It is a well-known picture that the current foreign trade statistics provide: The Austrian export industry is mainly networked with the European internal market, 75 percent of domestic exports go to the EU, another just under six percent to the EFTA countries. In the past twenty years, the focus on the continent of Europe has decreased only marginally.

What does it take for more companies to focus on new, more exotic markets, identify opportunities there and, above all, use them? A stronger focus in the domestic education and training offers on foreign languages, on the specific challenges in emerging and developing country markets and sometimes also on imparting skills in the structuring of international projects would be a good start at least once.

Internationalization competence

The Vienna University of Economics and Business is a pioneer in training with a focus on internationalization skills. In addition to a number of general international bachelor and master programs, there has also been a master program since the winter semester 2014 Export and internationalization management, which is particularly dedicated to the internationalization of small and medium-sized companies. "WU is one of the few European universities that offer this combination of content," emphasizes course director Alexander Mohr. Due to the increasing importance of emerging and developing countries for Austrian companies, the focus is increasingly on these countries. “The special opportunities and challenges in developing regions now play an important role in the curriculum. For example, we work closely with consulting companies that support companies in expanding into Asia, ”said Mohr. That too Competence center for emerging markets & Central and Eastern Europe WU is constantly striving to offer additional offers on the subject of emerging and developing countries. Another important asset of WU is its network of around 240 partner universities worldwide, including universities in Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, India, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa.

The Johannes Kepler University Linz also relies on intensive cultural exchange as part of the Global Business Masters course. “The program structure is unique, because it provides for an international mobility phase after the first year of study in Austria. The participants thus study at three different university locations and thus get intensive insights into different cultures and economic regions, ”says Robert Breitenecker, director of the JKU Linz. In addition to cooperation partners in Canada, Taiwan, Russia and Italy, a study visit to Peru has also been offered since the previous year.

project development

International experience, in addition to a business background and foreign language skills, is essential for success in international business, says business developer Daniel Tappeiner. He is already regularly working in countries such as Ghana or Ethiopia and handles drinking and wastewater projects for the water technology division of the local construction giant Strabag, especially in Southeast Asia and Africa. "In every country you are faced with linguistic and cultural challenges anew and you have to face them with a certain serenity, but also with respect," says Tappeiner. Especially when it comes to business in emerging and developing countries, it also helps a lot to know about export financing and security options as well as the tender procedure of international financial institutions. "But at the moment these are more things that you learn on-the-job," Tappeiner puts into perspective.

In fact, only the Oesterreichische Kontrollbank currently offers a compact format with the export academy designed for existing customers, which conveys basic knowledge in the field of export and project finance. A corresponding further training offer from the Vienna University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with the Außenwirtschaft Austria The "Academic Expert for International Project Development" recently had to be put on hold due to a lack of interest. "Small and medium-sized companies in particular report the need for qualifications for international project business, but they currently seem to prefer individualized advice rather than qualifying their employees as standard," speculates Natalie Völkl, head of the Center for Academic Continuing Education at the Vienna University of Applied Sciences. In any case, they want to stay on the ball and stay in touch with industry stakeholders in order to continuously evaluate the resumption of the training program, says Völkl. Daniel Tappeiner sees that there are still natural limits: "The community in Austria is already comparatively small, so far there aren't many people who work in the field of project structuring."

change of perspective

But where are emerging and developing countries explicitly at the center of the training offer? In short: in Graz. The University of Applied Sciences Joanneum already directed the Master's program in International Management in 2011 clearly to the future topic "Business in emerging markets" out. Study director Wolfgang Granigg sees himself as a pioneer: “Emerging markets are increasingly becoming the engine of the global economy. Unfortunately, this subject area is still far too little in focus at universities. Due to the fundamentally changing global economy, it is particularly important not to prepare students for the business world of today, but as best as possible for the opportunities and challenges of tomorrow. And that is where emerging countries are simply part of it. ”The interdisciplinary teaching takes place throughout in English, a compulsory semester abroad in an emerging country is intended to enable a change of perspective and strengthen intercultural skills.

The IMC University of Applied Sciences Krems has also recognized that a differentiated examination of the opportunities and challenges that internationalization brings in a globalized world is needed. This year, for example, the International Business and Export Management master’s program was revised to include the aspect of Economic diplomacy expanded to better meet labor market expectations. "In addition to internal factors such as international market entry strategies or supply chain management, the International Business and Economic Diplomacy master's program also addresses external factors in the internationalization process, such as foreign and trade policy as well as economic promotion measures, since both are crucial for the success of international business relationships," explains Alina Schoenberg, director of the degree program. "We also give our students practical skills such as business analytics, negotiation techniques, crisis management and diplomatic etiquette that are necessary to survive on the international stage." Currently, emerging and developing countries are only implicitly taken into account in the courses .

With foresight

The Carinthia University of Applied Sciences has taken a completely different approach, and has had its own master's program since 2015 Focus on business development is offered. "Business development is very much about new business development, internationalization is just one thrust of it. In general, our course aims at tools and methods of a business developer - regardless of whether it is about growth at home or growth abroad, ”says course director Alexander Schwarz-Musch. He believes that companies need more so-called "integrating generalists", as business developers also like to be called, so that they can increasingly identify growth opportunities, adapt business models or develop new ones. Because business development is more than “just” sales. "Of course, sales are important and good, but business development goes beyond that, has a conceptual component behind it, a strategic, future-oriented orientation," says Schwarz-Musch. And maybe it is precisely this farsightedness that could be further developed in many Austrian companies.

Photo: Istock / CHBD