Forging Ahead

Cutting-Edge Research

WU’s researchers are well respected in the international scientific community and publish their work in top journals. Our research focuses mainly on pressing social, economic, and business topics, which we communicate to the public as part of our third mission activities.

Scientific research is a key element of WU’s identity and a prerequisite for research-based teaching. Our researchers are successful in a wide range of disciplines, including business administration, economics, business law, business languages, information technology, and social sciences. They conduct top-quality research, are well-respected experts in their respective fields, and are in high demand for international collaborations.

It’s very important to us to produce socially relevant findings that inspire active discourse in the business community, politics, the media, and society. To make this happen, WU’s researchers regularly present their work at public events and academic conferences.

Social Relevance

Are streaming services killing the music market or opening new markets? How can we track the flow of resources around the globe? And can a new tax reform stop bracket creep? These are just a few of the many questions our researchers investigated in 2016. The findings, some of them quite unexpected, provided food for thought and resulted in discussions with stakeholders and the media.

Online Surveillance Puts Personal Freedom at Risk

Digital Monitoring

The study Networks of Control by WU professor Sarah Spiekermann-Hoff and internet activist Wolfie Christl shows how companies use big data to put together detailed personality profiles of their users. These profiles can then be used to discriminate against entire groups of the population, denying them access to certain services or products (e.g. insurance). This endangers our basic democratic values.

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Brexit Puts Holes in Research Networks


The UK plays an important role in the European research area. British researchers are involved with 40% of the EU’s total research and are on the receiving end of 15% of EU research funding, found WU’s André Martinuzzi in cooperation with FASresearch. The loss of British involvement in EU projects would have considerable structural effects, even on Austria, which has close research ties to Great Britain. The authors therefore recommend concluding an Association Agreement like the ones in place with Switzerland, Israel, and Norway, as well as the development of regional Centers of Excellence.

Austrians Trust Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy

Austrians have a very positive attitude towards renewable energy sources. Solar energy is the best known sustainable energy form, and two thirds of all home owners would be willing to rent out roof space for photovoltaic panels. Approximately 50% of the consumers surveyed could imagine investing in citizen-owned power plants, and one third had already considered purchasing an electric automobile. These are the positive results of a representative survey on renewable energy in Austria conducted by WU researcher Nina Hampl in cooperation with Deloitte Österreich and Wien Energie. Based on the positive responses, the study’s authors concluded that the transition to a sustainable energy system should be pursued more actively.

Migration and Entrepreneurship


What do WU students who have spent an exchange semester abroad and immigrants have in common? They both come up with excellent and innovative entrepreneurship ideas, say WU researchers Peter Vandor and Nikolaus Franke. Their study showed that intercultural experiences enhance people’s ability to discover entrepreneurial opportunities. They name two possible reasons for this effect: For one, products, services, and business models available in other countries can be adapted for the Austrian market, and secondly, spending time in another country gives people more and different experiences to base innovation on.

Streaming Services Aren’t Hurting the Music Industry

The video is currently only available in German


Streaming services are currently in high demand, but what does that mean for the music industry? WU researcher Nils Wlömert has a differentiated answer to this question: Consumers spend less on music-related products when they use a free or subscription-based music streaming service. Advertising revenue is not enough to compensate for this difference. However, the revenue from subscription-based services is enough to more than compensate for this deficit. On balance, streaming services have a positive effect on turnover in the music industry.

Adjusting  to Reflect Inflation Leads to Redistribution

Tax Scales

Can bracket creep – the insidious increase in income tax resulting from annual salary valorization – be stopped by adjusting tax scales to reflect the average inflation rate? Mathias Moser and Stefan Humer from WU’s Research Institute for Economics of Inequality used a micro-simulation model to forecast the effects of such a measure on different groups of taxpayers. They observed that for low-income taxpayers, the measures compensated for only part of the bracket creep’s effects, while high-income taxpayers were overcompensated. Adjusting tax scales to reflect average inflation rates therefore results in a redistribution of wealth from bottom to top and leads to increased budget deficits for the state.

Global Trade with Raw Materials Increasing

Global Trade

Over eleven billion tons of raw materials and products are exported or imported every year – over three times as much as in the 1970s. This was the result of a current report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), issued with the cooperation of the WU research group for Sustainable Resource Use at WU’s Institute for Ecological Economics. From a sustainability perspective, this is a troubling development, especially in light of the ecological and social impact of the exploitation and transportation of resources. The report emphasizes the role of consumers and their responsibility to select regional products with high social and ecological standards and short transportation routes to help minimize the effects on climate change.

Personnel as a Cost Factor: The Disadvantages of Debt-Based Financing

Personnel as a Cost Factor

Many countries, Austria included, offer tax breaks that indirectly subsidize corporate borrowing. Based on of data from international power generation companies, WU Professor Josef Zechner investigated the effects of debt-based financing on companies’ personnel costs: The more debt a company accumulates, the higher its risk of slipping into bankruptcy. If heavily indebted companies want to hire qualified employees, they have to offer them higher salaries to compensate for this risk. For this reason, many companies are starting to reject debt-based financing to help keep personnel costs down.

New Research Projects and Funding Agencies