WKO President Maher: “Look at Technologies as a Business Opportunity!”

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This year they traveled to Alpbach with “Tech Radar” in their luggage, an online tool that showcases opportunities until 2035.
Harold Maher:
I first came across the project when I was Secretary of State in the mid-20th century through a Brazilian think-tank. At that time, there was a poster with more than 80 futuristic technologies. During the pandemic, we asked Brazilians if they wanted to not only update the radar with us, but also make it available digitally and globally. He said and did. We have been collaborating for years and collaborating with many international research institutes from MIT to Stanford and Kings College to the Weizmann Institute. Experts from these Austrian research institutes and institutions subsequently identified 105 technologies that could, but need not, have a lasting impact on society and the economy. Many of these will affect Austria, some sooner, some later, some more, some less.

The radar is also intended as a guide for WKO members. What sectors should benefit from this and how?
Our idea was not to present a technological encyclopedia, but rather a tool that articulates future perspectives. Since it is an interactive digital tool, it is best to bookmark it in your browser. Companies that can’t afford the internal strategy department in particular will benefit. Using radar, they can think about the potential uses and impacts of new technologies in their industry.


See new technologies as less of a threat and much more as a business opportunity!


In which of the five study areas will Austrian companies score the highest?
We have worked with Radar on several small groups since the beginning of the year. Six months later, we found that not only younger companies from the digital economy are using it, but also from commerce and industry. You will not believe what exciting and innovative projects and companies there are in Austria in the fields of technology on offer. For example, many ideas for future nutrition from the university environment of natural resources and life sciences. When it comes to sustainable energy production technologies, Austria is one of the leaders in the global market, not to mention the medical sector. Our highly innovative biomedical companies are now seeking worldwide approval. 3D printed bone and tissue are no longer a fantasy. In tourism too, we have long had a smart integrated circular economy approach to lodging, transportation and restaurants. We call all these innovators the Friends of the Future network, who see new technologies as less of a threat and much more as a business opportunity. Digitization makes it easy for all participants to communicate with each other.


Innovation Map

WKO 105’s interactive innovation map displays future markets and current information about them. Embark on a journey of discovery!


Click here or on the image above to go to WKO’s INNOVATION MAP


Technologies are driving a paradigm shift: What helps us most in the current crisis situation? Artificial intelligence is kind of the master key to many things, isn’t it?
Certainly the main technology, no doubt. This will keep us busy for many years to come. Machines are still far from being able to do what inventors wanted. Many data lakes are not yet connected to each other. Anyway, in addition to artificial intelligence, I think biomedicine has great potential. Covid has given life sciences more priority, and here in Europe and especially in Austria we have good conditions and we have a lot of potential that we can use. It is a positive topic for healing diseases and extending human life or reducing pain. This area also offers very good business opportunities.


Spending one euro on research and development increases GDP by six euros.


In what areas of research should politicians save more money? Share search isn’t bad per se.
As a former science minister, you wouldn’t be surprised if I said you could never spend enough money on this because it comes back in so many forms.

Money being called up from everywhere in the current crisis situation…
It always pays off. Spending one euro on research and development increases GDP by six euros. When it comes to search bonus for large companies, we are well positioned internationally in Austria. You will have to top up the medium and small businesses. Also when it comes to the exploitation of knowledge: there are very few spin-offs from universities. Companies and research can be better connected, then the output is higher. A good example of this is the topic of quantum computing. Several startups have popped up across the University of Innsbruck, which also collaborates with Quantum Valley in Munich, among others. Such projects work across borders only if they are meant to be scaled up. We simply have to see where we as Austria can put our scent marks. We are leaders in industrial process technology, such as robotics.


A prediction tool designed to show it all.


The smell of metal odor marks…
Yes, but also after wood. Together with the Swedes, we are pioneers in innovative wood processing. There are delegations from Japan coming to see it.

What are the bridge functions performed by foreign trade with respect to radar?
Foreign Trade is like Scouting in this Guidance System. Our field offices help update the radar. They present our operations with offshore opportunities for technology-based businesses. What do tenders look like in the post-Covid era? How can Asian markets such as India or South Korea be better managed?

What are your personal favorites among the 105 technologies?
There are many exciting approaches, but the ideas of medical technology impress me the most. Of course, there are also technologies that can and should be discussed controversially, such as the social credit system from China.

Should ethical debates revolve around this as well?
Naturally. This is not a fair weather tool, this is a forecasting tool designed to show it all. Experts list the techniques neutrally according to the possibility and degree of implementation. Everyone has to make his own image.


The interview is the direction. PREMIUM version taken on August 26, 2022.

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