History and Origins

Founded in 1999 on the initiative of the state of Lower Austria, NÖKU Group subsequently went through a pioneering phase that saw strong and rapid growth as well as numerous takeovers and startups. On the one hand, the state of Lower Austria provides the financial framework of NÖKU Group through the central NÖKU Funding Agreement. On the other hand, it sets its direction and goals in terms of cultural-policy.

From the end of the first decade of the 2000s to the present, NÖKU Group was marked by its transition to a phase of differentiation, in which it forcefully began to define and implement structures, processes, guidelines, and standards. Our claim that “culture needs entrepreneurial thinking” was coined with this in mind.

Essentially this meant that by introducing uniform, stringent budgeting and accounting, as well as operating within the framework of effective controlling, first, strict budget compliance can be ensured. Second, the principles of economic viability, efficiency, economy, transparence, integrity, and expediency are clearly taken into account. Central accounting and balancing provided the basis for adequate, orderly, and cost-optimized accounting for all organizations, confirmed by an auditor. With this, the Group was also in compliance with the requirement for adequate and orderly accounting as stipulated by the funding sponsor, the state of Lower Austria.

Within the context of the first comprehensive process of organizational development, NÖKU Group’s Mission Statement, consisting of Mission and Vision 2015, was thus completed in late 2011. In the process, we defined the operational principles of NÖKU Group and strategic measures for the implementation of its Vision statement.

The focus of Vision 2015 was set on economic, organizational, and service-orientation issues, which were primarily managed through guidelines and standardization at NÖKU Holding. Internal risk management (including IKS) and an externally sourced internal audit were set up. In the areas of information technology, CRM, ticketing, accounting, controlling, payment transactions, etc. central service units for its subsidiaries were created at NÖKU Holding. Therefore, the guiding principle of Vision 2015 was “culture needs entrepreneurial thinking. Entrepreneurial thinking needs culture.”

Much of what we set out to achieve by 2015 has already been successfully accomplished. The core tasks of NÖKU Holding, particularly economic management of the corporate group, were addressed with clarity in organizational terms and developed further in accordance with the strategic objectives for 2015.

Now, after the first 15 years of NÖKU Group’ history, the initial objective of, simply put, mere budget compliance by all cost center managers has long become the norm. On account of this strong economic and financial focus, content-related management has not played a decisive role at NÖKU Group in recent years.

Beyond the above-mentioned achievements, we have also accomplished the following over the past 15 years:

  • The “Artistic and Scientific Conceptual Framework” of NÖKU Group was created as a first strategic content-related management measure. On the level of content, it defined the essential main thrust and spheres of activity of individual institutions along with clear distinctions between them.
  • Both internally and externally, NÖKU Group was able to build and promote a modern and contemporary image as a cultural management organization.
  • In order to improve internal communication and the exchange of experiences, numerous communication platforms and user groups have been set up for individual departments (currently these are: art and cultural education, press/public relations, shop and ticketing services, human resources administration, marketing management, event technology, artistic management offices, i.e., production offices and executive offices).
  • A joint mission statement for management and cooperation as well as numerous official and unofficial cooperation and communication platforms have helped build a common corporate culture and strengthen a sense of group identity.
  • Considerable successes were achieved in building clear content-based profiles, or brands, for artistic and scientific institutions (“out of the province, towards an urban and open-minded outlook”).
  • The introduction of medium-term budgetary planning to support dynamic and far-sighted budget planning resulted in general planning reliability, including the possibility of a well-planned, but still flexible allocation of state subsidies in accordance with the NÖKU Funding Agreement.
  • In many other parts of Austria, the reduction of subsidies has widely become common policy. Over the past 15 years, however, Lower Austria has seen the rise of numerous artistic and scientific startup institutions, particularly within the framework of NÖKU Group and in close coordination with the state of Lower Austria (for example Grafenegg Festival, MAMUZ, Karikaturmuseum Krems, Forum Frohner, etc.) as well as numerous takeovers (such as Landestheater Niederösterreich, Bühne Baden, Schallaburg, Sommerspiele Melk, Internationale Barocktage Stift Melk etc.). This expansion of NÖKU Group’s activities was primarily made possible through increased allocation of funding by the state of Lower Austria.

The task at hand now, as stated in Vision and Strategy 2025, is to combine the strength of the pioneering phase with both the rational approach of the differentiation phase and the process of focusing on artistic and scientific content with the aim of entering into a primarily content-oriented phase. On the one hand, this phase will be marked by the optimization of the services offered by NÖKU Holding and the consistent implementation of reasonable guidelines and standards. On the other hand, however, it will be about focused, deliberate, and sustained engagement with the strategic content-related management of NÖKU Group and, thus, the artistic and scientific content of our enterprises.

Vision 2025 sets the focus on the further development of NÖKU Holding. Now primarily an investment, service, and financial holding, it will transition to a content-oriented management holding that will continue to provide select services for its subsidiaries and will, thus, continue to operate in this line of business. 

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