“We need to help social entrepreneurs, now more than ever”

Eva, Maria, Julia and Sophia Took part in a social entrepreneurship training programme Austria, Klagenfurt

A great idea is about more than just a concept. It also requires good timing. Take Austria's SIAA (Social Impact for the Alps Adriatic region) project. It created a favourable ecosystem for the development of social businesses, ready just in time for COVID-19. Eva, Maria, Julia and Sophia are amongst the social innovators who could benefit from immediate support during the crisis. “We had access to new trainings, with tools for web meetings and a collaborative web platform,” they explain. The new social businesses should be launched within the coming months. “We can certainly say that the pandemic helped us to find a more inclusive way to support and assist people. We will definitely use this virtual format again in the future”.

“Strengthening our youth has never been so important”

Lukas Provides professional training to people in Austria aged 15 to 24 Austria, Innsbruck

When COVID-19 struck, Austrian people’s need for professional support grew. The existing unemployed found themselves joined by people who lost their jobs. “A severely impacted job market makes it even more difficult to find opportunities”, says Lukas, project leader of VERA. VERA is one of many training projects funded under the European Social Fund. It provides 15 to 24-year-olds with three types of training to choose from (upcycling and maintenance, fashion and decoration, and media) and continued its coaching sessions even during the lockdown. “COVID-19 knows no boundaries. Cooperation, community, and creativity should know no boundaries either”, Lukas points out. Any long-term budget for the EU should take into account the needs of the next generation, said Sabine Verheyen, the chair of Parliament's culture committee. She has recently called for sufficient funding for education and culture programmes.

“We keep helping young people, even at a distance”

Katharina Coaches young people without jobs, education, or training thanks to funding under the "We need you" project Austria, Linz

Some 65 200 young people in Austria were neither in employment nor in education and training (NEET) in 2019. For Katharina, who coaches such 15 to 24-year-olds, COVID-19 was the worst thing that could happen. “We lost contact with some of them during the lockdown, which was dramatic because mentors play a vital role in their integration into society”, she explains. Yet, Katharina and her colleagues at the EU co-funded “We need you” project chose not to give in. They kept working to build a future for those teenagers and young adults. “We wanted to keep boosting their self-confidence and showing them new perspectives despite the crisis. They need us now more than ever”, she says. "We need you" offers free help throughout Upper Austria. It is part of NEBA, a network for vocational assistance launched by Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs. The project is co-financed by the European Social Fund.

“We strive for responsibility and ecological benefits”

Gabriele Runs Gabarage, a social entreprise dedicated to upcycling Austria, Vienna

Gabarage is all about upcycling. The social enterprise turns armchairs and fire hoses into swings, escalators into sofas, and used canvasses into backpacks and bags. “We employ people who have trouble finding their place in a working environment. We train them and give them new skills as part of a career-oriented approach”, says Gabriele, founder and manager of the social enterprise. With the COVID-19 outbreak, Gabriele couldn’t help but notice how quarantined citizens all across Europe began dedicating their free time to exploring new hobbies. “Craftmanship and upcycling are again on the rise, and I hope this trend will continue”, she says. The European Union supports many eco-friendly start-ups through the European Social Fund. Are you interested in an environmentally sustainable economy? Parliament approved new rules on green investments in June 2020. Find out more here.

“Solnatide is the first approved treatment for COVID-19 induced lung dysfunctions”

Bernhard Enables access to new treatments, thanks to EU research funding Austria, Vienna

In most cases, COVID-19 is associated with mild respiratory symptoms. However, in ~15% of the patients, hospitalisation is required, and about 5% of patients develop severe lung injury that can result in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In April, solnatide officially became the first treatment for ARDS to be approved for use in Austria and Italy. "We are very happy to be able to supply our Solnatide development drug to the Department of Clinical Pharmacology of the Medical University Vienna. Solnatide is the only therapeutic compound with proof-of-concept results in two clinical studies on patients with severe lung dysfunctions,” Bernhard, CEO of APEPTICO, enthuses. His biotechnology company coordinates an EU-funded project to research coronavirus and develop new medicines. Overall, the European Union provides funding of over EUR 47.5 million for 17 different projects in this area.

“Fashion is our passion, and we are moved to do everything we can with the limited resources we have to produce PPE (Personal protective equipment) for our frontliners”

Team HTL Dornbirn Sew protective masks for citizens in need Austria, Dornbirn

HTL Dornbirn has a long track record as the place to be for all those willing to learn about fashion and production technologies. Now, it’s also known for its willingness to help those Austrian citizens who are most threatened by COVID-19. Following an initiative from textile companies in Voralberg, the technical vocational college started producing masks in its workshops. "We have had a great time sewing masks. We could enjoy the feeling of contributing to the fight against the virus", says a member of the team. This inspiring story shows how the creative industries connect us even when we need to keep our distance.

“False reports are an attack on democracy. We as civil society have to fend them off”

Andre Separates COVID facts from fiction in continued efforts to inform citizens Austria, Vienna

Andre has dedicated his career to the fight against fake news. And for him, COVID-19 is just another illustration of how important his line of work is. "Media literacy is especially important in times of a pandemic, so as not to spread misinformation and potentially risk lives", he explains. Andre’s website is called Mimikama. It currently aims to identify fake news on COVID-19, such as articles about made-up cures or conspiracy theories. Internet users can check the website to be informed about currently circulating disinformation. They can also submit fake news they have found on social media themselves. Mimikama is available in German and Dutch. Misleading information around Covid-19 could pose a risk to your health. Always look out for reliable sources and avoid spreading false news. Check our short guide on how to recognise myths here.

“We're committed to supporting kids with their education during school closures”

Bernhard Keeps kids learning during the coronavirus outbreak Austria, Vienna

Parents are struggling to make sure their kids maintain their school routine and keep learning. Committed to tackling this new problem, Busuu (a global education technology company) has launched #KeepKidsLearning. They’re providing children all over Europe with access to free live language lessons, taught by qualified language teachers. So far they’ve published over 120 video lessons, teaching English, Spanish and Chinese and to date have provided over 3,100 hours of lessons. Online solidarity can be seen across a range of digital companies, with Netflix, Youtube and Facebook having agreed to reduce video streaming quality in Europe at the request of the EU to avoid straining the internet while more people are forced to stay at home. If you’d like to find out more, lessons can be accessed via the timetable published on the #KeepKidsLearning site, which is updated on a weekly basis.