Universities and research institutions miss a financing path in the planned Research Framework Act. According to numerous comments on the draft, this path must provide for annual growth. The review period ended on October 17.
Originally, the ÖVP and the FPÖ planned to pass a research funding law in order to give state funding agencies and research institutions planning security. However, the two parties could not agree on the necessary sums, and then the government fell apart. The current government, on the other hand, sent the current draft for review - albeit without budget details. The law thus mutated into a research framework law. The desired planning security is only hinted in a kind of allusion, i.e. without naming a financing path.
The law already defines those central research and research promotion bodies that are to be covered by the new financing. As (extra-university) research institutions and promotion agencies, these are the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), the Institute of Science and Technology (IST) Austria, the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) and Silicon Austria Labs (SAL) as well as the Austria Wirtschaftsservice (AWS), the Christian Doppler Forschungsgesellschaft (CDG), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Österreichische Austauschdienst (OeAD), the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) and the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (LBG).
Progress and Problem
Similar to the universities, three-year performance and financing agreements are to be concluded with these institutions in future. The budgets for this cannot be cut within this period.
In a joint statement, FFG, FWF, AWS and OeAD see this as "significant progress compared to the current one-year period". The problem: "However, the legislative package lacks any definition of a progressive budget path. In view of Austria's weak share of competitive R&D funds in the international benchmark, a medium- to long-term sustainable growth path of about ten percent per annum should be established for the research promotion institutions mentioned in the law."
uniko sees lack of financing path as "very critical"
The University Conference (uniko), which sees the lack of a financing path as "very critical", has a similar view. This should be "defined as a growth path with an annual minimum growth", it says with reference to the "Pact for Research and Innovation (2021-2030)" in Germany with an annual plus of three percent.
The Austrian Academy of Sciences (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, ÖAW) in its current form assesses the draft as "negative" in its statement. It needed a financing guarantee in the law that would "enable real growth". According to the ÖAW, such a guarantee would only begin in the field of internationally competitive basic research at a rate well above an annual plus of three percent. Rather, a "real future action" requires "a growth pledge of an average of seven percent annually for at least ten years". In addition, the ÖAW is concerned that the bureaucratisation of performance measurement in basic research will increase.
There is also criticism of the classification of the LBG as a funding agency. The LBG fears a "transformation from a provider and enabler to a sponsor" and therefore wants to be included in the group of research institutions. Some federal provinces also express these concerns, while uniko clearly advocates the "further development" of the LBG into a research promotion and funding agency.