The Austrian government aims at "decluttering" the body of federal law. "It makes sense to reduce complexity and jettison ballast. However, you also have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Voluntary standards can make a significant contribution to cutting red tape. They reduce the burden on legislators and administration; they save enterprises from rigid rules," states Franz Fischler, Chairman of the Honorary Board of Austrian Standards. Claus J. Raidl is happy about the success of Austrian exporters and stresses that standards are an important driver of exports, given that Austrian companies score points with international standards beyond the national borders.
"Even though word may not have got around to everyone, voluntary standards disburden the state and are invaluable helpers in reducing bureaucracy," says Fischler. While acts of law set the legal framework, standards can be specific and deal with details. Moreover, standards are reviewed regularly - at least every five years - and quickly adapted to most recent developments. "The EU recognized this function of standards many years ago," Fischler explained during the inaugural meeting of the Honorary Board of Austrian Standards.
The European institutions content themselves with laying down the necessary essential requirements in their regulations and directives. In parallel, the Commission requests the European standardization organizations to draw up special, voluntary European standards in order to provide practice-oriented guidance on how the essential requirements can be complied with.
The users of those harmonized standards benefit as they can rely on the conformity of their products and services with the standards. This system that is open to innovation has reduced the volume of legal provisions and, nevertheless, largely harmonized differing legal systems.
From innovative ideas to international standards
Overall, more than 90 percent of standards are already developed at the European and international level. Austria is at the forefront when it comes to developing good solutions. Claus J. Raidl, President of Oesterreichische Nationalbank and member of the Honorary Board, simply recommends Austrian companies "to participate in standardization to build a bridge for their innovations to international markets." He adds that "this is where innovative ideas can be turned into international standards and, as a result, succeed all around the world. This boosts exports, which was is reflected by Austria's favourable external trade balance that was presented recently."
The new government intends to develop the Austrian standardization strategy "with the involvement of all relevant groups of stakeholders in a future-oriented way". As a basis for this work, it is necessary to recognize and exploit fully the potential of standards for the economy and society but, above all, for science and research, as science researcher Helga Nowotny stresses. "More than ever before, we have to think and act globally in this context. Austrian scientists have been positioned and networked well internationally - an important foundation for being able to work successfully," explains Nowotny.
"As a result of digitization, IoT and Industry 4.0, more and more business segments and sectors are networked which in its turn, also requires the networking of experts and know-how. This is precisely the nature of standardization," says Peter Skalicky, the former rector of the Vienna University of Technology.
"It is only through standards applied world-wide that new technologies can function and a division of labour between economies is possible. Standards play a key role in making technical systems and applications suitable for networking, portable, efficient and safe in operation," underlines Klaus Wucherer, supervisory board member of several German enterprises and former president of the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).
The Honorary Board of Austrian Standards
The Honorary Board of Austrian Standards focuses on long-term developments in the economy, science, policy-making and society and critically discusses their relevance for Austrian Standards. Thereby, the Honorary Board supports Austrian Standards and provides inputs for its strategies. It is chaired by Franz Fischler and its other members are Christoph Badelt, Carl Baudenbacher, Helga Nowotny, Claus J. Raidl, Peter Skalicky and Klaus Wucherer.