Research Is Not the Troublemaker, but the Problem Solver!
Dean Gerti Kappel’s action statement on the massive lack of university funding and the severe consequences for research, business, and society.
Austrian universities are fighting to keep the lights on. The explosion in costs for energy, rent, and personnel is severely endangering basic needs for research and teaching. Dean of TU Wien Informatics Gerti Kappel spoke on TU Wien’s Action Day on November 7, 2022, about the severe consequences of saving measures for research and innovation.
Universities stand for the unity of teaching and research, for research-led teaching. But what happens when research is no longer paid for? No digitization, no developments toward the energy and mobility transition, no circular economy? This cannot be the answer!
If Austria wants to improve digitization and actively shape the knowledge society – we cannot throttle the required computing power and electricity today. Austria’s largest supercomputer, on which climate and weather data for flood protection and weather forecasts are calculated, runs not far from here. Turning it off is not the alternative!
If Austria wants a sustainable circular economy – we cannot restrict the leading research in this field in physics, chemistry, civil- and environmental engineering today and shut down the urgently needed laboratories that contribute essentially to solving upcoming ecological and economic problems. Not researching sustainable recycling of raw materials is not the alternative!
Austria’s energy supply should become more resilient? Where are the solutions developed? At universities, researching future energy systems, for renewable energy sources and storage systems. No research into sustainable energy systems is not the alternative!
Austria wants to be prepared for the next pandemic and rely on the necessary data – we cannot take away resources from modeling and simulation today. Not an alternative!
If research funding is cut off today, the lights will go out tomorrow in Austria as an innovation and business location!
No money for research means fewer businesses: Research performance is the most important factor in the location decisions of companies. Universities have a positive effect on the location of companies, on the growth of knowledge-intensive industries, and on the development of innovation (WIFO, 2022).
Research and technology are not troublemakers, but problem solvers: Universities generate more revenue than they cost!
- Who educates the future? Universities! Why support the industry when the educated labor force they’ll need in the future is not there anymore?
- Who provides a value-added of 1:3? Universities! Every invested Euro comes back threefold: 1€ expenditure equals 1€ tax revenue plus 2€ value added. In other words: universities are a cornerstone and ultimately a business for the state!
Research promotion is labor market promotion: 100 jobs at universities provide 113 more in the economic cycle (WIFO, 2017).
If Austria wants to continue to be perceived as a developed country – politicians must finally understand that STEM research & teaching are the necessary pillars!
No money for research means no money for young talents, which means fewer start-ups and patents: For young researchers, underfunding is the biggest impediment to developing and commercializing new products for healthcare, industry, technology, and society.
No money for research means no money for the future generation of scientists: We qualify our students to tackle challenges – they are the Nobel Prize winners of the future! This must be our first and foremost aspiration. Not funding universities evades responsibility and deprives us of our common future.
We cannot go back to business as usual.
Mr. Federal Minister, do not save at the expense of research and education. If you turn off the lights at the universities now, you are risking Austria’s future in science and business today!
At what cost?
Universities and Economy
Universities generate significantly more tax money than they cost. 1 Euro invested in universities pays for itself after only 3-5 years (WIFO, 2017). The net rate of return for the state for each university graduate is 7.3% for men and 5% for women (WIFO, 2022). Increasingly funding the higher education sector should therefore be seen as an investment that generates higher revenues than it costs – it is a business for the state. An increase in public R&D spending of just 1 Euro could boost GDP by up to 6 Euros in the long run (WPZ, 2020). Up to 10% of the GDP/productivity growth is attributable to R&D at universities and the skills and competencies of their graduates. One hundred university jobs provide 113 more in the economic cycle (WIFO, 2017).
Universities and Business
At universities, innovations are developed in cooperation with the business community. 49% (EU-28: 33%) of large companies cooperate with universities, and 27% of SMEs (EU-28: 16%). More than 80% of companies collaborating with universities create market novelties through their innovation activities, almost 20% more than companies with other or no cooperation partners (WIFO, 2022). International and Austrian studies agree that university performance is one of the most critical factors in the location decisions of research-active corporations. Therefore, universities have a positive effect on the location of companies, the growth of knowledge-intensive industries, and the radicality of innovation, all problem areas of the Austrian innovation system (WIFO, 2022). Patents by universities tend to be broader and more technologically significant than corporate patents, up to 67.5%, depending on the indicator. Thus, compared to corporate patents, they are more likely to give rise to technologically more radical innovations. Patents also play an important role in investment decisions in university spin-offs, making it much easier for venture capital funds, for example, to assess young start-ups (WIFO, 2022).
Universities and Society
Austrian universities are among the innovation leaders in Europe. The added value for society is not only generated by improvements in infrastructure, medicine, technology, digitization, and more – but also in their social impact. Universities contribute to an international, diverse and inclusive culture. Austria is thus regarded as an attractive place to live and work for international experts and innovators (EU Innovation Scoreboard, 2022).