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09.05.2012

Bank Austria establishes investment package for innovative SMEs focused on planning and advisory

  • Europe needs investments: EU employment package indicates potential for 27 million new jobs in innovative sectors by 2020
  • SMEs account for 66 per cent of overall employment in Austria and have created 44,000 new jobs over the last four years
  • The Bank Austria SME Study 2011 identified planning deficiencies among SMEs, and the new study on the topic of "innovation" expands on these findings:
    o 52 per cent of Austrian SMEs have no written business plan, so planning is the order of the day for SMEs
    o Innovation is the decisive opportunity of the future for SMEs; Austria's SMEs are among the innovation leaders in Europe – 55 per cent are active in the field of innovation
    o Innovation-savvy companies are more successful in the export sector and thus secure and create jobs
  • Bank Austria expands advisory for innovative SMEs with a focus on the following:
    o Planning with custom tools such as the Bank Austria BusinessPlanner
    o Intensive funding advisory, Bank Austria serves as an intermediary for the important funding agencies
    o Advisory focus on company succession planning: 57,300 companies with over 500,000 jobs are set to change ownership by 2020
    o Freelancers: 40 new competence centres for freelancers to be established
  • Bank Austria SME Investment Package: Every investment loan totalling EUR 100,000 or more includes the Bank Austria BusinessPlanner with an entire day of training at no extra cost

"All over Europe, we have to not only save, but also make targeted reforms and investments," stressed Willibald Cernko, CEO of Bank Austria, adding, "The potential for 27 million jobs by 2020 in the fields of 'green jobs' and 'healthcare' alone along with continuously rising demand for experts in the field of 'information and communication technologies' represent a clear mandate to invest first and foremost in innovation. Therefore, following our extensive SME Study 2011, we conducted a separate study on the topic of 'innovation'. The findings show that, overall, companies which invest in innovations are more successful in business, have better export opportunities and create more jobs. Over the last four years, small and medium-sized enterprises have accounted for 66 per cent of overall employment and over 44,000 new jobs. We therefore offer SMEs programmes aimed at boosting their competitiveness: We support them with tailored financing solutions and in the improvement of their planning competence. Intensive funding advisory gives innovative companies better access to funding. In addition, we are actively addressing a structural problem: By offering an advisory and planning focus for the more than 57,000 companies which are set to change ownership by 2020 and which employ half a million people, we are contributing to securing the economic strength these companies represent."

And Rainer Hauser, the Management Board member responsible for Family & SME Banking, explained: "We offer SMEs our BusinessPlanner planning tool, including an entire day of training conducted by the Bank's experts, at no extra cost when they take out a new investment loan totalling EUR 100,000 or more. Innovative companies have excellent prospects for rapid growth and therefore an increased need for capital. We offer support for short-term liquidity bottlenecks and long-term investment loans. However, rapid growth in combination with innovative strength also entails high risk, especially because small companies often lack assets to serve as a 'buffer'. Therefore, careful, long-term business planning is, even more so than for other companies, a matter of survival for innovative SMEs – we offer support directly at the companies with specially developed planning software that has been successfully used by numerous large corporations."

The Bank Austria Innovation Study for SMEs
The study was conducted by Stefan Bruckbauer, Bank Austria's chief economist, in cooperation with Agnes Streissler Wirtschaftspolitische Projektberatung. Roughly 55 per cent of all SMEs in Austria are active in the field of innovation. Austria's SMEs are more innovative than the European average and are thus among the innovation leaders in Europe. Innovation and prosperity go hand in hand: A higher proportion of innovative companies means higher incomes.

Growth effects in Austria
Innovation and especially technological advancement lead to higher productivity and thus pave the way for economic growth. According to the Austrian Institute of Economic Research (WIFO), technical progress has been responsible for at least one-third, and based on a further definition, for two-thirds of economic growth in the last two decades.

Innovation strategies for small and medium-sized enterprises
Austrian companies are particularly innovative compared to the EU average. Nearly 40 per cent of the SMEs in Austria employ product or process innovations. One particularly noteworthy aspect is the especially high percentage of training facilities in Austria, which comes in at 81 per cent: Highly qualified workers are thus one of the main factors behind the strong performance of Austria's SMEs.

Cooperation through the formation of clusters
There currently around 50 cluster initiatives in Austria in which roughly 3,500 companies with about 420,000 employees are involved. These cluster initiatives are focused on Austria's leading economic and technological fields, such as mobility, materials, mechatronics, information and communications technology, life science and environmental and energy technologies. The clusters are important regional networks, especially for SMEs, and provide support with measures aimed at boosting innovative strength and competitiveness. Examples include the Cluster Life Science Tirol and Austrian Cooperative Research (ACR).

Research and development
According to Statistics Austria, nearly 100,000 people work in the field of research and development in Austria. More than half of these 100,000 jobs are in the corporate sector, and roughly 45 per cent of those jobs are at companies with less than 250 employees. The high share of research, development and innovation that is financed by companies highlights how important it is to offer companies the optimal framework conditions for their research and innovation activities.

Innovative companies are more successful in the export sector
There is a clear relationship between innovation and exports: Innovative companies also have much better export opportunities.

Sound planning is the order of the day
Innovation requires planning. And Bank Austria's studies identified increased demand in precisely this area. Bank Austria offers companies qualified support when it comes to planning. The Bank Austria BusinessPlanner is a computer-based planning tool that allows companies to prepare a business plan that is completely ready to implement. Numerous large corporations have adopted the BusinessPlanner as part of their daily operations and are using the planning software with great success. The key here is the extensive advisory and training provided by Bank Austria's experts.

Bank Austria has a special offer as part of the SME Investment Package: Every new investment loan totalling EUR 100,000 or more includes the Bank Austria BusinessPlanner with an entire day of training at no extra cost. SmartPlanner, a simplified version of BusinessPlanner, was specially developed for small companies. This program is provided to small companies, start-ups and freelancers free of charge.

Company succession planning
Company succession planning plays a very important role in Austria. This will affect roughly 57,300 companies with a total of 501,000 employees between now and 2020. However, the succession process usually occurs without any targeted preparatory planning. According to data collected by KMU Forschung Austria, 72 per cent of SMEs do not have a succession plan in place. In particular, there is a lack of medium-term strategic consideration with regard to the continuation and securing of companies' competitiveness.

Bank Austria is launching a planning and advisory focus for this issue and will support these companies with targeted advisory and the tailored application of its planning tools in order to find the optimal solution for each company.

Funding advisory for small and medium-sized enterprises
Access to funding is absolutely essential when it comes to innovation and research and development. Bank Austria actively supports its customers in obtaining funding. Bank Austria provides intensive advisory even in the planning phase and cooperates closely with the most important funding agencies. The advisors act as relationship managers and establish contact to the funding agencies. "In contrast to the overall trend, the volume of subsidised loans that were brokered by Bank Austria increased by 30 per cent to EUR 185 million in 2011," said Rainer Hauser. "We also offer free funding advice in all of the provinces with the SME Info Days and SME Info Talks."

Number one in export financing
Bank Austria offers a broad network in 22 countries and provides active assistance for financing projects. "We are the undisputed market leader in export financing, with a market share of roughly 50 per cent," emphasised Rainer Hauser, adding "We support our customers with tailored export financing packages as they expand their business into new markets. In-depth market knowledge, foreign trade specialists in all regions and specialised expertise for the potential target country guarantees financial solutions that are tailored to the customer's individual needs."

40 new competence centres for freelancers
In addition, Bank Austria is expanding its offerings for freelancers – after increasing the number of SME specialist branches from 20 to 60 locations throughout Austria last year, the Bank is establishing 40 new competence centres for freelancers in all of the provinces. These competence centres will be part of the SME branches. The advisory focus is on quality, and the Bank invests in innovation and performance quality on an ongoing basis. The advisors serve as relationship managers and act as contacts and intermediaries to all of the important specialists (e.g. for funding, treasury, company pension schemes).

According to Bank Austria Management Board Member Rainer Hauser "Although the pace of economic development in Europe is drifting further and further apart, even among the core countries of the EU, we must take responsibility for Austria in order to secure our place among the winners in Europe's competitive environment: Bank Austria bolsters Austria's economy by providing special support for innovative SMEs – from excellent advisory services in the start-up phase to modern, flexible financing solutions including funding all the way to business planning and succession planning."

Enquiries: Bank Austria Press Office Austria
 Matthias Raftl, Tel. +43 (0) 50505 - 52809
  E-mail: matthias.raftl@unicreditgroup.at

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