Austria, the country of classical music has lit the way to leading green technologies since the 1970’s and it’s cleantech sector is still growing rapidly. Currently, renewable energies provide a quarter of the energy consumed in the country and two third of the electricity demand. More than 600 international cleantech companies form a world-class cleantech orchestra that is worth enjoying.
1) Upcoming Technologies from the clean energy labs. Austria has been increasingly investing into energy labs. Aside from private funding, many public research institutions have been offering funding to Austria energy labs. Popular locations for these labs include Graz and Vienna, as they house numerous technical universities. Styria is an innovation champion within Europe as its research and development quota has reached more than four percent of its GDP. Some of the energy lab highlights include BDI Bioenergy International, a company creating new “biocrack technology” which combines waste from oil refiners with biomass to produce inexpensive biodiesel. Another highlight stems from Joanneum Research Institute of Sustainable Techniques and Systems. They are responsible for “Green Biorefinery Austria,” a project using Austria’s abundance of grasslands as raw materials for biobased products.
2) Increase in Hydropower. In Austria, more than 60 percent of the electricity is produced by renewable energy, namely hydropower. There is approximately 3,000 hydro power plants around the country and numerous Austrian-based companies providing the capabilities to utilize this form of energy. For example, Andritz Hydro, a large international corporation, created “water to wire” technology with a staff of 6,000 employees. Aqua Libre, another hydro company, created the Strom-Boje, a small hydro electric power plant.
3) Biomass Solutions – Austrian innovation grows on trees. Money may not literally grow on trees, but financial opportunities do, and that includes biomass solutions. With more than half of the country covered in vast woodland areas, Austria has realized its potential as a source of renewable energy. Numerous companies have now shifted their focus to this previously untapped source of energy. KWB, located in Austria, operates the largest private center for research and innovation in biomass solutions.It has produced a number of technologies, including Clean Staged Gasification, which produces tar free gas from wood.
4) Pioneers and Market Leaders in Solar Solutions. Not many are aware but over 30 percent of all solar thermal collectors produced in Europe come from Austria. The small amount of sunshine Austria received has enabled it to produce effective products. One of the largest solar thermal collector specialists, GREENone Tec is located in Austria and has designed thermal siphon systems and façade collectors. Austrian company S.O.L.I.D. received Singapore’s “Solar Pioneer Award” for their solar cooling technologies at the United World College. Once completed, it will be the largest solar cooling project in the world.
5) Recycling Technologies are cutting the edge. Many European countries have designed their waste separation and recycling regulations on the Austrian method. Binder+Co has recently developed a highly progressive sensor-supported sporting plants used for waste glass and are now being implemented worldwide. For biological waste, Thoeni developed recycling plants that are able to turn biological waste into quality compost and electricity. One last example is KOMPTECH, an expert mechanical biological waste treatment company that has been dedicated to user-centered innovations.
6) Pioneering Regions live the future. Austria has a number of energy-model regions. Mureck is an Energy Globe Award winning region. In Graz, a company has been producing biodiesel from waste cooking oil that is collected throughout the city and used to fuel the city’s public transportation. As well, the town of Gussing is known as the first town in the country to produce 100 percent of its electricity needs from renewable sources of energy throughout the region. This was done when the town realized it was no longer able to afford the rising cost of fossil fuels and opted to become more self-sufficient through the use of renewable energy sources. Aside from the obvious environmental benefits it provided for the more than 4,000 residents of Gussing, it also created 1,000 new jobs in their renewable energy sector.
7) Civil society fostering cleantech solutions. Everyone knows that cleantech can only survive if the citizens of the countries will it to be so. The Austrian society has been extremely eco-sensitive and has grounded strong roots into creating a viable clean technologies industry. A popular example comes from the 1970s. Austria built a fully-functional nuclear power station but it has never been used due to increased protests from the country’s citizens. There has also been increased resistance from the citizens to the creation of new landfills, and instead, it has increased the number of new recycling technologies.
8 ) Availability of highly skilled and top motivated people. One of the biggest advantages of the clean technologies industry in Austria is the number of individuals who are skilled and motivated. With five universities throughout Vienna, Graz, and Leoben, a number of private universities, plus a handful of training centers are educating numerous people engineering studies programs, including process engineering, material sciences, disposal engineering, electrical engineering, and environmental engineering. Because of the motivation of Austrian employees, they have been ranked as the third most motivated country with employees.
9) Cooperation within clusters. In the 1990s, the cluster model created by Michael Porter was applied in Austria. The result was ECO WORLD STYRIA, one of the top cleantech clusters around the globe. Considered “Europe’s Green Tech Valley,” it is home to over 150 cleantech companies, a majority of which are global leaders in their respective cleantech sector. The cluster is home to a number of specialized research centers, strong engineering tradition, and a leading research quota.
10) New Markets within reach. The geographic location of Austria as the centre of Europe has designated it as a link between western countries and rising cleantech markets in eastern countries. As such, a number of international companies from around the world has made one of their destinations for investment Austria.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. . He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at email@example.com