In 1951 a common research institution was initiated by the “Hochschule für Welthandel” (Higher Education Institution for World Trade), the Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Trade. Under the management of Walter Heinrich and Erich Hruschka the “Institut für Gewerbeforschung” (Institute for Craft Research) was founded. In 1954 the institute was officially registered as a non-profit association in Vienna.

Its aims were to provide data and information as a basis for decision-making in craft policy and promotion, and to inform the public of the economic importance of craft enterprises. In the early years, there were 2 to 3 employees involved mainly in conducting industry analyses.

Since the 1970s, its activities have continued to expand in content and thematic contexts. In 1991 it was renamed “Institut für Gewerbe- und Handwerksforschung”. Shortly afterwards, the institute was integrated into the European Network for Social and Economic Research (ENSR), which necessitated the intensification of the institute’s internationalisation strategies. In 1999, the institute started conducting regular research and surveys for the trade sector, and its name was changed to the “Österreichisches Institut für Gewerbe- und Handelsforschung”.

In the last years, competence in other SME-dominated economic sectors has been enhanced. Research results and databases are now not only available on the craft and trade sector, but also on the sectors of tourism, transport, manufacturing and business services.

Since 2003 the official name of the institute has been “KMU Forschung Austria” (Austrian Institute for SME Research), and it is the largest Austrian research institute in the field of applied SME-oriented economic and social research.