© Boehringer Ingelheim, Dieter Quant
American biotech, pharmaceutical, and life sciences companies face myriad challenges today. Organizations are struggling with a shortage of skilled workers, rising costs, supply chain disruptions, and data security. Other difficulties include a growing scrutiny of regulations and sustainability. And the pressure is always mounting to drive growth and international expansion, develop domestic manufacturing and research capacities abroad, and improve access to new drugs and technologies.
For a life sciences company, global expansion can be particularly daunting, given the costs and time involved in navigating procedures and regulations that vary from one market to the next.
There are no simple, one-stop-shop solutions for the U.S. life sciences industry, if only because of its size: annual pharmaceutical revenue alone is estimated at well above half a trillion dollars. However, more and more organizations that focus on international expansion and research are locating operations in Austria, an emerging life-sciences hub that offers the sector substantial bottom-line benefits, extensive funding, and comprehensive support.
Some 900 biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical technology companies operate in Austria, including such established U.S.-based multinationals as Merck, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, GE Healthcare, Amgen, Biogen, Gilead Sciences, and Medtronic, as well as startups and scaleups including Apeiron Biologics and ViraTherapeutics. All benefit from Austria’s comprehensive ecosystem, from basic research to production and distribution.
One example is MSD, a Merck & Co. company, which in 2020 acquired Themis, a Vienna-based startup that specializes in vaccines and immunomodulation therapies for infectious diseases and cancer. MSD Animal Health Danube Biotech invested about €30 million (US$31.5 million) in Austria in cutting-edge technologies for veterinary medicine, with €150 million (US$157.5 million) more planned.
Another is Pfizer, which relies on the attractive environment Austria offers for pharmaceutical production and long-term partnerships with local medical institutions, universities, and stakeholders in the nation’s healthcare sector, producing around 14.5 million vaccine doses per year at its Austrian production site for global export.
And the Americans are not alone. Novartis Group of Switzerland recently invested €900 million (US$945 million) in a new production facility for biopharmaceuticals. And German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim is building a climate-neutral green factory in Austria: the largest investment in the company’s history.
Many companies in Austria, such as BASF, ZETA, Bilfinger, and VTU, provide basic technologies for the entire value chain in production processes. These technologies include the production of plasma, special enzymes, and other biological substrates, and stem-cell products for repairing bones, cartilage, and muscle tissue, alongside good manufacturing practice (GMP) expertise for developing pharmaceutical plants. The close collaboration among universities, research centers, and industry and Austria’s pool of highly educated, experienced scientists, experts, and technicians ensure these organizations can produce the highest quality products and services.
Funding and Talent Opportunities
As a hub for the sciences, Austria provides comprehensive, unbureaucratic support on financing, searches for top talent, identifying and acquiring optimal operation sites, gaining required approvals, and networking with potential partners. As a small nation, Austria’s governmental organizations coordinate efficiently, using streamlined online registration, tax, staffing, social, insurance, environmental, and many other types of procedures to help companies set up efficiently.
Organizations thinking about locating in Austria can tap into extensive direct and indirect funding. In 2021, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency FFG granted life-sciences organizations subsidies, loans, credits, and guarantees of €1.6 billion (US$1.7 billion) for research. Austria’s unique 14% research tax credit covers the costs of additional in-house and contract research.
Austria features a research ratio of 3.26% in 2022, making it one of the most research-intensive nations in the world, and is considered to be a “strong innovator” on the European Union’s Innovation Scorecard, outperforming the EU average. In an innovation-friendly country of 8 million, 25,000 life-sciences researchers work in the private sector and at 55 research facilities primarily devoted to life sciences, as well as in public-private partnerships (PPP) models such as COMET and Christian Doppler laboratories, complemented by numerous life-sciences clusters.
Given Austria’s acclaimed dual educational system, combining theoretical and practical training, life-sciences organizations have little trouble recruiting highly qualified and motivated employees. Today, 77,000 students are enrolled in Austria’s university life-sciences study programs: an enormous next-gen talent pool.
Austria’s medical universities have produced countless renowned researchers and such Nobel Prize winners as Karl Landsteiner, Konrad Lorenz, and Anton Zeilinger. Its location in the heart of Europe is prime for access to clinical studies across the continent, including at Vienna General Hospital, the fourth-largest in Europe.
And even with a top-notch infrastructure and a quality of life ranked among the highest in the world, Austria’s labor costs are often lower than those in the U.S.
Welcome to Austria
The Austrian Business Agency (ABA), the national business location company, the first point of contact for incoming investors, has helped attract some €14 billion (US$14.8 billion) in foreign direct investment.
The ABA supports organizations with customized services at no cost on all issues relating to location, setting up operations, and searching for skilled employees by linking companies to research institutes, funding institutions and other key players, assisting in finding laboratory space, and providing information that can help ensure your successful start in Austria.
Learn more about getting started in Austria and how it can benefit your bottom line.