The Institute of Science and Technology - Austria ISTA

bridges vol. 9, April 2006 / Guest Commentaries on the Institute of Science and Technology - Austria
by Erich Gornik

The Institute of Science and Technology - Austria was established through a decision of the Austrian Parliament in early April of 2006. More than €600 million has been allocated over a 10 year period.

The idea for this institute comes from Anton Zeilinger, Professor at the University of Vienna and well-known scientist for his centennial contributions to quantum optics.

{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 Science community initially reacted with uncertainty, and the decision on the site close to Klosterneuburg also created some discussions and reservations. The main concern of the Austrian universities and also other research institutions is that this new institute will have considerably better conditions than the "normal" universities, as it will be able to select the students and define its own Ph.D. programs. Austrian universities have previously not had the right to choose master's and Ph.D. students.

Several changes of the law for ISTA have brought the science community back into the fold, and the board of the institute will now be dominated by scientists. In addition, a high level international advisory group (Mr. Harari, Mr. Kübler, Mr. Markl) has been asked to make suggestions for the programs to be offered, and for the structure and the organization of the institute. This group will try to position the new institute as an addition to the Austrian innovation system by being complementary to the present clusters of excellence at existing universities and research organizations.

In its final size, ISTA is designed to host between 25 and 30 research groups each with 20 to 30 members. This amounts to a total workforce of 700 to 800 employees, of which half should be Ph.D. and master's level students. The intention of the institute is to hire more than half of its scientists from outside Austria.

The decision to establish ISTA is, in my opinion, an important milestone for the further development and excellence of the Austrian Science community. It will add a very "large" institute, which can develop into a leading institution in a few fields in science and technology, with a focus on physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics. It demonstrates the commitment of the government to further strengthen the Austrian position as an innovative nation, in anticipation of its future in a science- and technology-based economy. And it will add the stimulus of competition with other Austrian institutions, giving Austria as a whole a chance to become more innovative.


The author, Erich Gornik, has been president of the society Forschung Austria and managing director of the Austrian Research Centers since 2003.{/access}