The EU and Business in Austria
Access to finance is a key determinate of business development, growth and success. The European Union (EU) has developed a broad range of indirect and direct funding sources to support business in Europe. The EU partners with local and national intermediaries to provide financing to businesses in Austria. Additional indirect EU funding is also available from the European Investment Bank Group and its financial intermediaries in Austria. Direct funding is also available from the European Commission as grants.
Grants from the European Commission and its agencies support projects that advance the EU's policy objectives. Businesses in Austria and across Europe must respond to calls for proposals issued by the European Commission. A competitive process determines how grants are awarded. Projects must relate to an EU policy objective; for example, environmental protection, skills training, innovation, and increasing competitiveness. For more information about EU direct grants and for a list of calls for proposals, visit ec.europa.eu/contracts_grants/grants_en.htm.
EU structural funds are used with national sources of funding to support businesses and business development. Funding is generally targeted to start-up and early stage companies, as well as businesses in expansion stages. For example, BRB Burgenländische Risikokapital Beteiligungen AG (www.brb-ag.at) provides financing between €200,000 and €1.5 million for technology-oriented manufacturing firms with above-average growth potential. Structural funds and national funding is also used to provide indirect EU financing through Oberösterreichischer (ÖO) HightechFonds (www.hightechfonds.at). Eligible start-up and expanding businesses must be developing high-tech products and services.
Indirect EU funding is also available through the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP). Delivered by Austria Wirtschaftservices or aws (www.awsg.at), funding is provided for start-up and early stage companies engaged in research, development and innovation activities. Financing products include subsidies, equity, guarantees, liability, microcredit, and specialised financing for young entrepreneurs.
The European Progress Microfinance Facility or Progress Microfinance provides microcredit through loans of under €25,000. Loans can be used to set up or develop a small business with less than 10 employees. The programme is delivered by Erste Bank, which provides microloans for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in Austria. Individuals who are unemployed, have difficulty accessing conventional credit, or who are interested in starting a microenterprise, especially a social enterprise, are eligible to apply for a microloan. For more information about the Progress Microfinance programme and Erste Bank, visit www.sparkasse.at/erstebank.
Grants are available to Austrian companies engaged in research and development activities through the Eurostars programme. The programme is delivered by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency and offers grants for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) for 60 percent of projects costs. Large companies may receive grants covering up to 30 percent of project costs. If a SME partners with a university or research organisation, grants for up to 50 percent of eligible project costs are available. The maximum amount of financial support is €500,000 per project, which must involve at least one additional member country. For more information about Eurostars, visit www.ffg.at/eurostars.
European Investment Bank Group
A significant source of indirect EU financing for businesses is the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group. The EIB works with partners in Austria to increase access to financing products that are generally more affordable that conventional financing.
The EIB provides loans and guarantees to businesses in Austria for up to €7.5 million. Investments made by the EIB focus on mid-sized companies and target innovation, research and development. The Bank also works with local and national intermediaries in Austria to provide financing products, including loans and guarantees backed by the EIB. EIB partners include Hypo Alpe Adria Bank, Hypo Noe Gruppe Bank, BAWAG PSK, Erste Bank, Investkredit Bank, Kommunalkredit Austria, ÖHT, UniCredit Leading, and UniCredit Bank Austria (www.bankaustria.at). Additional EIB partners include Raiffeisen Bank International, Raiffeisen-Landesbank Nideröstereich, Raiffeisen-Landesbank Oberösterreick, and Raiffeisen-Landesbank Steiermark. Information on EIB partners in Austria is available at europa.eu/youreurope/business/funding-grants/access-to-finance.
The EIB's European Investment Fund (www.eif.org) provides financing for small and medium sized businesses. Decisions on investments are made by local and national intermediaries, which provide equity and venture capital to businesses in Austria. Most EIF-backed financing in Austria targets the life sciences sector. Financing may be used, for example, for start-up businesses, businesses in development and growth, stages, buy-out financing, debt financing for refinancing or working capital. Information on EIF partners in Austria is found at europa.eu/youreurope/business/funding-grants/access-to-finance.
The European Angels Fund (EAF) Austria provides equity to business angels and other non-institutional investors. Equity can be used to co-financing innovative companies. Launched in March 2013, the initiative is a partnership between Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH (aws), the federal government's promotional bank and that promotes businesses in all phases of growth through financing and other supports. EAF Austria is jointly funded by the EIF and aws. To apply for financing, visit www.eif.org or visit www.awsg.at.
Information and Resources
Advice for businesses in Austria is available through the Enterprise Europe Network (een.ec.europea.eu). This free service gives businesses advice on a broad range of EU related issues, such as regulations and procurement. It is also a good resource to help identify sources of EU indirect and direct funding or financing. European Enterprise Network Branches in Austria are based in Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Feldkirch and Graz.