April 13th 2016

Entrepreneurship, Start-Ups & Innovation.

Dr. Harald Mahrer, State Secretary, Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy, Vienna

In collaboration with the University of Innsbruck, the Entrepreneurial School® recently welcomed State Secretary Dr. Harald Mahrer to talk about entrepreneurship and the spirit of innovation.

At the beginning of his lecture, Mahrer expressed his appreciation of the close cooperation between the University of Innsbruck and Management Center Innsbruck and emphasized that cooperation and competition do not exclude each other. He is convinced that in the light of radical changes cooperation is more important than ever before. Mahrer, who likes to present himself as a politician with comprehensive entrepreneurial experience and whom the German paper Die Zeit called the Jedi Knight among political reformers, believes that, over the last decades, digitization has shaped entrepreneurship more than any other process. From his point of view, however, Austria has not yet managed to catch up with the dynamics resulting from the process of digitization.

Even if Austria has shown technological progress and improvement in many different areas, it lags far behind the innovative capacity of other nations. This is to say that other countries, particularly on the Asian continent, develop much faster. If the current trend continues, Austria will increasingly lose its competitive edge. Mahrer explained that the innovative power of a country represents the key to growth. It is therefore necessary to further creativity by long-term improvement of the economic as well as political conditions in Austria. The prime goal of politics should thus be to advance in the ranking of national innovation leaders.

In his lecture, Mahrer offered several approaches that could contribute to the achievement of this goal. As he pointed out, Austria’s research output is comparatively high. There are, however, hardly any initiatives to establish academic spin-offs. In order to promote Austria as a business location, Mahrer consequently suggested encouraging the foundation of start-ups and thus enabling the transfer of knowledge. In this context, cooperation may act as a significant tool.

Moreover, Mahrer argued that the culture of error management established in Austria has to change: errors should be acknowledged because we all learn by making mistakes. Entrepreneurs certainly run the risk of failure; yet they are the driving forces of our economy and therefore depend on increased support. Finally, the State Secretary of Science, Research and Economy remarked that measures must be taken to realize unused potential for innovation. By proactively pursuing an open innovation strategy and attempting to involve all levels of population in the process of innovation, Austria is already on its way to becoming a future pioneer.

The event was moderated by Professor Johann Füller of the Department for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Innsbruck and Professor Bernd Ebersberger, Head of the Department of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at MCI. The lecture culminated in a lively discussion between Mahrer and the numerous members of the audience.