Austria drops in EU innovation ranking

Austria has been left behind by Belgium in the European Commission’s (EC) latest Innovation Union Scoreboard.Austria comes seventh in the EC’s 2010 edition of the study which examines the conditions for innovations in the European Union’s (EU) 27 member countries. The country came sixth in 2009 but has been overtaken by Belgium in the most recent ranking which was presented today (Tues).Sweden tops the 2010 chart ahead of Denmark and Finland while Lithuania comes last. The research compares countries’ performances in areas like business investments and the amount of funding for innovation.The EC warned that the continent is facing an “innovation emergency” since its companies are “falling behind” their rivals in the USA and Japan as far as investments and new patents are regarded.The institution added that businesses in emerging markets like China and Brazil are also catching up with their European competitors.The 2010 Innovation Union Scoreboard presentation comes as Austria’s political elite and the country’s leading businesspeople and scientists are engaged in a heated war of words over the amount of subsidies for universities and other institutions.Internationally renowned scientists such as Josef Penninger hit out at the coalition of Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) for constantly reducing the amount of money invested in innovative institutes and universities.Penninger called for an additional one billion Euros for investment and research measures in Austria each year. The award-winning geneticist warned that Austria is risking to fall further behind compared to other countries, especially research-encouraging states in Asia.Some think tanks appealed on the joint SPÖ-ÖVP administration to use the revenue it will generate from the new flight ticket tax to raise the budgets of the country’s universities and innovative businesses willing to get Austria ahead in international comparison.Former SPÖ Finance Minister Hannes Androsch – one of Austria’s most respected opinion leaders – meanwhile said he will get a referendum on education issues underway later this year. The industrialist criticised that Austria’s bureaucracy was taking up too much money while too little is spent on the country’s schools, universities and research institutions.Androsch explained that he felt obliged to act since the quality of education for future generations may be at risk. The ex-vice chancellor said he hoped that “significantly more than 100,000” people will sign the referendum which has been welcomed by various non-government organisations (NGOs) and businesspeople.