The Austrian NANO Initiative - Small Country with Strong Expertise

bridges vol. 14, July 2007 / Nanotechnology Focus

by Margit Haas

nano_2.jpgNanosciences and nanotechnologies are regarded as being among the key technologies of the 21st century. They constitute a new field for science, research, and development with an enormous potential for technological progress, the development of new markets and an increase in turnover in all nano-related business areas.

Their importance can also be gauged by the increasing research expenditures worldwide: In 1998 governments all over the world spent around $600 million on research and development in nanotechnologies; in 2002, this expenditure totalled $2.1 billion; and in 2006 investments of nearly $6 billion were expected. European spending is similar to that of the US and Japan in this context (TA-SWISS 20061).

In order to promote nanosciences and nanotechnologies in Austria specifically, the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development (RFT), cognizant of the international development, recommended setting up an Austrian NANO Initiative as early as 2002. In 2004, this initiative was established as a multi-annual funding program - aiming at increased networking, creating critical masses, making nanosciences and nanotechnologies utilizable for the economy and for society, and providing an adequate number of qualified technical staff. Nanosciences and nanotechnologies are generic, covering many different scientific disciplines and fields of research. The Austrian NANO Initiative capitalizes on this variety as one of the strengths of their program, and by intensive networking of science and industry enables the development of highly innovative state-of-the-art products with new physical or chemical properties.

{access view=guest}Access to the full article is free, but requires you to register. Registration is simple and quick - all we need is your name and a valid e-mail address. We appreciate your interest in bridges.{/access} {access view=!guest} The Austrian NANO Initiative makes it possible to build up NANO competence in Austria in a targeted and strategic manner, and places an emphasis on expanding the research competence by additional education and training opportunities, as well as by targeted funding of small and medium-sized enterprises. It funds innovative high technology at the interface between basic and application-oriented research and uses national potential for targeted internationalization, networking, and qualification measures. The NANO Initiative is a multi-annual funding program for Nanoscale Sciences and Nanotechnologies (NANO for short) in Austria. It coordinates NANO efforts on national and regional levels and is supported by several Ministries, Federal provinces, and funding institutions under the overall control of the Federal Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT).

Managed by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) on behalf of the BMVIT, the focus and structure of the Austrian NANO Initiative were developed in cooperation with scientists, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders.

Very small is very beautiful in the nanotechnologies

In the first period of the Austrian NANO Initiative (2004-2006), an overall public budget of €35 million was provided for highly innovative research and technology development projects. Seven outstanding RTD Project Clusters are currently funded, after undergoing an international peer review, and more than 100 industry partners and research organizations all over Austria participate in these successful NANO Clusters. The Clusters are encouraged to further enlarge their consortia by adding new projects.

Project Clusters:
· NSI: Nanostructured Surfaces and Interfaces

· NANO-Health: Nano-structured Materials for Drug Targeting, Release and Imaging

· NANOCOAT: Development of Nanostuctured Coatings for the Design of Multifunctional Surfaces

· ISOTEC: Integrated Organic Sensor and Optoelectronics Technologies

· NANOCOMP: Performance Optimization of Polymer Nanocomposites

· PHONAS: Photocatalytic Nano Layers

· PLATON: Processing Light - Advanced Technologies for Optical Nanostructures

Interested parties can access fact sheets (both German and English) about the seven existing Clusters, as well as contact information, through our Web site:

International Partners are highly welcome to join the clusters.
Please make contact with the Cluster coordinator. Contact details are available on the Web site listed just above.

Budget and calls 2007

When taking into account all project types and all relevant program action lines, the funding budget of the Austrian NANO Initiative amounts to €12 million for 2007 at the present time.

Under the current call in the National RTD Projects' program action line, €9.0 million are dedicated to
· New RTD Project Clusters

· Add-on Projects to existing RTD Project Clusters

· Extension of the duration of existing "Add-on Projects" to existing RTD Project Clusters.

Besides large-scale RTD Projects, the Austrian NANO Initiative also provides funds for exploring innovative ideas as well as for conceiving, organizing and carrying out events. Thus, networking efforts of the Austrian players are supported, especially in an international context, in order to increase Austria's visibility and to build confidence by improving the level of information among Austrian small and medium-sized enterprises.

In addition, in the autumn of 2007 a new program action line called Transnational RTD Projects will be opened. Interested parties are already invited to contact the program management at FFG.

Nanotechnology-related education and training in Austria

The Austrian NANO Initiative is providing funds to build up and expand the human resources required to ensure the qualitative and quantitative growth of NANO in Austria. Funding is provided for education and training measures for positive development within the higher education sector (universities, universities of applied sciences), the vocational training sector, and the general-education secondary school sector, as well as for the support of enterprises involving nanosciences and nanotechnologies. New calls will be opened in the autumn of 2007.

Results of a most recent study on education and training

In Austria, nanotechnology-related education and training are closely connected to the existing R&D institutions. Even though Austria´s economy is relatively small, focused activities have supported the formation of a highly productive core nano-team. Currently, nanotechnology can be considered a high-growth field in R&D as well as in businesses where substantial support is needed in both to encourage future development.
A recent study ordered by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), on behalf of the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT), investigated the current status of education and training in the field of nanotechnology and nanoscience in Austria. You can download2 this study "Education and Training in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Austria" from our Web site:

According to the results of a number of polls, the changeover from R&D to industrial production is imminent. By 2010, Austrian businesses expect a significant deployment of nano products and production technologies. In addition to the projected increase in nano production, intensified fundamental nano research is expected. Two main developments can be extrapolated from this: The demand for highly qualified personnel for R&D positions will increase steeply, as will the demand for engineering personnel (graduates of vocational upper secondary schools, universities for applied sciences, and research universities). The latter need is based on the interest in projects that transfer research into marketable applications and products, as well as the demand for deployment of nano-related process innovations. Additional administrative and economic skills will become increasingly important for key personnel.

As in the business sector, nano-related employment in educational institutions is expected to increase significantly until 2010. Programs with a nano-related research focus, as well as applied nano-related study programs, are currently being planned or developed for establishment during the next few years. Comparison of supply and demand for nano-relevant education and training programs shows mainly regional imbalances. In combination with the intensifying trend towards industrial application, a strong increase in the demand for nano education is predicted for the foreseeable future.

Distinct changes on the educational level are expected up until 2010 for nano-related job profiles. University graduates will slightly decrease from 70% to 60%, and graduates from universities of applied sciences will double to approximately 20%. Nano education at the (upper) secondary level is expected to reach and remain static at 15% by 2010.

For nano-related topics, education and training are dominated mainly by universities, with well-developed centers in Vienna, Styria, Upper Austria, and the Tyrol. Presently, most programs focus on advanced students as well as students preparing master's theses and PhD dissertations, and on postdoctoral programs.

Regional distribution of qualification levels in Austria

At present the Austrian NANO Initiative, on behalf of the BMVIT and in accordance with other ministries in Austria, has initiated an information campaign on education and training measures available in nanotechnology in Austria. The start of this campaign is planned for autumn 2007.

1 TA-SWISS (2006): Nano! Nanu? publifocus "Nanotechnologien und ihre Bedeutung für Gesundheit und Umwelt," Bern. (Nano! What's this? publifocus "Nanotechnologies and their Importance for Health and Environment," Berne).
2 Study "Education and Training in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Austria"
3s Unternehmensberatung GmbH, RSI Consulting, and neuberger research carried out the study "Education and Training in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Austria."

Contact and further information:
Program Management Austrian NANO Initiative
Austrian Research Promotion Agency, FFG
Dr. Margit Haas
Sensengasse 1
1090 Vienna, Austria
Tel: +43(0)57755-5080
Email: margit.haas(at)

Program Web site of the Austrian NANO Initiative

Further information on more technology funding programs at FFG

Program owner:
Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT)
Mag. Alexander Pogany and Mag. Reinhard Goebl
Email: Alexander.Pogany(at)


The author, Margit Haas, has been leading the Austrian NANO Initiative since 2005, and in addition is affiliated with several EU-funded ERANET projects responsible for positioning the interests of Austrian stakeholders in the field of micro- and nanotechnology, photonics, and optical technologies.