An Austrian startup company, ASH DEC Umwelt, won third prize at the Eurocan European Venture Contest 2009, held this weekend in Barcelona. ASH DEC Umwelt is a clean tech company that recycle nutrients and metals from incineration residues.
The top prize of €90,000 went a Danish biotech company, Biomodics, while the second runner up was Liquavista, a Dutch ICT startup.
Organized by Europe Unlimited, the EEVC examined 376 European companies (out of 776 applicants) in a series of local and regional competitions. 313 investor experts took part in vetting the competitors. I also spent a day as an expert evaluator in the Budapest semi-final.
It’s also worth noting that one other CENTROPE company, the Hungarian ICT startup, Gravity R&D, made it to the EEVC Top 25.
Along with the increasing popularity of the technology debate in Austria during the last years and after numerous discussions with ICT researchers in the Centrope countries I realised that there is a striking resemblance in their complaints, although the statements themselves express the respective opposite. See also http://noweurope.com/2009/09/08/barriers-cooperation/#more-1293 by Vlastimil.
Simply speaking, the Austrians complain that there’s not enough money for basic research as all goes to applied research, whereas the Czech and Slovak Republics as well as Hungary (representing the situation in virtually all new EU member states and beyond) complain that universities concentrate too much on basic research and do not understand the importance of applied research. Continue reading ‘Basic vs. applied research: Potentials unused?’
In recent years, various cluster organisations in many different sectors have been created in Austria. Especially for Austrian SMEs, those clusters have been a great help and local businesses have profited from the exchange of knowledge, cooperation and opening to the international market. In my last post I talked about a bottom-up approach through which Austrian IT clusters formed a common network by their own initiative. Today I will take a look at an Austrian cluster platform that is organised by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth.
Clusterplatform Austria is an initiative to create a common platform for existing clusters and networks across all sectors in Austria. Its purpose is to bring together separated clusters, which often work relatively independently from each other. One of their activities consists of organising workgroups for various topics such as “clusters and their role in the Austrian innovation policy” or “Connecting the Austrian cluster policy to Europe”. The platform thereby aims to strengthen the innovation and international competitiveness of Austrian enterprises, especially SMEs. Another focus is establishing a connection with R&D institutions as well as increasing supra-regional cooperation of cluster initiatives and federal and provincial cooperation. The platform wants to contribute to the development and realisation of Austrian research-, technology and innovation policy as well as create a link to EU cluster activities.
Continue reading ‘Introducing Clusterplatform Austria’
I guess sometimes we tend to forget the ambitious goal the CITT project is aiming at. We are trying to find models and possibilities to provide a framework, which enables SMEs, universities and public bodies to cooperate within four neighbouring countries.
But even within one relatively homogeneous country like Austria, networks between clusters have to deal with various issues such as varying institutional settings in the participating states, different approaches of the respective managements, differing regional economic structures and differing policies of federal countries. Also, even though network projects are often viewed positively by all parties, financial resources are limited.
Despite all these obstacles, the Austrian initiative I would like to introduce to you has had a successful start. This example demonstrates on a smaller, national scale what relevance and remarkability the CITT project has being kind of a pioneer project on the international level.
Continue reading ‘Introducing Digital Network Austria’
Analyzing prices for mobile phone usage, in his posting on July 2nd, Robert Nemeth asked an interesting question: “How could the same multinational telecom company cut prices by more than 50% in Austria, while keeping the same price in HU and SK and increasing prices in CZ?” Here is my explanation. This answer applies to the Czech Republic, but it’s also a warning for other countries.
The problem was described in the Commission’s 14th implementation progress report, published in March this year. Among other benchmarks, it used an OECD basket of mobile usage and calculated the cost in various EU countries – in October 2007 and October 2008. The results are what Robert mentions: a drop of around 50% for Austria, of 10% for the EU average – but an increase of 24% for the Czech Republic.
This struck me too, so in March I looked more deeply into the issue and wrote an article about it (available here, but only in Czech). My findings can be summarized as follows:
- Half of the increase for the Czech Republic (12% out of 24%) can be attributed to variations of the exchange rate between the Czech crown and the Euro. The two currencies did change accordingly between October 2007 and 2008, when the benchmark was evaluated. But there is also a strong contra-argument: other comparisons in the same Commission’s report do not reflect the change in exchange rates at all. Maybe because different parts of the report were produced by different people using different methodologies.
- The other half of the increase (the remaining 12%) can be attributed mainly to the changes in call charging. Between 2007 and 2008 our mobile operators silently completed their switch to variants that maximize their revenues. Mainly to 60+60, which is now the standard for national mobile calls, and also for roaming.
Continue reading ‘How did mobile prices rise by 20% in the Czech Republic?’
Studying the Commission’s 14th progress report on the single telecoms market, it is surprising to notice that the consumer price for medium mobile usage has dropped significantly in Austria, while remaining the same in other Central European countries.
In Austria, the consumer price for medium mobile usage dropped from €16.36 per month in 2008 to as low as €7.31. This is the third lowest mobile rate in the EU. At the same time in the Czech Republic, the price rose by more than 20% (from € 21.99 to € 27.24), while in Slovakia and Hungary the prices remained the same as previous year (€ 25.97 and € 15.02 respectively).
I wonder what is the reason for this difference. How could the same multinational telecom company cut prices by more than 50% in Austria, while keeping the same price in HU and SK and increasing prices in CZ ?
I think that at least three different kinds of clusters exist but in most cases it is difficult to combine them:
- Cluster 1 is a commercially oriented cluster. The core goal is to make as much profit as possible and as soon as possible. A cluster of this kind often does not consist of more than 20 – 25 partners who consequently have to pay high member fees. This cluster does not aim at strongly contributing to the sector or the region (no events, PR for the sector, workshops etc.). An example for this kind of cluster would be in my opinion BITERAP.
- Cluster 2 focuses on public aspects: in this case a positive statement of a public authority is a prerequisite, also with respect to financial support. The number of members is significantly higher, member fees are lower. Furthermore, PR work to promote the sector and the region, political lobbying, events, workshops but also company cooperation and networking are of great importance. The main goal of this cluster is not immediate profit. An example of this cluster is Vienna IT Enterprises. (I am strongly convinced that a cluster of this kind can only function properly if supported by public co-financing because their cluster activities will also support the whole region.)
- A combination of these two cluster forms could be as follows: A part of Cluster 2 builds a separate group corresponding to the interests of Cluster 1. This new group would still be integrated in the whole cluster, but would build a strong separate group with a stronger financial role. This would lead to further benefits, such as additional profit. An example for this kind of cluster would be the GoVITE activities (sales support) initiated by Vienna IT Enterprises. (Cluster 3 is a not directly planned or supported cluster like shopping malls, technology parks etc.)
What is your opinion? Do you know of further examples of these kinds of clusters?
IST Austria www.ist-austria.ac.at, Austria’s new center for excellence in research, has been a controversy for years. One of its original proponents, Anton Zeilinger, one of the world’s top researchers in quantum computing, has withdrawn from the project when it became clear that politics started to dominate the debate and “excellence” was abused as a euphemism for “I want some new research stuff in my province”.
Continue reading ‘IST Austria opened: „Excellent“ topping on research coffee?’
Below, Miklos Barta posted that interesting comment on telemedicine in the US vs. Europe and that this cross border issue is still hampered by national regulations.
1) I definitely prefer and appreciate the medical care systems as practiced in Europe’s most advanced countries, such as Germany, Austria, Sweden, or the Czech Republic (I am mentioning CR as I was positively surprised on what a high level health care is being practiced here). In these countries (but also in most other EU countries as well as Switzerland), health care is heavily regulated and largely controlled by public bodies, therefore mostly bureaucratic and tedious, but it works! (I am not going to discuss here prevention vs. treatment etc., which would be a crucial point in such a debate)
2) Telemedicine is definitely an upcoming technology and will improve homecare, geriatric treatment etc., and in my home country Austria there is a growing number of very innovative solutions both on the development as well as the application side. If you want to know more, contact me.
3) In this respect, European mobility is still in its infancy, both on the patients’ and the health systems’ sides. Continue reading ‘Telemedicine: Ideal test bed for EU’s efficiency’
Please note that on the 28th of January not only the IT’n’T fair (27th to 29th) but also the very interesting event “Visual Computing Trends 2009” takes place in Vienna.
Those who come to Vienna could take the chance and visit both events!
Would be nice to see you there, Participation is free.
Continue reading ‘Event: “Visual Computing Trends 2009″’