The Upper Austrian business location agency Business Upper Austria hosted an interregional study visit at the beginning of May for the preparation of the Regional Action Plans. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the FOUNDATION workshops and seminars were held online and therefore the on-site visit was not possible. A delegation from Ireland took the chance to visit some of our Upper Austrian good practices that are central to the Irish Action Plan developed by MTU in collaboration with local stakeholders. The Irish delegation was made up of two representatives from the lead partner, John Hobbs, and Yvonne O’Byrne from Munster Technological University. They were joined by their regional stakeholders Eleanor Doyle from University College Cork, Paul Sutton from Cork County Council and Cormac Macdonnell from Sport Ireland.

On 10th of May the interregional visit started with a visit to the Good Practice Software Park Hagenberg. Stefanie Kritzinger, RISC Software GmbH gave a general presentation on the Hagenberg Softwarepark and RISC Software GmbH and explained the special nature of the interplay between research, economy and business. Followed by a presentation from Robert Kolmhofer, University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria on the perspective from the university’s point of view as well as from the entrepreneurial point of view in Hagenberg. Professor Eleanor Doyle who works in the area of competitiveness research in University College Cork, believes that Ireland could take inspiration from Software Park Hagenberg and how the triple helix is blended to collaborate on campus, and how extensions to same have been planned and implemented carefully to maximise impact for the students, industry and research which is located on campus.

At Business Upper Austria in Linz, Christian Altmann presented on Clusters and Clustering Policy and why Upper Austria is playing a pioneering role. Cormac MacDonnell was extremely impressed by the cohesiveness of Business Upper Austria’s cluster policy and programme which has been running for over 20 years. He believes “it’s clear that Ireland has a lot to learn from Upper Austria on how Clusters can be set up, networked, resourced and managed either regionally or nationally for them to be effective and have impact.” Dr Yvonne O’Byrne MTU, who works as cluster manager with STEM SW suggests the “collaboration between the clustering organisations in Upper Austria – where all the managers work together in the same building allows for synergistic opportunities and the development of trust which could potentially take much longer if they are even realised in the longer term. That centralised support from Business Upper Austria is essential in these endeavours.”

In the afternoon there was a discussion on the progress of the Regional Action Plans and how the two regions Upper Austria and the South West of Ireland could benefit from each other. Dr John Hobbs MTU found this exchange to be very informative, as he was able to probe deeper into regentrification including retrofit/design and repurposing of facilities to promote innovative collaboration in Austria. Real examples of Software Park Hagenberg and Tabakfabrik Linz layout and design, plus further detail on the types of events they host and run to connect tenants were extremely relevant in this regard. This information and knowledge sharing can help to solve the driving need for space for remote working in Ireland a knock-on impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.

On the second day, 11th of May, the delegation visited the Good Practice Tabakfabrik Linz. Marlene Penn from Tabakfabrik Linz told about the history of the Tabakfabrik Linz as well as the dynamic development from a factory to a flourishing hotspot of creativity and guided through the building to visit the different stations of the creative hub. Professor Eleanor Doyle was enthused to learn about the “plan and piece by piece implementation of conversion (to various economic uses) of Tabakfabrik Linz. This was interesting particularly as the project has been running since 2009 and only recently has seen full capacity of resident companies, modules and repurposing have been strategically planned and this is evident in the success.”

In the afternoon Klaus Oberreiter presented on Upper Austria’s #upperVISION2030 business and research strategy and the indicators for measuring a region’s resilience. Paul Sutton, Cork County Council was impressed with the approach taken by Business Upper Austria through “identifying and building on the key competitive advantages the region already has rather than trying to chase down every new area of economic activity and enterprise for which other regions may have better inherent or already developed advantages.”

For further information on the ecosystem in Upper Austria, please reach out to Foundation project manager Stefanie Jindrak [email protected].