According to Luxembourg’s Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, “…digital is no longer just a sector of the economy; it is now a global phenomenon.” We had the chance to talk to Mr. Bettel and get his feedback regarding the state of digital and innovation in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. The first part of our interview focuses on Luxembourg’s quickly growing startup ecosystem and how the digital industry is revolutionizing the economy. (Xavier Bettel during the interview in his office. Photograph: Olivier Minaire)
What do you think of the current state of Luxembourg’s startup ecosystem?
I see that Luxembourg is in the process of change, transforming itself and exhibiting a more entrepreneurial spirit compared with a few years ago. Both public and private sector initiatives for startups and entrepreneurship are increasing.
Last October, the Ministry of Economy, in partnership with the GIE agency Luxinnovation and in collaboration with the incubator Technoport, started a new support program to facilitate the launch of young innovative companies in the tech field. Called “Fit4Start,” this program supports startups as they are just starting out by providing funding and coaching tailored to what these businesses need most at the beginning stages.
Moreover, I should note the bill backed by the Minister of Justice that simplifies setting up a limited liability company (S.à r.l.-S, i.e. 1-1-1 company) by enabling an individual to form a company in one day with one euro. It seeks to encourage entrepreneurship by simplifying, accelerating and facilitating access to business creation.
As for private initiatives, we have seen the development of co-working spaces and private incubators, which is a very good thing. Finally, the youth business community is a very active and vibrant community that emphasizes harmony and cooperation and organizes a plethora of all kinds of events – recruitment evenings, training sessions, friendly networking events – on almost a daily basis.
All this progress is an inspirational and motivational factor for potential entrepreneurs.
Mr. Prime Minister, do you think that in the near future digital may represent a strong industry in Luxembourg’s economy?
May? It is already! This is an industry that works very well. More than 15,000 people across the country are working in this sector. The digital industry is an important part of our GNP. So, it would be ridiculous to say that it should gain in importance. It is already very important, and for more than one reason. We must do everything to keep it strong.
How can we – both private and public stakeholders – put Luxembourg on the European – or even worldwide – startup map?
Material conditions for entrepreneurship have considerably improved at a national level. We now need to strengthen the visibility and attractiveness of Luxembourg in the eyes of the international community. Young entrepreneurs are increasingly attracted to cities like Berlin or London, rather than Luxembourg. Even if Luxembourg cannot compete on all levels with such cities, it is partially the lack of awareness of the benefits that Luxembourg offers that contributes to foreign startups going elsewhere. Compare the time it takes in Paris or London to go from your home to your workplace, or compare the effort it takes to meet the right people in a big city with how easy it is to network within the Luxembourg ecosystem, and you see how living and working in Luxembourg can be advantageous. I haven’t even mentioned all of our vast cultural offerings! We must increase communication about the unique advantages of living and doing business in Luxembourg, as is currently being done with the new “SurprisingLux” campaign.
Can the development of other ecosystems in the Greater Region – like LORnTECH – be beneficial to Luxembourg?
The Greater Region is a pool of talent. Cooperation and mutual enrichment can only be beneficial to all. We pursue the same goals and we can all learn from each other, as is done, for example, through “Quattropole”.
What do you think of the idea of having a dedicated Minister of the Digital Economy or Chief Digital Officer in Luxembourg?
The digital economy is an inherently cross-cutting area. In my opinion this horizontality must be reflected in the organization of the administration. That’s why it does not seem efficient to me to charge a single person with political responsibility for the whole area.
On the contrary, I believe that everyone should be empowered to manage the digital component within his or her own area of expertise, even if this requires putting in place a structure to handle inter-ministerial coordination. This is what Digital Lëtzebuerg is trying to do, with three ministers at the head of the initiative and a coordination unit in charge of the daily management. Digital Lëtzebuerg is a collective effort of the entire government and invites all departments to adopt a “digital reflex” when developing different policies. I think it would be a mistake to separate digital out of the general economy, because digital is no longer just a sector of the economy; it is now a global phenomenon.