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Upper Austria - a region with future

Dr. Josef Pühringer, Governor of Upper Austria, Member of the Committee of the Regions

Dr. Josef Pühringer
Governor of Upper Austria
Member of the Committee of the Regions

Due to the reunification of our continent within the framework of the European Union, Upper Austria was moved back from the edge to the heart of Europe. Our Land will use its favourable geographical position to be a strong partner for other European regions.

The Danube area, which also includes Upper Austria, has always been a connecting link at the crossroad between the East and the West as well as between the North and the South through out history. That is why we see ourselves nowadays as a dialogue partner and a connector in the "Europe of 25".

Especially our economy understood to use those links and connections to the European partner countries and regions. With around 17 per cent of the national population, Upper Austria provides 26 per cent of total national exports. The fact that export is not only representing our economical strength, but it also leads Upper Austria to the stage of the lowest unemployment rate within the Austrian regions.

We particularly emphasize the energy sector. More than 30 per cent of the total primary energy consumption are produced from renewable energy sources. Upper Austria is on the way of realising the Kyoto targets and we are doing everything to achieve sustainability in all areas of our environmental and energy politics. A situation evidenced by the fact that Linz, the capital city, is one of the cleanest industrial cities in Europe.

Upper Austria is also very proud of its culture, which links the traditional to the contemporary. The Ars Electronica and the Brucknerfest are the main cultural events in this context. These diverse and ambitious cultural activities in our Land are also honoured by being nominated as "European capital of culture 2009".

Key data Upper Austria


Area: 11,981
14.3 per cent of national territory, fourth largest federal region
Most important rivers: Danube, Inn, Enns, Traun, Steyr
Largest lake: Attersee - 45.9
Highest mountain: Dachstein - 2,995 m


1.377 million inhabitants
17 per cent of the Austrian population, third populous federal region
115 persons /
543,500 households with an average of 2.5 persons


Roman Catholic: 79.4 per cent
Protestant: 4.4 per cent
Islamic: 4.0 per cent
Without confession: 8.8 per cent
Others: 3.3 per cent


Since 2000 Upper Austria has the lowest unemployment rate of all Austrian regions, constantly below 5 per cent, and an employment rate of 72 per cent.
Since the end of the 90's Upper Austria shows growth rates significantly above national level each year.

  • Parliament with 56 members
  • Government with a total of 9 members under the presidency of the Minister-president
  • 3 statutory cities (Linz, Wels, Steyr)
  • 15 districts, 444 municipalities
  • Johannes Kepler University, Linz (social and economic sciences, technical and natural sciences, law)
  • Catholic-Theological private university, Linz
  • Anton Bruckner private university for music, drama and dance, Linz
  • University of Art and Industrial Design, Linz
  • Polytechnic Linz with core competence "health and social issues"
  • Polytechnic Wels with core competence "technics and economics"
  • Polytechnic Steyr with core competence "management and leadership"
  • Polytechnic Hagenberg with core competence "IT and media"

Approximately 21.7 billion Euros per year, around 66 per cent of that into the EU-15 and more than 18 per cent to the new EU-Member States and the rest of Europe.
The share of total Austrian exports is about 26 per cent.

EU regional policy in Upper Austria

Upper Austria actively takes part in the EU Structural Funds Policy. Beyond that, quite a number of economical and thematic partnerships exist with different European Regions and multi-regional co-operations, from Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Italian Regions and Central Eastern Countries to Canada, South Africa and China.

In May 2007 the European Commission approved the regional development programme for Upper Austria for the period 2007-2013. The total budget of the Operational Programme “Regional Competitiveness in Upper Austria 2007-2013” is around EUR 191 million and the EU assistance through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) amounts to EUR 95.5 million. For this period, all areas of Upper Austria are eligible for funding. The principal objectives of the programme are: establishment of innovative and knowledge-base oriented economy and increasing attractiveness of all regions of Upper Austria. The expected impact lies in (will be) the creation of 670 new jobs, out of which 485 in the research & development sector, and the total investment of approximately EUR 592 million. In addition, Upper Austria contributes to the European Territorial Co-operation programmes (INTERREG) Austria – Czech Republic and Austria – Germany/Bavaria (cross-border co-operation), Alpine Space, Central Europe and South East Europe (transnational) and the interregional co-operation programme.


Upper Austria is a state in the heart of Europe with open-minded inhabitants and a very export oriented economy. Therefore, the relationships to other countries and regions all around the world are of special importance to Upper Austria. The active participation within the European Union, the close cooperation with neighbouring and partner regions, and the collaboration in interregional networks and working communities constitute focal points of the state's international relations.

Bilateral cooperation is maintained and enhanced with the neighbours Bavaria and South Bohemia, and as well as with regions such as Baden-Württemberg, South Tyrol, Alsace, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, and Heves, and with countries such as Croatia and Israel/Palestine. Within the framework of the European Union, Upper Austria also focuses on an intensive economic cooperation with the member states and candidates from the East and Southeast of Europe.

Worldwide multi-regional cooperation with Bavaria (FRG), Georgia (USA), Québec (CAN), São Paulo (BR), Shandong, (PR China) and the province Western Cape (SA), thus with the particularly outstanding innovative and economically dynamic regions, represents a further key component of the Upper Austrian external relations. Many common projects in various fields have been successfully realized, and the collaboration and partnership will be enhanced and deepened in the future.

Another main emphasis is given to thematic partnerships, for example the network of GMcrop-free Regions of Europe and the CO2 Alliance (both of which Upper Austria co-initiated), the climatic alliance, and the border regions initiative. Building networks on themes of common priorities with other regions from all around the world has turned out to be a way for the regions to jointly make a difference in world politics and also to pursue Upper Austrian interests.

That is also true for the membership of the state of Upper Austria in the Committee of the Regions, in the Council of Europe, in the Assembly of European Regions, the Working Community of the Danube Regions, the Working Community of the Alps-Adria Regions, etc. Upper Austria's active participation in these organisations enforces the institutional integration of its interests and secures the concrete implementation of its strategic orientations.

Upper Austria - in the heart of Europe

Map of Upper Austria with main routes, cities and sites

Map of Upper Austria with main routes, cities and sites (Diagram: DORIS)

Culture in Upper Austria between regional identity and international competition

Cross-border cultural co-operations, e.g. the "Landesausstellung 2004", the "Stifterjahr 2005" and the nomination of Linz as the European capital of culture 2009 proof the broad orientation of Upper Austria beyond the Region.

In a political and economical united Europe, the culture of regions support and promote regional identity. At the same time, today´s arts are connected through new media world-wide and seems to be interchangeable in many cases. As an example for international relevant art performance, the "Prix Ars Electronica" has drawn the attention of the international arts community to Upper Austria and especially to Linz. The topics addressed by the Ars Electronica festival have stepped beyond the narrow boundaries of arts and focus on specific aspects of the civil society with international interest, in the language of the arts.

One of the primary goals of cultural policy in Upper Austria is to foster and promote creativity and tolerance of each individual, just because in a society of change. Cultural policy operates beyond the daily political issues by combining activities and measures which support integration and not polarisation in society. Exceeding the boundaries between culture and education manifests itself in the expansion of the "Landesmusikschulwerk" - a network of music schools and music educational facilities with 56,000 students and a staff of 1,500 teachers. Since over 30 years, the successful accomplished Exhibitions of the Region ("Landesausstellungen") reached millions of visitors. The Landesausstellung 2004 "grenzenlos. Geschichte der Menschen am Inn" was carried out together with the city and the district of Passau. Upper Austria proved by doing this, how a successful cross-border co-operation can function within the range of European culture.

2010 the "Landesausstellung" will take place with the topics "renaissance and reformation" at the castle of Parz in Grieskirchen.

Culture has also become an important economic factor in Upper Austria. Around 150 million Euros are spent by the Upper Austrian people for "cultural consumption" each year, but culture is also an essential part of our self-understanding.

Cultural activities should be strengthened especially within a regional context to provide a positive perspective in dealing with uniformity and loss of individuality. The "Festival of the Regions" and many impulses of contemporary culture are making concrete contributions into the right direction, connecting tradition with modern art.

The engagement of the international renowned conductor Dennis Russell Davies as head of the Bruckner-Orchestra and the changing of the Bruckner-Konservatory into the Anton Bruckner private university are indicators for the professional competence of our artists. In this sense, we have already exceeded regional boundaries and Upper Austria appears at a successful stage in the worldwide cultural scene. Further impulses will be gained by building a new concert hall. The nomination of Linz as European capital of culture 2009 gives the unique chance to present Linz and Upper Austria as a creative and future-oriented European cultural region.


Using synergy effects between universities, polytechnics and innovative enterprises and a strong network in different clusters offer small and medium-sized enterprises new opportunities in the future.

The basic structure of the Upper Austrian economy is based on a synergy between several large companies and numerous small and medium-sized enterprises (SME´s). During the economical changes of the past decades, this structure has shown itself to be highly effective both in an economic and a social sense. The EU-Membership enforced competition and innovation in Upper Austria. This can also be proved by economic dynamics: In 2008, a total of about 75,000 companies were active in Upper Austria, an increase of 60 per cent compared to 1995.

The economy is based on industry and the processing sector as well as trade and services. Tourism represents an additional source for employment and earner of foreign exchange. 85 per cent of tourist bookings in Upper Austria are in municipalities in rural areas.

With almost a third of the work force, manufacturing (steelmaking, chemicals, mechanical engineering, automotive products, general metalworking, pulp and paper industry, processing of agricultural products) is the dominating factor in the Upper Austrian economy. Thus Upper Austria is the number One industrial region of Austria: over 60 per cent of the regional gross domestic product is gained by the Upper Austrian industry. The entire Upper Austrian industry provides prosperity for approximately 400,000 people.


It is a result of many good ideas and even more work, that Upper Austria - the strongest region in Austria - is cutting such a good figure in the international competition of locations. The key words are cross-linking and networking, e.g. the use of synergies between universities, polytechnics and the innovative enterprises. An important momentum in this mechanism is a blanket coverage by the technology network: In the last few years investments were made to build up technology and competence-centers as well as particularly strong networks of enterprises in several clusters - automotive sector, plastics, furniture and timber construction, mechatronic, health, food and ecoenergy - which create better basic conditions especially for small and medium-sized enterprises and thus open new future chances.


The future of the business location will go along with the development of new high-quality products and services. The new strategic programme "Innovative Upper Austria 2010" will enforce innovation and qualification: by strengthening research and development as well as cooperation in networks.

This package covers 600 million Euros, half of it is foreseen for research and development, and boosts the economic performance for 10,000 new enterprises and 20,000 modern working places.


With the enlargement of the European Union up to 25 Member States, the leading region of Austria in the areas of industry, exports and technology moved from a peripheral location into the heart of Europe. Particularly Upper Austria used the possibilities arising, because over a quarter of the Austrian exports are gained in enlargement countries - especially in the sector of eco-technologies new perspectives are opened because of the enormous catch-up demand in the new Member States.


Nowadays, arranged finances are location advantages. For a long time they were considered as a negligible location factor. In the 1990´s the consciousness continued to increase, that debts impair the quality of business locations. Upper Austria never was higly indebted and oriented itself earlier than others towards a zero-deficit and being free of debts since 2002. Thus the region can invest into the future: into research and development, education, technology and active labour market policy.

Industry location Upper Austria

Key factors in Upper Austria are qualified labour force, well-developed infrastructure, a strong technology network and short and effective administrative permission procedures.

Upper Austria has always been an attractive location for foreign investors (BMW, MAN, SKF, Nestlé etc.). Additional impulses came since the accession of Austria to the European Union. Of special mention is the BMW engine plant in Steyr. Additional investors from Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the USA and other countries have also settled down in Upper Austria - since the accession to the European Union in 1995, there have been 600 business settlements with 15,000 jobs in Upper Austria, of which almost a third is covered by foreign investors.

Incentives in the Austrian tax law - as for instance a taxallowance for research of 25 per cent for all R&D; expenditures and the lowering of the corporation tax from 34 per cent down to 25 per cent - increase the attractivity of Upper Austria as a business location at the gateway to the new European Member States.


The main reasons, why Upper Austria is in a leading position within a strong and competitive international market, are its qualified workers, a well-developed infrastructure, a high-performing and operating technology network and effective administrative permission procedures. In addition, there are specific Upper Austrian advantages deriving from the network of science, industry, existing research-, production- and service institutions, which permit investors to concentrate on their core competencies and to otherwise draw on the reliable resources of companies in the vicinity. Also to stress is the beautiful landscape and countryside and the diverse recovery and leisure possibilities, which increase the value of Upper Austria as a business location. "Working, where others go on holiday" was how once a succesful Upper Austrian manager described the advantages of this beautiful Land.


Environmental-friendly energy resources, e.g. hydro power, biomass, solar energy, wind and geothermal energy are especially funded in Upper Austria.
More than 30 per cent of the total primary energy consumption are produced from renewable energy sources.

Upper Austria and its energy savings federation ("Energiesparverband") are in the lead in Europe in ecological energy and was honoured by the European Commission with the highest European price for renewable energy sources in 2004.

More than 30 per cent of the primary energy consumption in Upper Austria are already today covered by environmental friendly forms of energy such as hydro power, biomass, solar power, wind or geothermal energy - six times more than the European Union´s average.

The basis for this success is the Upper Austrian energy concept "Energy 21". In the mid-90´s the Government introduced this regional energy action plan, determining energy savings and the intensified use of renewable energy sources as an energypolitical guideline. The goal was to expand the use of renewable energy sources from 25 per cent to 30 per cent, reached by appropriate implementation measures.

At the end of 2004, the Upper Austrian Government set the next important step with the energy efficiency strategy "ENERGIE STAR 2010": reduction of specific energy consumption by 1 per cent per year - in the public sector even 1.5 per cent - to reach a substantial contribution to environmental protection, a significant reduction of costs and a reduction of foreign dependence.

Leisure and tourism

Upper Austria - Landscapes for passion

The family-friendly cycling track along the Danube river is the most beloved river cycling path of Europe and shows jewels of the countryside and cultural highlights.

The hospitality of the people, the impressive landscapes and the cultural jewels characterize Upper Austria. More than two million people are spending their holidays in Upper Austria because of its lakes having drinkingwater quality, hot thermals, majestic mountains, a lot of very good-developed cycling and foot paths and the high quantity of sports opportunities and cultural events.

Upper Austria offers an impressive diversity of landscapes: From the fruitful culture landscape of the "Alpenvorland" up to the national park "Kalkalpen". From the mighty "Böhmerwald"in the north over the historical Danube valley up to the brusque "Dachsteinmassiv" in the south. The possibilities to explore Upper Austria are just as diverse as the country itself.

Due to its more than 2,000 kilometers of perfectly signed cycling paths, Upper Austria is a true paradise for those, who like to ride their bikes. Next to the most popular river cycling track of Europe - the family-friendly "Donauradweg" - there are many beautiful landscapes and cultural highlights.

Next to the cycle tracks along the rivers Enns and Inn are beautiful natural resources, while along the "Salzkammergutweg" the most famous Upper Austrian lakes are just lining up like pearls on a string.

The beautiful landscape of Upper Austria is also a pleasant health and wellness-paradise. In the fruitful areas of the "Innviertel" and the "Hausruckviertel" are many hot thermals located, for example the thermal site "Geinberg" and the "Eurotherme Bad Schallerbach". Besides very traditional health resorts - from the imperial village of Bad Ischl to Bad Hall with the strongest iodine spring in Central Europe - many innovative wellness specialists invite you to relax.

Majestic mountains, huge valleys, gentle hills and an intact nature are the ideal ingredients which are needed to have a beautiful, relaxing hiking vacation in Upper Austria. The landscape offers every taste and every altitude - from the forests in the "Böhmerwald" up to the peaks of the "Dachstein" mountain. From the mysterious castles in the "Mühlviertel" passing the historical places at the Danube valley to the nearly unaffected world of the national park "Kalkalpen" - you can go hiking in every corner of our country.

Variety is also on the programme for sports freaks in Upper Austria. Wild river courses and crystal clear lakes provide fun and action on the water. Breathtaking landscapes can be explored either by horse or by playing golf. And at the time the winter spreads its white covers over the country, it´s the ideal season for any kind of winter sports.

It´s the mixture of moving history trendsetting progress which characterizes the cultural image of Upper Austria. On the one hand there is the oldest salt mine of the world in Hallstatt and on the other hand there is the "Ars Electronica Center" in Linz the museum of the future.

Besides many different museums, historical town ensembles - like Wels or Steyr - and very lively traditions, the Upper Austrian culture scene is strongly influenced by traditional festivals and events - for example the "Linzer Brucknerfest" or the "Bad Ischler Operettenfestspiele".

Last updated: 2009-09-03