Addressing Luxembourg’s Scale-up Gap Through A Pilot Programme

Luxinnovation CEO Sasha Baillie is pictured speaking at the Fit 4 Start graduation on 29 June (Photo © Silicon Luxembourg/Stephanie Jabardo)

Luxembourg’s startup ecosystem includes over 500 outfits, ranging from fintech to healthtech, cleantech and beyond. Now a new pilot programme is underway, focused on scale-ups with international potential. CEO of Luxinnovation, the agency managing the programme, Sasha Baillie tells us more. 

Luxembourg opened its first incubator, the Technoport in Belval, 25 years ago. Since then, several other public and private initiatives have been implemented to bolster the startup ecosystem, like the Luxembourg House of Financial Technology (LHoFT), the House of Entrepreneurship, also the national innovation agency, Luxinnovation, to name just a few. 

Programmes like Fit4Start, targeting digital startups with high potential, have also helped attract talent and innovation to the grand duchy: since its launch, Fit4Start has received over 2,600 applications with more than 90 countries represented, and more than €11.5 million of equity-free funding has been distributed through it. 

Marking a new milestone, Luxembourg presented its “From seed to scale” roadmap, which included the scale-up pilot programme, in June 2023 during the Vivatech exhibition in Paris. The pilot was “designed to support advanced-stage startups which are on an accelerated growth trajectory and have plans for international expansion,” according to a press release issued at the time by the economy ministry, which initiated the pilot.

Luxinnovation has been charged with managing the programme. As its CEO Sasha Baillie explains, “What we’ve been doing in Luxembourg for more than 10 years now is working on instruments to develop a strong startup ecosystem, and a lot has been done… but then startups reach this moment of growth, scaling up, where there was something missing… we needed to provide something to address the gap beyond that stage.” 

“We want to explore the typology of needs so we can then set up a programme that meets this typology.”  

Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation

The learning phase

As Baillie explains, around 18 startups were potentially interested and nine applied. The startups had to meet certain elegibility requirements to be considered for the programme (they had to “have secured significant funding, offer a commercialised product or service, have a strong and structured team, and are on an accelerated growth trajectory with plans for international expansion,” per the economy ministry).

As announced in December 2023, three of these were selected: Circu Li-ion, a company focused on battery upcycling solutions; the healthtech outfit Arspectra, which is developing medical augmented reality solutions and glasses; and LEKO LABS, which has developed a patented, innovative, environment-friendly timber construction system. The keystone team, which includes a mix of actors—from institutional facilitators and entrepreneurs to investors—made the final selection after pitching sessions. 

In terms of timeline, “Currently, we are in the assessment phase where we are discussing the challenges they face, a critical part of the programme, laying the groundwork for the next steps,” Baillie explains. “The pilot will continue until the end of this year. Its purpose is to assist us in defining a comprehensive programme for the future by determining what works and what doesn’t.”

She adds that the team has reviewed other European programmes and initiatives “where we see a similarity with our ecosystem, understanding that they serve merely as sources of inspiration, offering ideas and guidance on how to address the issue of scale-ups.”

Baillie emphasises that this is indeed a pilot, with the team in “listening mode”, whether it’s related to startups’ challenges related to financing, structural issues, etc. Given that the three selected startups operate in different sectors—energy, healthtech and construction—they may have varied needs.

“What we are looking for is to explore, with them, in their specific cases, what it is they need, so we don’t afterwards have to be so tailor-made… we want to explore the typology of needs so we can then set up a programme that meets this typology. That’s what we’re trying to explore.”  

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Forbes Luxembourg here.

Related Posts