KWS is a voucher worth up to 5.000€ to be used by any kind of SME based in AT for cooperation with a creative service provider from anywhere in the world.
Creative entrepreneurs are pioneers in developing and applying new forms of work and are often the basis of new services or organisation models. SME coming from other sectors mostly aren’t aware of the potential benefits arising from cooperating with a creative. The idea behind the KWS was to fund small-scale incentives to trigger cooperation between SME and creatives.
The scheme was first developed and tested through an EU-project (ECIA) in the CIP program and then became a national program.
KWS is a low-threshold grant worth up to 5.000€ that enables SME from all industries to use creative services within the framework of an innovation project. The aim is to foster innovation in SME by the integration of creative services and thereby to stimulate cross-industrial collaboration and spill-over effects.
The direct beneficiary are the SME that can, through the voucher, buy the service of a creative. The SME has to be based in AT, the creative can be from any country! The voucher can be used for one year starting on the day of application.
In 2013 the scheme started with a first-come-first-serve principle. Since 2014 it has been possible to apply one month of the year. After the deadline all received applications are given a randomized order (by an external notary). Then the first 300/600 projects that meet the basic criteria will receive the voucher. The application process has been changed in order to avoid an immense amount of the first days of the open call.

Resources needed

aws receives between 1,5-3 Mio.€ plus 10% for admin.costs by the ministry of economy p.a. There is one person dedicated full time for this action. Additionally this person is supported by experts on CI, the IT-, the media-, as well as by the customer service-team during the application phase.

Evidence of success

Already within the testing phase through the EU-project ECIA there was a huge demand for the vouchers.
KWS is with on average 2.000 applic.of which 300/600 applicants receive the voucher p.a. the most demanded program at aws and a huge success.
The expected long-term outcomes are a rise in cooperation betw.SME and creatives, also after the voucher, because the SME would understand the benefit from working together with creatives.
So far 2.100 vouchers have been distributed (as of April2018)

Difficulties encountered

It is quite an administrative effort to handle the huge interest in the vouchers (<2.000 applic. p.a.). This makes a jury-process impossible. aws changed the selection mode from a first-come-first-serve principle to a predefined submission period with a subsequent random selection through a notary.

Potential for learning or transfer

This voucher scheme can be interesting for other regions as it is easily transferrable. It can also support regions in the internationalization of their SMEs, as only the SME has to be based in Austria whereas the creative service provider can be from any other country.
KWS has proven that it has stimulated and supported collaboration between creatives and SMEs from other sectors. It exhibits rather high additionality effects and has, correspondingly, low deadweight losses, which is remarkable, given the low-threshold character and approach of the scheme.
The already realised and/or anticipated follow-up contracts between the KWS-collaboration partners show that the KWS scheme may be indeed able to trigger behavioral changes with non-CI firms, in that a sizable share of non-CI firms continue their collaboration with the CI companies after the KWS-supported project. An effect, which most likely also other regions would be interested in initiating.

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Main institution
Austria Wirtschaftsservice
Wien, Austria (Österreich)
Start Date
January 2013
End Date


Christina Koch Please login to contact the author.