The Federal Government is on an exam and puts digitization at the top of its list of priorities. That’s important and right. With an interjection: “It’s Entrepreneurship, Stupid!”
The Federal Government today launched its two-day retreat. In addition to the planned tax reform, digitization has also been communicated in advance as a central item on the agenda. It is high on the government’s priority list, it is said again and again – not only by the digitization minister. That’s important and right. Austria should become a pioneer in digitization! I have already stated it elsewhere: The Federal Government is always dedicated to the topic of digitization, as well as startups, with great attention and implements many measures quickly.
Do not settle for too fast
But with its strength of implementation, the government also awakens and increases our expectations. In the area of digitization, it is important to ensure that topics and projects are not neglected. You run the risk of settling too quickly and losing the visionary view of the big picture. Antonella Mei-Pochtler, head of staff unit Think Austria in the Federal Chancellery, said after the talks with ex-CEO Eric Schmidt, in the brutkasten interview quite daring: We should become a software engineering nation.
Support the digital transformation of the economy
Of course, this requires disruptive regulatory approaches. The government must not only focus on digitizing the administration. Approaches like the platform oesterreich.gv.at are very welcome, but they are not enough. Above all, one has to support the digital transformation of the economy. In the SME sector, the founding of the Digitization Agency (DIA) was a very important piece of the mosaic in this direction. In addition, there seem to be hurdles: “If you understand innovation as a product of trial and error, it’s FinTechs who can do it. We are so tightly regulated that any mistake is punishable, “said Erste Bank Group Chief Risk Officer Willibald Czernko in a brutkasten interview.
Regulatory sandboxes and technological strategy
So we need an environment with regulatory sandboxes across the tech and innovation space. The FinTech Advisory Board provided a promising template for the financial industry. Now more areas need to follow. This requires a corresponding technological strategy of the government. Already in the AI and Blockchain sections you are already in the final phase. Again, these are not the only relevant topics.
Easier procurement procedures in cooperation with startups
Last but not least, simplified opportunities for collaboration with startups for public sector entities would also be important. The regulations in the field of procurement procedures are a major obstacle and must be made easier. A good template once again provides the Silicon Valley. San Francisco has several initiatives that involve startups directly to address the city’s challenges, such as a start-up in residence program. In addition to intensive cooperation between civil servants and startup teams, the program has one thing above all: a simple procurement regulation that ensures that these projects can actually be implemented.
“It’s Entrepreneurship, Stupid”
I want to address my strongest appeal to the Federal Government in the field of entrepreneurship. Digitization and innovation do not exist without entrepreneurs, who implement them in a sustainable way, develop business models from this and create added value. In Austria, we invest a lot of money in innovation (# 2 in R & D spending per capita to Sweden in the EU). The output is, however, expandable. I think we still lack the entrepreneurial spirit to build scalable businesses, even global world leaders, from innovation investments. As Christoph Räthke, a pioneer of the Berlin startup scene, told me in a conversation: “It’s Entrepreneurship, Stupid”. He is right and we need to significantly improve both the overall standing and the business environment for entrepreneurs. Not only government but also the government is in demand here.