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At the beginning of the 2000s, the Luxembourg Cluster Initiative was launched by the government as a “key element of the R&D and innovation policy“. The management and organisation was entrusted to Luxinnovation.

The Luxembourg Cluster Initiative was launched by the government as a “key element of the R&D and innovation policy

The very first cluster, SurfMat, dedicated to “New Materials – Surface Treatments and Coatings“ (since then renamed Materials & Manufacturing), was created in 2001. It was followed by InfoComm (2002, then renamed ICT), BioHealth (2008, now HealthTech), EcoInnovation (2009, now CleanTech), Automotive Components (2013, now AutoMobility), Wood (2016) and Creative Industries (2017). More than 1,450 companies and institutions are currently involved in the Cluster Initiative. The number increased by more than 20% in 2019.

Evolving missions

“Originally, the cluster activity was based on five pillars: business development; product and service innovation; branding; internationalisation; prospection and promotion. All this was supported by a strong brand that differentiated the cluster services from the other support offered by Luxinnovation,“ explains Johnny Brebels, Director Company Relations and Support at Luxinnovation.

Over time, the context has changed, especially in 2016 when the promotion agency Luxembourg for Business was integrated into Luxinnovation and the new international business development department took over the responsibility for prospection and promotion.

This in no way diminished the activity of the clusters, which now concentrate on identifying companies’ needs, networking and creating so-called flagship projects. The flagships involve at least two companies or organisations, favour public-private partnerships and make a positive contribution to the ecosystem or the economy, in a sustainable and intelligent way.

Cluster reform: new governance structure

Initially, the clusters were coordinated by Luxinnovation’s cluster managers, who followed the overall guidelines of the agency’s management board, and steering committees chaired by representatives of the private sector. However, this dual governance gradually proved to be out of step with changing needs, the emergence of cross-sectoral projects and the development of a more customer-oriented approach.

We focus on the needs of each company and look for the most appropriate solutions and paths to follow.

“We realised that the standard model for clusters in the EU, with a PPP-type structure where partners invest to create synergies for the benefit of the whole ecosystem, did not really fit the specific Luxembourg context,” Mr Brebels comments. “We do not have enough critical mass or complete value chains for this. This is also why we decided to reform the way our clusters operate.”

Thus, the mission of cluster managers has evolved towards the role of “sectoral company relationship managers“. The steering committees have been replaced by sectoral advisory groups bringing together around ten stakeholders per sector, from industry, research and public administrations. As ICT has become a common facilitator for companies in virtually all sectors, the previous ICT Cluster has been connected to the Luxembourg Digital Innovation Hub, a support platform for the digitalisation of industrial companies launched in September.

“However, the starting point of our activities remains the same, with an integral customer orientation,“ Mr Brebels points out. “We focus on the needs of each company and look for the most appropriate solutions and paths to follow.”

Photo: © Luxinnovation / Marion Dessard

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