Under the name “AI Mission Austria”, a new initiative by aws, FFG and FWF promotes the development of AI as a key technology from research to implementation. The funding is provided by the Austrian Future Fund. The FWF has a funding volume of EUR 1.9 million available for this purpose, and initial submissions will be possible in several programs from November 3, 2022. 

As a new key technology, artificial intelligence (AI) has enormous potential to significantly advance the economy and society. The AI industry is expected to grow by up to 40 percent by 2027. 

In order to leverage this potential and create added value for Austria as a business and research location, the three agencies aws, FFG and FWF have launched a joint funding initiative entitled “AI Mission Austria (AIM AT)”. Comprehensive funding for basic research, applied research and entrepreneurial implementation will contribute to the development of a sustainable ecosystem around the key technology Artificial Intelligence. The funding is implemented with resources from the Austrian Future Fund. A total of EUR 12 million has been approved by Fonds Zukunft Österreich this year. 

“Artificial Intelligence as an important area of advancing digitalization contributes to strengthening our economy. If we succeed in exploiting the opportunities of digital transformation and successfully establishing them in our companies, we will also be able to position ourselves sustainably in international competition. Funding that includes the entire development cycle of the innovation is particularly important in this regard and ensures that the impetus also reaches the economy,” says Martin Kocher, Federal Minister of Labor and Economic Affairs. 

“The Austrian research and innovation landscape has decades of expertise in the field of artificial intelligence. By supporting and promoting outstanding research projects and implementing them in Austrian companies, a large number of climate protection innovations have already been implemented. With the new funding initiative, many more innovations are to follow,” says Climate Protection Minister Leonore Gewessler.

“Austria is highly attractive as a research location. Our scientists make a central contribution to this. In order to be appropriately prepared for the key technologies of the future, we are pleased to be able to build up expertise in the field of AI with the new funding initiative. With an endowed professorship and with the further training of our experts, we can provide an important impetus here,” says Martin Polaschek, Federal Minister of Education, Science and Research. 

“Digital transformation is taking place worldwide and will determine our competitiveness. Digital transformation is providing the necessary impetus for growth and prosperity in our country and throughout Europe. Artificial intelligence has emerged as one of the key technologies in this context in recent years and can bring a variety of positive effects, such as efficiency increases, improved workflows or in-depth data analyses. This is where we have to continue and take advantage of the opportunities of digitization in order to be among the digital transformation winners at the end of the day!” says Florian Tursky, State Secretary for Digitization. 

Details on the Individual Modules

The “AI Mission Austria” funding initiative forms a common umbrella under which the modules “AI Basic Research” (FWF), “Application-oriented AI Research” (FFG) and “AI Enterprise & Growth” (aws) are implemented.

Basic AI Research

For researchers in the field of university and non-university basic research, the Austrian Science Fund FWF is opening up four programs at once as part of the “AI Mission Austria” funding initiative: the 1000 Ideas Program, individual project funding, the ESPRIT career program and the artistic and scientific PEEK program. This makes it possible to advance scientific progress in the field of artificial intelligence in a broad range of disciplines and directions, from computer science, engineering and biomedical projects to research in the social sciences, cultural studies and the humanities, as well as artistic and scientific research. The FWF has a total funding volume of €1.9 million available, and the first submissions will be possible from November 3, 2022. 

Application-Oriented AI Research

In the area of application-oriented AI research, there will be two FFG calls for proposals. The start will take place this year with the call for proposals for a lead project in the amount of EUR 2.5 million, which will strengthen AI technologies in the areas of “Explainable Al”, “Trustworthy Al”, “Edge Al” and the generation of synthetic data. The goal of the lead project is cooperation between AI sub-disciplines to reach critical mass together.

Next year, this will be followed by the announcement of an endowed professorship on the topic of “Edge AI” with special consideration of economic potentials in Austria. The endowed professorship is endowed with EUR 1.5 million.

AI Enterprise & Growth

Within the framework of the “AI Enterprise & Growth” call, start-ups, SMEs and large companies are supported in their AI projects. Here, the type of funding is based on the respective development stage and the technology know-how of the company. 

With “AI Start”, the initial implementation of a project based on artificial intelligence is supported with up to EUR 15,000. AI Adaption" provides special funding for outstanding projects with a focus on trustworthiness, explainability, edge AI, synthetic data and data spaces. Here, up to EUR 160,000 is available for companies. In the “AI Knowledge” module, funding of up to EUR 30,000 is available for, among other things, the development of an AI data strategy, an AI IP strategy or the transfer of know-how on the upcoming AI regulation. 

Fonds Zukunft Österreich has made a total of EUR 6 million available for funding in the area of “AI Enterprise & Growth”. In 2023 and 2024, one call will be made in each of the AI Startup and AI Adoption modules.