Our neighbours Germany and Switzerland are investing massively in basic research and promotion of excellence. What has to be done to prevent Austria from becoming more and more of a laggard in this respect?
SPÖ – Social Democratic Party
Firstly, we have to further increase spending on basic research; and secondly, available funds have to be used consistently to foster scientific excellence. In terms of funding, the SPÖ maintains its commitment to bring research funding up to 3.76% of GDP. To reach this goal, public research funding will have to be increased, with most of the additional funds going towards basic research. To ensure consistent improvements in scientific excellence, we plan to distribute most of these funds through competitive instruments and processes (e.g., via the Austrian Science Fund FWF) and subject to performance agreements.
Our "Plan A" also foresees an "excellence initiative" along the lines of the German model to provide structural support for excellence in research.
ÖVP – People's Party
Austria is already top-class in terms of investment in research. Public and private-sector investment together amounts to € 11 billion per year. But we need to catch up in terms of results and efficiency. Research and innovation are crucial for future success. We have to improve the research environment, reform subsidy policies, and streamline processes, including the establishment of one-stop shop procedures.
FPÖ – Freedom Party
In its economic action programme, the FPÖ has called for one billion euro to be allocated to basic research. Apart from providing these additional public funds, we also need to stimulate more private-sector engagement. In this context, the universities should work to attract genuine external funding. This should be supplemented by additional public co-finance as an incentive.
Die Grünen – Green Party
Funding for the Austrian Science Fund FWF should be tripled. Moreover, the Green Party is calling for longer-term commitments regarding FWF funding in the form of a legal provision modelled on the one in the Austrian Universities Act (Universitätsgesetz § 12(2)). A situation like the present – in which it is unclear whether funding commitments for the coming four years will be honoured or not – is unacceptable.
We also believe that an intermediate tier of research promotion should be introduced. At the moment, there are many good and potentially useful research projects which the FWF does not or cannot approve. This measure would benefit young researchers in particular.
NEOS – The New Austria and Liberal Forum
Basic research funding should be awarded in competitions, based on international assessment processes that rule out any possibility of undue influence, political or otherwise, on the definition of research subjects and allocation decisions. Competitively defined excellence clusters should be established to promote outstanding young researchers. Sufficient funding has to be provided to the responsible institution, i.e. the Austrian Science Fund FWF, to be able to meet standards comparable to those of agencies in leading countries such as Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden.