FWF-Vizepräsidentin Ursula Jakubek, Wissenschaftsminister Martin Polaschek und FWF-Präsident Christof Gattringer mit der Finanzierungsvereinbarung
The new funding agreement between the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research and the FWF provides for more funding for Austrian researchers: FWF Vice-President Ursula Jakubek, Science Minister Martin Polaschek, and FWF President Christof Gattringer see science and research as the key to progress, innovation, and prosperity. © BKA/Aigner

Austria’s cutting-edge research sector is booming, and the significant growth in excellent research is reflected in the projects funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) in 2023. The volume of funding awarded by the FWF and successfully acquired by researchers in the internationally competitive funding process increased from €273 to 349 million. This corresponds to an increase in funding of 27.8% compared to the previous year. €148 million went to projects in the natural sciences and technology, €123 million in biology and medical sciences, and €78 million in the humanities and social sciences. At the same time, however, the demand for research funding has also increased, as the volume of applications submitted by researchers rose to over €1.7 billion (up 32%). The FWF is currently funding a total of 4,890 researchers in ongoing projects at Austria's universities and non-university research institutions – another new record.

At the FWF's annual press conference, Science Minister Martin Polaschek was optimistic about the future of top-level research in Austria: “With the 2024–2026 funding agreement, we are facilitating new research projects worth €1.05 billion. From the large-scale new Clusters of Excellence to pioneering projects in smaller teams, FWF funding enables thousands of researchers to generate new knowledge and insights. We will be expanding this brain power in the coming years, and the federal government will continue to fund outstanding research.”

“In light of the multiple challenges we currently face, research continues to play a key role in identifying new ways in which we can overcome crises. The funding agreement just concluded with the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research allows the FWF to continue its successful funding of vital and internationally visible basic research and supporting the bright minds who are already discovering today what will matter tomorrow,” said Christof Gattringer, President of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), while presenting the results of the new agreement.

Looking ahead: Emerging Fields and the first FWF ASTRA Awards

Thanks to the new funding agreement, the FWF will have a budget of €1.151 billion at its disposal from 2024 to 2026, giving it the means to approve new research projects worth €1.05 billion in the 2024 to 2026 period. This corresponds to an increase of around 27% compared to the 2021 to 2023 funding period. The increased budget will allow the FWF to maintain existing funding programs while also focusing on new areas, including the next round of Emerging Fields funding as part of the excellent=austria initiative for inter-institutional collaborations. Another element of the recent funding agreement is the establishment of the new FWF ASTRA Awards for highly talented postdocs, which will be awarded for the first time in 2025. The FWF will also be expressing its support for a further round of calls for the Clusters of Excellence program.

Track record 2023: Investment in basic research higher than ever before

The seven Clusters of Excellence, two of which were approved for funding in April 2024, play a special role due to their structure-building significance and their stimulating effect for Austria as a location for innovation. The establishment of these inter-institutional networks is currently in full swing, with hundreds of researchers throughout Austria working closely together. Together with the five Emerging Fields, the Clusters of Excellence are establishing themselves as supporting pillars of cutting-edge research in strong, promising fields of research.

Unleashing Austria's research potential

In addition to these large-scale research networks, the FWF continues to fund a widely diverse range of research types, including flexible project funding at national and international levels (€158.2 million), early career and career development funding (€64.4 million), dedicated collaborative research projects (€44.8 million), and communication and citizen science funding (€0.9 million). Special programs such as Arts-Based Research, Clinical Research, doc.funds, or the Special Research Areas financed by the Fonds Zukunft Österreich strengthen a diverse and broad-based research landscape.

The average approval rate across all funding programs was 26.3% in 2023, a slight increase compared to the previous year. However, despite their excellent quality, the FWF was unable to fund €61 million worth of research projects due to a lack of budget (projects classified as “approved but not funded”).

Grafik zur Entwicklung der Bewilligungssumme 2014-2023
Grafik zur Entwicklung der Antragssumme 2014-2023

Nobel Prize to FWF Wittgenstein Award winner Ferenc Krausz

A particularly exciting high point in the 2023 funding year was the awarding of the Nobel Prize to physicist Ferenc Krausz, who conducted several FWF-funded research projects and received the FWF Wittgenstein Award in a decisive phase of his research career. “After Anton Zeilinger and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the Nobel Prize Committee’s choice of Ferenc Krausz honors yet another top researcher whose groundbreaking findings were significantly supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). The prize is a further spotlight on world-class basic research with a strong Austrian influence,” says FWF President Christof  Gattringer.

Supporting the next generation: 70% are 35 years old or younger

Around 4,900 people working in research were funded by the FWF in 2023. It is particularly noteworthy that almost 70% of them are junior researchers (35 years or younger). This confirms the important role the FWF plays in training the next generation of top researchers. The percentage of women is 46.7%. The FWF's career programs in particular are instrumental in training junior researchers and preventing brain drain.

More international cooperation

Cutting-edge research is based on transnational cooperation, and numerous funding programs support internationally collaborative research projects. Demand continues to increase in this area – a positive development that the FWF supports intensively. In 2023, €32.8 million in funding was awarded for international Principal Investigator Projects, and the FWF strengthened its funding activities in the areas European Partnerships and other multilateral initiatives (€7.2 million).

Further Fonds Zukunft Österreich projects set to launch

The FWF used funds provided by the Fonds Zukunft Österreich to fund three large-scale Special Research Areas (€11.3 million), three Research Groups (€4.8 million), and nine doc.funds and doc.funds.connect consortia (€16.3 million) with 72 new doctoral positions, as well as several matching funds grants with the federal states. The Fonds Zukunft Österreich is crucial for the FWF, and it will continue to apply for funding from this key source in the future.

Austria’s largest private grant for climate-relevant basic research

Since mid-2023, researchers from universities and non-university research institutions have had the opportunity to submit climate-relevant research proposals to compete for Austria's largest privately funded research grant. Through a private donation to the FWF's alpha+ Foundation, €4.5 million in funding is available for the Zero Emissions Award, with the aim of gaining the knowledge we will need for the energy transition.

International peer review by the world’s leading researchers

International quality standards determine how the FWF awards funding – the only criterion for funding is scientific excellence. In 2023, the FWF commissioned some 4,540 international reviews from over 60 countries, with most of the reviews coming from researchers in the USA, Germany, and the UK.

All funding statistics at a glance

You can find a review of the past year and all the performance figures in this year’s FWF Annual Report. In addition, the new FWF Dashboard offers you access to all key figures and statistics on the FWF’s funding programs.

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