Austria's cutting-edge research continues to be on the upswing, and this growth is also reflected in the funding going towards third-party-funded research. Last year, for example, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) was able to finance 743 research projects worth €273 million, an increase of 6.6% as compared to the previous year. €115 million went to projects in the natural sciences and technology, €100 million in biology and medical sciences, and €58 million in the humanities and social sciences. The FWF is currently funding a total of 4,842 researchers in ongoing projects at Austria's universities and other research institutions - a new record.
At the FWF annual press conference, Minister of Education, Science and Research Martin Polaschek emphasized the importance of basic research for the future. “FWF funding gives researchers the opportunity to pursue fundamental research questions at the highest international level. All of these researchers are making a valuable contribution, helping us find new answers to current and future challenges. My goal is to ensure the best possible conditions for scientific progress and, at the same time, to further strengthen the public’s confidence in research findings," he said.
“The need for new knowledge is growing in all areas of life, from medicine to the climate to digital technologies, or to give us a better understanding of history and current events. In the face of multiple crises and the transformation to a sustainable future, basic research plays an important role in triggering innovation and expanding our knowledge base. For the 2024 to 2026 period, we will have to continue to work together to ensure that all planned projects can be fully implemented with the announced budget and any additional funds,” said Christof Gattringer, President of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
The goal must be to continue last year's successful funding record and the positive momentum in Austria's cutting-edge research as well as possible in spite of the high inflationary pressure. The approval rate for excellent research proposals should be maintained at the current level; this is particularly important for the rapidly growing number of junior researchers. Unfortunately, due to the effects of inflation, the number of projects with the status “approved but not funded” will remain high.
The investment volume for basic research the federal government plans to is therefore of crucial importance to the FWF and the research community. With the €1.124 billion provided by the BMBWF for the 2024 to 2026 period, key elements of the successfully established excellence initiative as well as the majority of FWF programs can be continued.