Managing directors, Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG)

Dr. Klaus Pseiner and Dr. Henrietta Egerth are joint heads of the FFG (Österreichische Forschungsförderungsgesellschaft), where, since its founding in 2004, they have helped public research and development (R&D) funding find its way into the right hands. Careful selection of projects is a given in any funding process, but what distinguishes the FFG are their strategies for getting the most value for their investment – insuring that the money is awarded to the right projects and in the most effective way.

Since 2014, Austria has invested an average of 3% of its GDP in R&D, a figure that has doubled in the last 10 years.  Often this follows a “public-private partnership model,” said Pseiner, with partial or matching funding to leverage further private investments.

“We try to create an investment dynamic that benefits both the corporations and the research sector, and has an indisputable impact,” Pseiner explained.

FFG beneficiaries cover a broad spectrum of fields, many from the life sciences, including medicine, chemistry and pharmaceuticals. Another strategy is technology transfer – bringing ideas from one industry to a new application in another.

One recent example is a project at the Austrian Space Agency (ASA), in which thermal insulation technology for satellites is being applied to computer tomography used in medical X-rays – a project that Pseiner, former managing director of ASA, is particularly excited about.

For both directors, this dual dynamic of incentives and bridge building across disciplines is vital in keeping Austria competitive. In 2014, Egerth literally went the extra mile, spending 10 months in Asia – the world leader in R&D – fostering research partnerships.

“The world is not going to wait for us,” she told the press on her return.

With the thousands of projects it has to juggle, the agency needs the dual leadership. We knew we had been lucky to get Egerth and Pseiner at the same time. For this, we thanked them.

And with that, they excused themselves to hurry on to their next appointments.

Austria has an excellent R&D infrastructure, but other countries are not standing around. In this competitive environment, you only stay ahead by continuing to do more.