Regional economic transformation and the innovation system of Styria

Franz Tödtling*, Sabine Sedlacek

*Corresponding author for this work

    Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


    Many regions in advanced countries, in particular old industrial ones, have been challenged by globalization and restructuring. They have strong imperatives to innovate, i.e. to renew their product structure, technology and organizational practices. Broader and more lasting effects of renewal can be achieved if firms are part of a 'regional innovation system' and not just individual isolated actors. Styria is an example of a traditional industrial region in Austria in the process of restructuring. It had a strong industrial base in the past but has had a weak economic performance in recent decades. Also, the innovative performance of its industry was lower than in Austria. In the last few years firms have become more active in this respect, however. Styria has developed a few industrial clusters, the most important being in materials and metals, wood and paper and transport and vehicles. In part, universities and research institutions are actors in these clusters and Styrian policy-makers support in particular the expanding vehicle cluster. Regional economic and technology policies are integrated into the Austrian system of social partnership, a model which stresses cooperation between the major interest groups and the state. Styria, thus, has a number of elements of a regional innovation system. However, the degree of 'systermness' between those elements and also the specific role of individual elements still have to be explored in further research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)43-63
    Number of pages21
    JournalEuropean Planning Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1997

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    held. Other consulting projects (79 in 1993) are focused mainly on the use of public funds, project clearing and staff training. The Styrian Technology Park (STP) is situated in Graz and was the first park in Austria founded in 1986. The STP is acting as an incubator for start-up firms supporting them with common services (secretary, telephone, fax, databases and conference rooms) and consulting. It was initiated by the Land and the Chamber of Commerce. It is supported by research and educational institutions in Graz but also by private R&D-enterprises like AVL-List and VIANOVA. The Technology and Education Centre Niklasdorf was founded by the Land, the Styrian Chamber of Commerce and the WIFI in 1990. Its services have a wide range, from management problems to high-tech research. The Centre has well-developed links to the Montanuniversity of Leoben, the Bohler Education Centre Kapfenberg, the CD laboratories and the laser centre of the Joanneum Research and the GieBerei-Institut Kapfenberg. The Technology Centre Kapfenberg (TZK) was founded in 1992 and was initiated by finance institutions (Innofinanz, Sparkasse Bruck/Mur-Kapfenberg) and the community of Kapfenberg. The geographical neighbourhood to Leoben offers the same possibilties to use research and educational services as in the above case. The centre acts as an incubator and consulting unit for technology based firms. It is related to the Centre of Niklasdorf and can participate in its networks, infrastructure and consulting services. Evaluating the role of technology centres in Styria we find that initially they were focused on the incubation of high tech firms and on technology transfer and were concentrated rather on the larger cities (Graz and Leoben). Employment effects were low, but the centres had demonstration effects and stimulated contacts and cooperations between firms and research institutions as well as to innovation finance. More recently, technology centres have also spread to problem areas outside Graz and Leoben. As a consequence, they lowered their technological ambitions. They serve rather as an incubator, consultancy centre or industrial park; technology transfer and cooperation is not the most important goal. For the future, there is the intention to integrate existing technology centres into a network for Styria, making their respective special services more accessible for other centres and locations. This could improve service access in particular for firms in peripheral locations, given that such an integration is actively pursued.

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