Interview with Gerhard Hirczi Managing Director of Invest in Vienna
For more than 30 years, Vienna Business Agency has actively supported the development of Vienna as a business location. As the first contact point for national and international companies, it offers financial support, real estate and consulting. Its goal is to strengthen Viennese companies and their innovative activities as well as the sustainable modernisation of Vienna as a business location in order to expand its international competitiveness. It supports Viennese businesses whose company investments can be financed by the City of Vienna. Its programs, by way of grants, are mainly targeted at small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as start-ups.
1.Vienna has a reputation for imperial grandeur, arts and culture, but what makes it a good place as a business location?
The things we call traditional today were once called innovative and new. Vienna, in particular, creates innovation out of tradition – Art Nouveau, a great musical tradition, psychoanalysis, the renowned Vienna School of Medicine. Vienna’s great musical tradition put it on the global map, but innovation makes Vienna unique. This is the Viennese way of doing things. Vienna is one of the top ICT locations in Europe, powered by a high level of innovation. Life sciences, one of Vienna’s main industries, is at the forefront of this innovation: a drug developed in Vienna was recently used in Frankfurt to treat patients infected with Ebola. Vienna stands for elaborate research and development and a highly educated and experienced work force. It has an excellent infrastructure: top-class motorways, railways, public transport, the Danube waterway and the VIX, a cutting-edge Internet Exchange Point. Vienna is unique.
2.What role does the Vienna Business Agency play in helping companies to operate in Vienna and supporting the local business sector generally?
Vienna Business Agency supports companies with funding programmes, real estate solutions and services. Companies – from multinationals to local start-ups – are supported by our colleagues in almost every type of entrepreneurial challenge. We offer our services free of charge in 15 different languages.
3.Can you give us a few examples of the sort of companies that are choosing to invest in Vienna? Where do these companies come from?
More than 10,000 international companies are registered in Vienna, of which approximately 200 have their regional headquarters here. The largest foreign presence has traditionally been German companies, but the US, Italy and Switzerland are well represented. Over the last 20 years, investors from Central and Eastern Europe – especially Russia, Turkey and Hungary – have gained in importance. In total, companies from over 100 different countries have invested in Vienna. Important sectors are retail, finance and professional services, and of course the life sciences and ICT industries. In 2014, Vienna Business Agency supported German company e-shelter with its €140 million investment in a world-class data-center, to be opened in Vienna in mid-June 2015. Furthermore, Vienna is now a location for international start-ups, especially from Central and Eastern Europe. Examples include Green Vision, which has developed a plastic sheet for tablets that can display Braille letters. This innovation makes mobile devices accessible to visually impaired people.
"The strongest growth in recent years has been seen in the field of b2b services: legal, accounting, engineering, and ICT services for industry and companies."
4.Commerce and industry form the base of Vienna's economy, but what sectors in particular show prospects for growth and innovation?
The strongest growth in recent years has been seen in the field of b2b services: legal, accounting, engineering, and ICT services for industry and companies. Another “urban” sector that relies on the city’s dense networks of people, institutions and ideas is the creative industry, which has seen high growth rates. Companies in this sector are currently in the process of intensifying their connections with traditional industries – a process that is being supported by the creative unit of the Vienna Business Agency. One of the strengths of the city is the life sciences industry: 600 companies are located in Vienna, and the number of companies emerging from the medical technology, biotechnology and the pharmaceutical industry has tripled since the turn of the millennium.
5.How do you see Vienna developing from a business standpoint over the next decade?
We expect ongoing vibrant development in a very challenging economic and political context. Vienna is already the 7th biggest city in the EU and continues to grow rapidly – we are heading toward breaking the 2 million inhabitants barrier over the next decade. The process of internationalisation – in terms of both population and economy – is also continuing and will shape things to come. More than ever, international connections will determine whether Vienna will continue to be the successful place it is now. Coming from a history of openness and embeddedness in global networks, we are confident that Vienna will continue to excel.