Whilst Luxembourg’s oldest technology business incubator, Technoport, has been active for almost a quarter of a century (it will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2023), it is since moving to Belval ten years ago, that the incubator has seen a growing international success.
Technoport was launched in 1998 as a pilot project within CRP Henri Tudor (today part of the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology). However, in 2012 it spun out and merged with Luxembourg’s other incubator – Ecostart – to become Technoport Ltd. At this time it relocated to Belval as part of the government’s broader innovation strategy to create a Science and Innovation City including the university, the public research institutes, an incubator and the national innovation agency, Luxinnovation.
The launch of Luxembourg’s innovation ecosystem
And this decision came at the right time. As Diego De Biasio, CEO of Technoport explains, “the whole innovation ecosystem has really kicked-off since.” Several technology incubators started appearing from 2012 and are still going strong today, including 1535 Creative Hub, Neobuild, Paul Wurth InCub, the LHoFT and, most recently, the House of Startups. Unlike most of these, however, Technoport is not industry specific, instead working with startups across different sectors, from space to manufacturing to finance. The main selection criteria are the technology-level and degree of innovation.
So much competition could be considered bad news for Technoport, but according to De Biasio, it had the opposite effect. “This pushed us to stay awake and be hungry. Technoport might have been more established, but these newcomers are quick and agile.” And it was the move to Belval that enabled it to position itself in the role of a lab within this new ecosystem, with the launch of several new concepts like hackathons, cross-border living labs and the Fab Lab – a digital fabrication laboratory which became the biggest in the Grand Region (until it was transferred to the Lycée Arts et Métiers). As De Basio explains, “we are more than a simple incubator. We like to consider ourselves as a lab to test and (in)validate ideas or concepts”
This strategy has paid off. Since 2012, Technoport has seen many startups successfully exit the programme. The last ten years at Belval saw 86 formally approved companies (49% of total companies accepted since 1998) and 66 companies leaving the incubator. These include: Tadaweb; Passbolt; ANote Music; RCDevs; All Square; and Investify. And part of their success was down to Technoport’s support. As Matteo Cernuschi, Co-Founder & COO of ANote Music explains, “Technoport isn’t afraid to support innovation. They were the first to believe in our idea and provided structure crucial to begin our journey. Technoport became ANote Music’s first home, allowing us to grow fast.”
“It was crucial to be part of international networks as Technoport was alone in Luxembourg.”Diego De Biasio, CEO of Technoport
A growing reputation on the international stage
The last decade has also seen Technoport gain visibility and credibility within the international innovation ecosystem, as organisations recognise some of the positive results and impact that has been achieved by the incubator.
Part of this international recognition is linked to Technoport’s connections with international business innovation networks, such as the European Business Network (EBN), the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) and the International Business Incubator Association (InBIA). Connecting with the wider ecosystem has been part of Technoport’s strategy from the beginning. As De Biasio explains, “it was crucial to be part of international networks as Technoport was alone in Luxembourg.” This brings benefits, such as being able to participate in specific European programmes, including for funding. It has also been able to leverage international connections for the companies within the incubator, helping it to grow internationally, as reciprocating for foreign companies coming to Luxembourg.
And hosting foreign companies is something else that Technoport has been able to do since 2012. In addition to the Belval campus, it also has facilities in Foetz. These are on much bigger premises, enabling industrial sector companies to set up production and assembly facilities. Since taking over this site, it has welcomed companies from a variety of fields, such as Ama Mundus Technologies; Molecular Plasma Group; and LekoLabs. Technoport is also supporting foreign corporates, including Thales Alenia Space, GOMspace, Guala Closures, who are looking for a flexible, entrepreneurial-friendly launchpad for establishing their R&D lab. Whilst this is not Technoport’s primary business, it presents opportunities for collaboration between these companies and the startups within its network.
The future of Technoport
Technoport’s ten years at Belval marks just another milestone of the story. It plans to continue working with public research institutions, focusing its support on developing spin-off companies. In particular, with spin-offs involved in deeptech that come from pure research. According to De Biasio, “these are the ones that need that link with the business world, and we are trying to develop some models there for them.” Technoport also plans to keep diversifying the sectors it works with, expanding across the health, automotive and space verticals.
It also plans to continue growing its reputation on the world stage by hosting international events. Having already successfully hosted the EBN annual conference in 2018, celebrating Technoport’s 20th anniversary, it is looking forward to hosting IASPs World Conference next year on their 25th anniversary. An event that will help showcase Luxembourg’s growing innovation ecosystem to the world. “And it’s nice to mark these milestones with events. We might keep this objective to welcome a new conference every five years.”