According to Paul Dühr, Ambassador of Luxembourg to France and Monaco, the French and Luxembourgish startup ecosystems are complementary and have a lot of synergies to create and maintain.
The French startups are usually impressed by the high degree of support and openness of the Luxembourg ecosystem. They are particularly attracted to Luxembourg for the vibrant environment for digital, e-health and FinTech.
Mr. Dühr, what are your projects in France?
My job combines five functions: Ambassador to France and Monaco, Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Permanent Representative to the OECD and, finally, Personal Representative of the Prime Minister with the OIF. With the staff of the embassy, our mission is to represent the interests – in a broad sense – of Luxembourg in France and Monaco. Within these international organizations, our goal is to strive to maintain the excellent level of friendship and cooperation between our countries and to be available for our citizens passing through or resident in France who may need administrative or other kinds of assistance. I will also note our role in promoting economic and trade activities, culture and tourism.
You recently co-organized a round table with participants from the French and Luxembourgish startup ecosystems. What was the takeaway from the event?
The round table, which was organized by our embassy, the France-Luxembourg Business Club and Silicon Luxembourg, brought together a diverse group of French and Luxembourgish citizens. The participants learned more about the interesting ecosystems of innovation and startups in both countries. The dynamism of our countries on these two aspects is well established. Each country implements policies that support innovation and startups quite proactively. We have seen that such policies have had a positive effect on the startup ecosystem. Throughout the various panel discussions, you could feel the will and enthusiasm of these young and old entrepreneurs, expressing a desire to work together more closely and to internationalize via either hub according to the targeted sectors and markets. The main objectives of the meeting were to discuss additional avenues of cooperation between Luxembourg and France, to facilitate networking between entrepreneurs from the two countries, and to start conversations at the meeting that would be continued.
What do you consider as the synergies between the two countries?
There are synergies between Luxembourg and France of various kinds, and some begin well before the actual process of innovation. We must first mention the different partnerships that bind us in R&D across all sectors. LIST and the LIH, which were represented at our “Silicon Duchy meets FrenchTech” event, know a thing or two about that. Moreover, France and Luxembourg have established clusters to allow this dynamic to transpose to the business environment. So, we are complementary in various high value-added industries. Health is a good example since the Luxembourg niche skills (biobank, personalized medicine, etc.) are usefully reinforcing French expertise, while the French expertise is essential for carrying out larger projects, including at the European level. In terms of data protection, the Luxembourg excellence is now well recognized. An example in this area is the level of Tier IV data storage centers. While they are still rare at an international level, Luxembourg is already well equipped and offers a welcoming hosting solution for French companies looking for this particular level of protection. A final example, far from comprehensive, yet already demonstrating synergies, is the aerospace sector, where we see SES, the flagship of the Luxembourg industry and the world’s largest satellite operator, intrinsically linked to such French giants like Airbus or Arianespace.
We have a high-performance technological environment with a high quality communications infrastructure (high-speed networks, data centers, optic fiber…) and excellent connectivity with the major Internet European centers.
How do you support Luxembourg startups that develop in France?
We try first of all to listen to them and answer their questions about opportunities for foreign startups interested in the French market. We tell them about aid, grants and subsidies that Luxembourg companies can claim in France, as well as about support that Luxembourg can offer them for exporting goods and services to France. We help them identify relevant coaches and mentors, who may guide them as to what to emphasize or, conversely, the pitfalls to avoid. We also suggest to them to focus on the relevant incubators, collaborative spaces or co-working places for development. Additionally, we ensure their promotion, accomplishing this in various ways, including through our various communication platforms and at our events during which we give them the opportunity to network and introduce themselves. We like to shine a spotlight on our ecosystem of startups and innovation in general. Ms. Laurence Sdika, our economic and commercial counselor, has twice been a jury member of the International Innovation Awards of the City of Paris and Paris&Co. It is an international competition of startups that helps increase our visibility as a welcoming country for foreign entrepreneurs and showcases the startup support France offers, while at the same time recognizing the excellence of our innovation system.
How is Luxembourg perceived in the eyes of French startups?
We have assisted several French startups interested in the Luxembourg market. Some of them are actually now located in the Grand Duchy territory and serve as terrific “ambassadors” since they have already made great strides in the Luxembourg ecosystem. The French startups are usually impressed by the high degree of support and openness of the Luxembourg ecosystem. They are particularly attracted to Luxembourg for the vibrant environment for digital, e-health and FinTech. Finally, the business environment, which is simple to navigate, friendly, multicultural and multilingual, appears to be the major asset that fosters their development.
What are your arguments to highlight Luxembourg as a digital-friendly hub for the French?
I would say it is not arguments but rather based on the reality that multiple international rankings place us, in fact, consistently among the most advanced countries in this field. And for good reason: we have a high-performance technological environment with a high quality communications infrastructure (high-speed networks, data centers, optic fiber…) and excellent connectivity with the major Internet European centers. Furthermore, the security of our ICT systems and services is controlled particularly well in Luxembourg. This asset, crucial for the necessary data protection in the electronic commerce field and in relations between the dematerialized citizens, governments and businesses, also reflects the advanced position of our digital space. Finally, initiatives with regard to the sector also demonstrate the importance of the digital industry in our economy. This brings to mind Digital Lëtzebuerg; the program “Fit for start” that is open to foreign and local startups; our launching of a seed fund for financing new innovative companies in the ICT sector; the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg; and the recent inauguration of the Luxembourg Webforce3 school. Not to mention the massive presence in Luxembourg of key players in the sector—real heavyweights of the international digital space.