Carinthia as Europe’s Green Economy Pioneer
Transitioning to a green economy is the key challenge we face in the decade ahead. But Carinthia plans to be carbon neutral by 2025 already. This makes Austria’s southernmost province the perfect testing ground for entrepreneurs, founders and investors who want to develop and implement tomorrow’s ideas in an innovative and sustainable environment.
Carinthia is currently in pole position in Europe in terms of “sustainable economic activity” and the much talked about “Green Deal” is already economic reality here. There are many reasons why Austria’s southernmost province finds itself in such an excellent position:
A large number of companies that act sustainably have located their operations along the Carinthian value chain and today are already making the region fit for the future. Networking is an important element of Carinthia’s sustainability efforts. Together with the Austrian province of Styria, Carinthia supports the Green Tech Cluster, a green network in which more than 250 pioneering enterprises have joined forces to nurture solutions for climate protection and the circular economy.
In recent years, Carinthia and its universities have emerged as an outstanding science hub. Experts working at forward-looking technology parks have been investigating sustainable approaches for industry for decades. The Wood Carinthian Competence Center in St. Veit an der Glan conducts non-university industrial and application-oriented research on the raw material wood. The core competences of the research project that has sites across Austria are materials research and process technology along the entire value chain, from raw materials all the way to the finished product.
The main pillars of Carinthia’s bioeconomy are forestry, timber and paper. With 592,000 hectares of woodland, Carinthia is the second most-heavily forested province in Austria. The second mainstay of the Carinthian bioeconomy is agriculture. Carinthia’s fields are already GM-free and almost one quarter are farmed organically, one of the highest percentages in Europe. Nowhere else are so few greenhouse gas emissions produced per kilogram of meat/milk/eggs as in Carinthia.
Carinthia can justifiably call itself Austria’s battery. For many years, Carinthia has focused on expanding alternative, renewable and sustainable technologies in the field of power generation. Having increased the share of renewable energy sources in final energy consumption by 15.1 percent to around 55 percent since 2005, the province is now one of the best performers in Austria and Europe. All electricity generated in Carinthia today comes from renewable sources.
The Green Tech Cluster partnership develops long-term strategies for a sustainable future for Carinthia. Managing Director Bernhard Puttinger explains why Carinthia is a perfect testing ground for a successful green circular economy and which agenda Carinthia is following in this respect.
The Green Tech Valley covering Styria and Carinthia is a leading global technology hotspot for solutions for climate protection and the circular economy.
Carinthia.com: Mr Puttinger, everyone knows Silicon Valley. But not everyone has heard of the Green Tech Valley in southeast Austria. What is the Green Valley and what makes the Cluster so special?
Puttinger: The Green Tech Valley covering Styria and Carinthia is a leading global technology hotspot for solutions for climate protection and the circular economy. More than ten years ago, an American venture capitalist came to southeast Austria and observed that a multitude of technology leaders, numerous research institutes and an enormous number of competence centres from the green tech sector are concentrated here. Today, 260 companies and research institutes work together in the valley on the green solutions of the future. The focus is on cooperation and exchange between companies that are creating innovations in the field of environmental technology.
Carinthia.com: Why in Carinthia and how unique is Carinthia in the Green Economy sector?
Puttinger: Over a century ago, Viktor Kaplan, an inventor from the Green Tech Valley invented the modern hydro-electric power turbine. Now, one in five kilowatt hours of green power worldwide is generated with technologies from southeast Austria. Today, we are continuing this pioneering work here in the fields of solar thermal energy, photovoltaics and recycling. Measured in terms of Carinthia’s economic strength, there is a strong concentration in the green tech sector, which offers the business location an excellent starting position in the transition to a green economy. The concentration of green-tech leaders and a strong culture of cooperation has also arguably contributed to the cluster companies’ growth, which in the last ten years has outstripped global markets by approximately 50%.
Carinthia.com: Where does the Green Tech Cluster support the cooperation partners?
Puttinger: There is a strong focus on jointly promoting green innovations. The Cluster supports companies as they act on new trends and with developing ideas into products and services and then bringing them to market. We match suitable partners from industry and research and put them in touch with one another. We also promote the growth of green start-ups. Our services include trend radars and funding maps as well as various networking events to encourage informal contact between CEOs, R&D and green founders.
Carinthia.com: Carinthia’s economy has a strong cluster culture and has been engaged in smart specialization for years. Now, though, as a result of the green transition, the green economy is emerging as a key pillar of the business location. How can these two areas complement each other?
Puttinger: These two fields go together very well as we can already see on the ground in Carinthia. New opportunities are being opened up on local and international markets, especially at the interface of digital and green. An excellent example of this is the recycling industry in Carinthia. The aim here is to constantly improve the quality of the recyclate obtained from waste materials. This is only possible with digital solutions. The combination of digital and green is definitely a big advantage in Carinthia’s favour as a location of the future.
Carinthia.com: How do you see the future of the Green Tech Cluster?
Puttinger: We want to continue growing, win new companies for our idea and above all, continue our development in the field of research infrastructure.