Since its inception, Technoport has hosted many innovative companies, supporting them in their development efforts. The incubator helps startups create and innovate, as well as network with potential partners. Diego De Biasio, CEO of the incubator, discusses why foreign startups are attracted to Luxembourg, and the key ways to help them innovate and succeed in the heart of the Luxembourg entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Diego, can you brief us on Technoport?
Technoport is a business incubator that also has a digital fabrication laboratory – Fab Lab Luxembourg – and co-working space to stimulate innovation. We are currently hosting around thirty companies. Since its inception, Technoport has hosted 108 young innovative enterprises. Forty-six of them have come out of the incubator successfully and fifteen have been acquired by international groups. The most recent startup to leave the incubator successfully was Tadaweb, at the end of November.
What type of startups can apply to be incubated at Technoport?
We exclusively select technological and innovative companies, but we don’t focus on any specific sector. This explains the diversity of applications of the companies that have joined us. There are environmental products, others relating to computer security and even solutions for the life sciences industry. We work with companies that are in the early process of creation, as well as foreign companies who want to develop R&D activities in Luxembourg. For the latter, we act as a “soft landing” and facilitate their initial development from the Grand Duchy.
Today, how is an incubator like yours a vehicle for innovation?
Any innovation ecosystem, whether it is regional, national or sectorial, generally has a structure like ours. We act as an intermediary in supporting entrepreneurship as a vital source of innovation. We try to minimize the risk of failure by providing access to partner networks, coaching, as well as infrastructure and an adequate working environment.
In 2016, our digital manufacturing laboratory will become, a true industrial and creative prototyping platform.
What are the drivers of innovation that you implement across Technoport?
Besides the incubator, we plan other programs and events to encourage innovation. Co-working allows us to organize and host a number of activities, such as hackathons, which are designed to stimulate innovative approaches through co-development and co-design. Another driver of innovation is the digital manufacturing laboratory. With the acquisition of our latest equipment, in 2016, the laboratory will become a true industrial and creative prototyping platform. Finally we will be able to participate in European projects that allow us to design, test and implement new services promoting innovation.
In order to really talk about innovation, a startup needs to begin collecting feedback in order to understand how it can best innovate… It is, therefore, necessary for startups to confront the market as early as possible.
What do startups need in order to both innovate and develop?
Each stage usually has a different degree of maturity. That said, in order to really talk about innovation, a startup needs to begin collecting feedback in order to understand how it can best innovate and how it will need to adapt to achieve success in the market. It is, therefore, necessary for startups to confront the market as early as possible. In this phase, it is important to have beta users that build a first pull on the market. Later, in the development phase, there is the need for seed financing and adequate human resources in order to fine-tune the product and accelerate sales.
How do you assist startups that are on the path to innovation?
We offer different programs depending on the stage of development of the project or the company. We help them as best as we can to validate their assumptions and to connect them to the right players in the market.
How would you present the Luxembourg startup ecosystem to foreign entrepreneurs?
If they are considering the possibility of settling in Luxembourg, I tend to say that they have arrived right on time. The innovative environment offered to startups has never been more dynamic, interesting and prolific. More and more players are now taking a closer look at the ecosystem and seeing how they can develop their projects here. This has an immediate effect: an increase in entrepreneurial opportunities. It is important to note that about 25% of the annual applications we get come from non-bordering countries, which is a great rate for our ecosystem. We cannot afford not to have these international sources of entrepreneurship. In recent years we have tried, through various initiatives, to promote Luxembourg for the soft landing of foreign projects. As we are a member of various European and international networks of incubators, we are well positioned to assist. This year we were ranked 5th in the “European University Associated Business Incubators 2015” according to the UBI Index, a ranking of incubators that are independent of any university but work with one or more university institutions. Now we’re talking!
In 2016, new support measures from the Ministry of Economy as well as joint public and private initiatives in the field of seed financing will be announced.
How is the Luxembourg startup ecosystem perceived from abroad, and why is Luxembourg an ideal place to develop a startup?
Luxembourg has various advantages. The benefits that are most often expressed by foreign entrepreneurs we meet include the geographical position and the ‘neutrality’ of the country on the European market, both of which facilitate, in a certain way, international sales efforts. Multilingualism, strong logistics and business-friendly regulations are some other advantages drawing foreign startups to Luxembourg, as is the ability to move quickly thanks to the close proximity to administrative bodies and decision makers This feedback is really interesting, especially because local entrepreneurs have a different, less positive, perception. I already mentioned that the timing is ideal for those who choose Luxembourg. In fact, in 2016, new support measures from the Ministry of Economy as well as joint public and private initiatives in the field of seed financing will be announced. They should strengthen the positioning of Luxembourg as a region for startups over other regions of Europe. It is important to ensure strong ‘nation branding’ and continue to enhance our reputation abroad.