POLITIQUE & INSTITUTIONS — Institutions

LE BLOG DE CARLO THELEN

Building upon the momentum to reach the top



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Carlo Thelen:  “The expansion of the talent pool in Luxembourg is likewise one of the priority addressed by the Chamber of Commerce.” (Photo: Mike Zenari/ Archives Paperjam)

The implementation of a European Digital Single Market is regarded as one of the top ten political priorities of the European Commission, and for good reason as digital technologies and innovations are nowadays genuine game changers with the power to reshape societies and economies.

The use of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) unlocks a window to a promising more inclusive and sustainable future, whereas smart cities are flourishing, citizens have a better access to information and education, companies’ decision-making is easier and public services are optimised, to name but a few of the numerous possibilities offered by digitalisation.

Whilst being fully aware of all these stunning opportunities, Luxembourg has been working hard in order to earn its esteemed position of front-runner on the global ICT scene: according to the “Digital Economy and Society Index of 2018” (DESI), Luxembourg is a “high-performing” country regarding digitalisation and is ranked number 5 among 28 European Union countries.

The Grand-Duchy has indeed been promoting and implementing concepts and policies, for both the private and the public sectors, which create a business-friendly environment for companies and startups in the context of the ongoing digital transformation. The “1 Euro SARL” was, for example, an innovative concept introduced in 2016 to simplify registering a limited liability company (LLC). And thus, between 2009 and 2015, more than 663 projects were financed by the Ministry of the Economy to support business growth, which is estimated to have created more than 3,000 jobs.

Luxembourg has a history of welcoming innovative companies who have built their fortunes on ICT, such as Skype, Amazon, PayPal, and soon possibly Google.

Carlo Thelen,  director general,  Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce

Luxembourg has a history of welcoming innovative companies who have built their fortunes on ICT, such as Skype, Amazon, PayPal, and soon possibly Google. The Grand-Duchy has also been quite successful in attracting less widely known – by the general public – companies that managed to develop their business on its fertile grounds and are now building empires on an international scale, albeit in more niche markets and therefore more quietly, for example SES, the satellite trailblazers, and the fast-growing artificial intelligence (AI) firm  DeepBlue Technology .

Each one of these global players took the key decision to make Luxembourg their home because of its numerous advantages in terms of location and in terms of physical and economic infrastructures. As a matter of fact, the country is at the center of Western Europe at the crossroad of many significant business centers while offering solid transportation and business facilities.

It also earned its AAA rating due to its political stability, and robust economy. And last but not least, the country is home to a dynamic, multicultural, and multilingual population. This environment encourages growth and puts Luxembourg on the global map for extraordinary projects – powered by innovation in ICT. One can then wonder what lies ahead of us now. How do we – as a country – leverage our strengths in order to reap future benefits?

Luxembourg managed to reinforce its digital innovation capabilities by being chosen to be the host to the European High-Performance Computer (HPC).

Carlo Thelen,  director general,  Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce

In a world defined by speed, where more than two million emails are sent per second , we leverage our strengths first, by aiming high and acting fast to get the “first-mover advantage”. Luxembourg therefore decided to be the host to the first e-embassy, where valuable, sensitive data is securely stored on servers under the jurisdiction of another country, in this case, Estonia, a country with a paperless governance policy and the most technologically advanced government in the world in need of secure back-up for their digital databases .

Additionally, Luxembourg engaged in state of the art science and technologies by positioning itself as a pioneer in space mining via its SpaceResources.lu initiative .

We then look and plan far ahead while making sure that our infrastructures and technical knowledge remain relevant for the years and evolutions to come so that digital transformation can take place in optimal conditions. In that matter, Luxembourg managed to reinforce its digital innovation capabilities by being chosen to be the host to the European High-Performance Computer (HPC) .

On top of that, the Grand-Duchy keeps its technological knowledge level sharp and works at striking partnerships with key players on the digital market. Recently, an agreement has been concluded between Nvidia – the PC gaming giant and leader in high performance computing and artificial intelligence (AI) – and the Luxembourgish research community and Governement to create a join AI lab .

The Chamber of Commerce has therefore created many initiatives to show the way through digital transformation.

Carlo Thelen,  director general,  Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce

Not only are physical and technical infrastructures important, making sure that the right skills are available to support the growing digital market is also vital. The Chamber of Commerce has therefore launched many initiatives in skilling, re-skilling and up-skilling. Its House of Training (HoT), for instance, offers professional training via more than 70 courses specialising in digital skills. The expansion of the talent pool in Luxembourg is likewise one of the priority addressed by the Chamber of Commerce. In that respect, its House of Startups (HoST) is nurturing a project that will be soon launched later this year and which is called the “The Greater Region Incubator Network”.

Its aim is to connect the 11 million people in tech in the Greater Region of France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany and build a strong transnational ecosystem by connecting startups with established companies, investors, research centres and more, effectively creating our own cross-border Silicon Valley. The access to a powerful, multicultural and multilingual talent throughout the region has historically contributed to the success of Luxembourg as an economy. For that reason, we should leverage this competitive advantage and prioritise the expansion of our talent pool here in the Grand Duchy.

Luxembourg is clearly fertile ground for ICT and the possibilities for growth here are enormous.

Carlo Thelen,  director general,  Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce

Finally, to make a success out of the deployment of the digital market in our country, we make sure that businesses get the support they need when they need it. To fulfil its mission of guiding, informing and supporting companies, the Chamber of Commerce has therefore created many initiatives to show the way through digital transformation. One of them, the “Go-Digital” program, is managed by the House of Entrepreneurship (HoE), our one-stop shop for new and confirmed entrepreneurs. The program has been recently celebrating its one year anniversary of successfully helping SMEs learning digital skills and master the digitalisation process of their business.

Besides the Luxembourg House of Financial Technology (LhOFT), acts as a dedicated fintech platform for technology innovation in financial services. It provides fintech support to companies across the spectrum, from investment firms, to insurance for small-scale farmers in emerging countries faced with unpredictable weather, to non-profits that teach computer programming to children .

Luxembourg is clearly fertile ground for ICT and the possibilities for growth here are enormous. Even if the country already benefits from numerous assets, it does not intend to rest on its achievements as shown in the ambitious government’s Coalition Agreement 2018–2028.

The Chamber of Commerce applauds the government’s efforts in leading the country to a successful digital transformation.

Carlo Thelen,  director general,  Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce

The latter offers a holistic approach to digitalisation in Luxembourg and contains provisions regarding diverse key actions in various digital matters such as digitalisation of administration for simple and efficient bureaucracy, development of innovative digital and mobile payment methods, enforcement of legislation favourable to innovation, use of open data, promotion of Luxembourg as a safe-haven of cyber-security or implementation of the European digital common market, to mention just a few examples.

The Chamber of Commerce applauds the government’s efforts in leading the country to a successful digital transformation and welcomes the fact that Prime Minister Xavier Bettel himself is in charge of the new digitalisation plan as Minister of Digitalisation, insofar as it highlights the transversal importance given to digital matters.

As a partner to the government and support to the companies in achieving a thriving economy, the Chamber of Commerce encourages the empowering of Luxembourg’s businesses and the acceleration of our first-mover advantage to ensure our attractiveness and competitiveness in the digital technology– infused world that is taking shape.

Carlo Thelen is director general of the Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce . This article is extracted from his blog with the agreement of the author.