Luxembourg’s transition to a knowledge-based economy

In the late 1990s Luxembourg officials developed a plan to invest heavily in public research in order to transition to a more knowledge-based economy, and the country is already enjoying the fruits of its investments. Among the laurels, Luxembourg is ranked number one in Europe for attractive research systems (source: 2019 EU Commission Innovation Scoreboard), number one worldwide for technological readiness (source: Global Competitiveness Report, World Economic Forum 2015), and as number two in the world in terms of its innovation efficiency ratio (source: Global Innovation Index 2018). The county is still striving to transform its economy, and the government recently developed a plan to create a totally sustainable, knowledge-driven, diverse, and trusted digital society by 2030.

The University of Luxembourg: a regional leader in research

At the heart of research in the country is the University of Luxembourg that was created in 2003 and which Times Higher Education ranks number 17 among the young universities of the world. Several of its research areas are considered as ‘pillars of excellence’ including materials science, computer science and ICT security, health and systems biomedicine, and data modelling and simulation.

The University has three dedicated research centers, one of which is the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust, which focuses on autonomous vehicles, space systems, and the internet of things, among other fascinating areas. Another dedicated centre is the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB) which aims to accelerate biomedical research and tighten the link between systems biology and medical research. The LCSB employs more than 200 researchers and staff who work on neurodegenerative disease research, particularly for Parkinson’s disease. In 2019, researchers from the centre were part of a team that rejuvenated stem cells in aging mice: a huge breakthrough that offers hope for better treatment and cures. The University of Luxembourg is also home to an expansive and respected Department of Life Sciences and Medicine (DLSM) which examines biological processes and human diseases with the goal of creating biomedical applications.

Other excellent public research centres

Luxembourg is also home to several other excellent public research centres, all funded in part by the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR), which invests in projects in various branches of science and the humanities. The largest of these research centres is the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), which has a dedicated unit for environmental and industrial biotechnologies. Other important centres are the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) and the Luxembourg Institute of Health (LIH), home to an esteemed oncology department that conducts important research into the most common types of cancer. The Grand Duchy is also home to the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for International, European, and Regulatory Procedural Law, the first Max Planck Institute of law outside of Germany. 

A history of innovation in industry

Long before public research centres existed in Luxembourg, private industry played a key role in innovation in the  Grand Duchy, going back to the mid-19th century with the creation of the steel industry and the company Arbed, which eventually became Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel manufacturer and a driver of important technological advancement. Research and innovation got another boost in 1949 when Goodyear created a plant in Colmar Berg, soon followed by the creation of an R&D facility, the only one outside of the U.S. The company’s Innovation Center is still very active today, developing and testing high-tech tyres for the future. Another important year for innovation in Luxembourg came in 1985 with the creation of the telecommunications company SES, now the largest satellite operator in the world.

Luxembourg: home to companies dedicated to R&D

Plenty of smaller but just as innovative companies operate in Luxembourg. Husky, the injection moulding company based in Dudelange, recently converted to full digitisation as part of an €11 million ‘factory of the future’ project. Automotive sensor leader IEE, which has over 300 patents, spends tens of millions of euros per year in R&D activities. Global automotive parts manufacturer Delphi, which has a large powertrain division in Luxembourg, also invests heavily in R&D here, working on next-generation technology for fuel injection, turbocharger boost management, and exhaust gas recirculation. And plastics giant DuPont de Nemours, more commonly known as DuPont, also conducts large-scale research and development activities in Luxembourg.