Top photo: Swarovsky Crystal Worlds
The Tyrolean Economy - A Success Story
Looking back into Tyrol’s past, it is fascinating to see how this small region in the heart of Europe has transformed itself into amodern hub for research, technology, and business. It was after the end of WWII that the Tyrol region experienced a radical restructuring of its economical sector. Once primarily dependent on mountain agriculture and modest in its economical output, Tyrol today is one of the most prosperous and dynamic regions in the European Union with over 300,000 companies taking advantage of the favorable location and close proximity to centers of excellence, universities, and research facilities.
Almost 90% of these companies are small and medium- sized with most of them having less than 20 employees. Equally impressive are Tyrol’s trade developments. In the first half of 2013, Tyrol’s exports accounted for 5.5 billion Euros, a 1.5% increase compared to 2012. In general, Tyrol boasts a positive trade balance, with the European Union, Asia, and the United States being the most important trade partners.
Research and Development (R&D)
One of the secrets to Tyrol’s economic success is the strong focus on Research and Development as well as on international cooperation. Being home to three universities, five Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen) and eighteen research centers, Tyrol’s business sector is characterized by innovation and skilled workforce. Since 99% of all the businesses based in Tyrol employ less than one hundred people, the Tyrolean government offers a number of development programs to support their research efforts. The Tyrolean Business Development Programs focus on structural improvements of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), business start-ups and -relocation, R&D, and innovation as well as the maintenance of local infrastructure and access to new markets.
Innovative projects that benefit the Tyrol’s public sector receive financial support of up to 40% of the total costs. This includes projects in the fields of renewable energies, environmental protection, infrastructure, technology, and tourism. The funding rate even increases by 5% if women are actively involved in the project. In 2013, eight projects received 285,000 Euros in financial support; for 2014, 7.4 million Euros are made available. In addition to that, special development programs are designed to help SMEs that are trying to expand internationally. Support is provided on all stages of the internationalization process, from plan development to continuous consulting and financial support. On average, an annual total budget of 154 million Euros is made available for business development in the Tyrol.
These efforts prove to be successful. Besides the high number of SMEs and start-ups, Tyrol is also home to many big international companies and even world market leaders. One of Tyrol’s most famous international brands is Swarovski with its headquarters in the town ofWattens just outside of Innsbruck.The company, which receives worldwide praise for their luxury cut lead glass (crystals) actually covers two major industry areas. Besides the fashion design crystals, the Tyrolit business unit of the company manufactures bonded abrasives as well as concrete sawing and drilling machinery.
Another globally-known and universally celebrated company headquartered in Tyrol is Riedel, a crystal wine glass manufacturer and originator of the concept of glassware designed with characteristics that enhance certain types of wine. Besides these globally-known brands there are a few lesser-known companies, some of them even world market leaders in niche branches. To give some examples: MED-EL, which has its headquarters in Innsbruck, is the worldwide leading expert for implantable hearing solutions. Founded in 1999, Swarco, also part of the Swarovski empire, is the world market leader in the production of traffic lights. The family run company Pirlo GmbH in Kufstein is not only Austria’s biggest manufacturer ofmetal packaging but also world market leader in the production of snuff boxes.
For all fans of skiing, Sunkid from Imst in Tyrol is the leadingmanufacturer in conveyor ski lifts, some of which can also be found in the Mount Sunapee ski resort in New Hampshire. The most successful snowboard manufacturer Burton, founded by American Jake Burton, has had its European headquarters in Innsbruck since the 1980s and just recently announced that the company will extend its stay in Tyrol at least until 2022.
Business Location Tyrol
There is a good reason why all these businesses chose Tyrol as their home. Its focus on skilled workforce and innovation together with the active promotion of and financial support for start-ups and businesses, as well as business-friendly tax laws (i.e. no commercial tax) and a favorable geographical location have made the Tyrol a safe haven and focal point for international businesses, ambitious entrepreneurs, and researchers alike. To ensure the high quality, attractiveness, and competitiveness of the Tyrol region on a long-term basis, the business location agency “Standortagentur Tirol” makes a wide range of services available to companies and research facilities.
Active support is provided for clusters, in which companies, research facilities, universities, suppliers, and service providers in a particular branch or sector work closely together. Altogether, there are seven clusters in the Tyrol: renewable energy, life sciences, information technologies, mechatronic, wellness, TechnoGate (engineering) and pro Holz (wood industry), all of which are managed by the “Zukunftsstiftung” (foundation for the future). The office for future related issues, which reports directly to the Governor of Tyrol, Günther Platter (you will find an interview with him in this issue of Austrian Information as well), acts as a stimulus, interface, and coordinator for potential future developments andmanagement measures. It works closely together with knowledge providers, interest groups, and specialist organizations and is in continuous contact with the general public.
Find more information at: www.zukunftsstiftung.at
By Anja Mayer