Sustainable technology

The environmental and energy technology ­industry contributes ­signifcantly to the ­Austrian export and ­location policy and ­consistently creates new jobs due to its above-­average growth rates. © Pixabay

Today’s Austrian environmental technology industry is among the world’s most innovative sectors. Domestic companies are excellently positioned in the environmental and energy technology ­industry ...

... and distinguish themselves with top-quality products and system performances.

The development of technological innovations in this sector is a key factor for resource-efficient and recycling-oriented management. The Austrian environmental technology industry serves as a future model - creating jobs, strengthening Austria’s competitive position, and contributing to this country’s high living standard in the future.
Austria has a lot of know-how in regards to energy-efficient technologies. If they were used widely, they could drastically reduce energy requirements in this sector. Utilising clean energy technologies reduces greenhouse gas emission and supports local structures for energy supply. The transformation and structural changes of the entire energy system provide a vast field to apply the corresponding technologies. Austrian suppliers of environmental technologies can benefit from these developments because of their existing technological competences.

Exports drive growth
Exports are driving the growth of the environmental technology and environmental services industry. In the mid-1990’s, approximately 50% of all sales of Austrian environmental technologies were generated in foreign markets. Today, this share has increased to two thirds. These exports go primarily to the EU’s 15 countries, but the “new” EU states as well as Southeast Asia have also become relevant export markets. Subsidiaries abroad strengthen foreign operations of Austrian companies. Almost every third company from the environmental technology sector has one of those branch offices, usually to coordinate sales activities on site. As a result of these consistent foreign operations, approximately 12% of the domestic environmental technology companies hold market leader positions in the EU-15 countries (resulting in a market share of over 30%). Internationally, it amounts to 6% of Austrian companies in this economic sector. Companies providing technologies for environmental monitoring, renewable energy technologies as well as measuring and control technologies have particularly high export quotas.

An innovative industry
Investments in research and development are crucial factors for consistent growth, productivity, and prosperity. The Austrian environmental technology and service industry is characterised by its distinct innovative activities in this sector, particularly in the energy technology sector. Companies producing material goods have average research intensities (share of research investments in sales revenues) of 2-3%. In the environmental technology sector, however, it amounts to approximately 6.5%. In many cases, innovations enabled domestic companies to solidify or strengthen their competitiveness.
International comparative studies show Austria’s top position in the eco-innovation sector. The domestic environmental technology and service industry is among the best on the international market, particularly in areas such as innovation activities (high share of companies driving innovations in the environmental sector) and innovation output. For example, Austria is leading the way in the EU when it comes to environmental patents. The developments in areas such as passive house technology, waste management (recycling), and renewable energy technologies are particularly remarkable in regards to the domestic industry’s research and innovation activities. But also areas like electro mobility and resource efficiency have significant potential for innovation.
Besides the domestic companies’ innovative strength, government incentive programmes as well as legal requirements for the growth of the domestic environmental industry are also responsible for this development, which include the Green Electricity Act, the corporate environmental support programme, as well as funding opportunities of the Climate and Energy Fund and the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).

The chamber of commerce’s ­sustainability training
Every two years, the Austrian Chamber of Commerce (WKO) assesses Austria’s environmental situation in comparison to the other EU member states, based on 58 individual rankings of different indicators – including waste material and resources as well as energy, climate, water, air pollution control, mobility, biological diversity, and environmental management. The results for 2015 put Austria firmly on the winner’s podium in an excellent third position.
Chamber of Commerce’s expert Christoph Haller says, “Austria is very strong in many fields compared to other European countries. Austria’s continuing success in this ranking is based on decades of high environmental standards and an environmental awareness that exceeds the European average in many areas, as well as the companies’ high competence when it comes to environmental management and environmental technology. It is very encouraging that consistently decreasing environmental hazards while increasing production at the same time is becoming more and more normal for Austrian businesses.”
Highlights are the assessments regarding corporate environmental management, the utilisation of renewable energy sources (Austria is among the European leaders in this sector), CO2 emissions per GDP, air pollution control (amount of hazardous airborne emissions in relation to the GDP), the modal split in freight and passenger transports, as well as organic farming. (BO)

According to the Environmental Goods and Services Sector (EGSS) concept developed by EUROSTAT, the environmental industry comprises activities to measure, avoid, reduce, limit, or repair environmental damages as well as a focus on preserving national resources and on integrated technologies. This includes environmentally friendly and less environmentally harmful technologies, procedures, and products, which decrease environmental risks and reduce environmental pollution to a minimum.