasses to advance its smart home strategy.

It won’t be long until perceptual media devices will allow us to control smart phones, Google Glass devices, or any other Wi-Fi equipped hardware through smart clothing that has been equipped with conductive fibers. So don’t be surprised if in the future Austrian tech will enable you to control your air conditioning unit via your sweater.

 

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Call for Applications: ASciNA Awards 2015

Apply for this year’s ASciNA Awards by May 15, 2015. The awards are granted each year by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy to young aspiring Austrian scientists, who have excelled in their field of interest over the past year in North America.

Three prizes will be awarded by ASciNA: The ‘Junior Pl Award’ for junior faculty without tenure (€ 10,000.--) and two “Young Scientists Awards” for postdocs (€ 7,500.—respectively).

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