News of the appointment of Heinz Fassmann as Austria’s new Minister of Science was welcomed very warmly by the FWF Board on Saturday night. The five Board members all agreed that Mr. Fassmann, Vice-Rector of the University of Vienna and a long-standing member of the FWF’s Assembly of Delegates, is an expert with great experience in all matters relating to science and research promotion policies in Austria. “Not only the FWF, but the entire research community in Austria stands to benefit from the appointment of Heinz Fassmann, an outstanding expert in science and research”, FWF President Klement Tockner said in praise of the newly appointed government minister, underlining that he “is familiar with the needs and challenges of the scientific community in Austria and Europe”. The FWF is therefore confident in its “expectations of constructive and goal-oriented collaboration in the years to come”, said President Tockner.
President Tockner also finds grounds for confidence and an optimistic outlook in the government programme for the period 2017–2022. Among other things, the government wants to position Austria as one of Europe’s innovation leaders. A new research and innovation strategy will be prepared to help achieve this goal. Its basic concepts include excellence and competition, principles that have always been cornerstones of the Austrian Science Fund’s research promotion policies. The programme states that free, knowledge-driven basic research will be an important precondition for reaching the envisaged policy goals, and goes on to say that a sustainable increase of competition-based research funding – as provided by FWF – will be a key element of the new research, technology and innovation strategy.
“The pact for research and the future is a top-priority issue for the Austrian Alliance of Science Organisations”, said Klement Tockner, founder and spokesman of the Alliance. “That this has been taken up in such a comprehensive manner in the government programme is most welcome and testifies to the new government’s courage, determination and proactive mindset. On behalf of the Austrian Science Fund, I want to thank the coalition negotiating team, Chancellor Kurz and Vice Chancellor Strache”, Tockner continued.
Under the new government programme, the FWF’s budget will be raised – a long overdue measure that has been called for by many experts, as well as national and international studies, in the last few years. Furthermore, the government is planning new initiatives, including an excellence programme to grow competitive basic research. “An excellence programme is extremely important, in particular for the large number of outstanding young researchers. It will be a strong signal for the promotion of excellence in research”, said Klement Tockner about this policy programme, a detailed draft of which has already been prepared by the FWF.
Along with expressing his satisfaction with the new government’s initial steps, both in terms of policies and with respect to appointments, Tockner said: “The government programme covers the period 2017 to 2022. I expect action to be taken with due speed. I know Heinz Fassmann well enough to be sure that he is fully aware of how urgently measures need to be taken in the science and research field.”
Amid the prevailing mood of a fresh start being made, President Tockner finished his statement by underlining that “it is important to me to thank outgoing Minister Harald Mahrer, his cabinet and all members of his team for their excellent work”.
Head of Public Relations and Science Communication