Mr Delé, how do you think the AutoMobility Cluster has performed since it was created in 2013?

“We are still a relatively young cluster, and whilst we have set ourselves objectives for developing the sector, I think there is still a long way to go in all respects. On the one hand, I don’t think we know enough about our members, and on the other hand, I am not sure that members realise the true potential of being a member of the cluster. Obviously, the raison d’être of such a cluster is to unite and to be stronger and go further together.”

What added value does such a cluster represent in relation to the already well-established activities of the ILEA – the Association of Luxembourg Automotive Suppliers, established in 2002 -, which was behind the formation of the cluster?

“The most important thing is having access to permanent resources! Even just organising events requires the sort of human resources that the ILEA simply doesn’t have, because all of its people are volunteers. Most of the members of the cluster’s steering committee are also members of the ILEA committee, but what the cluster does far exceeds the ‘equipment’ aspect.”

The Luxembourg AutoMobility Cluster is neither the best-known nor the most visible of clusters. How do you plan to rectify this?

“We are currently in the process of reviewing our overall strategy. One thing that is very important to me is being there for our members, and we are organising an increasing number of activities designed precisely to make us far more visible. But in order to achieve this we have to know our members well and our members need to know one another better, too, which isn’t always the case.

With this in mind, we organise breakfast meetings, for example, which take place early in the morning. These meetings give members the opportunity to get together with others who share the same interests or are based in the same area before heading into the office. This also allows smaller companies to introduce themselves and share some of the issues they may be facing or discuss matters of interest to them. In terms of the cluster itself, we are obviously at their disposal when it comes to the necessary follow-up and answering any questions asked.

We also organise larger, more traditional events to which all members are invited, and we hope to create more opportunities for our members, both directors and associates, to get together and interact with one another in the future. This is something we consider extremely important.”

How do you view your role as president?

“I tend to encourage teamwork and active collaboration between members. There are a number of stakeholders linked to the cluster: the shareholders who provide funding via Luxinnovation and who have a say in matters, public research organisation that have to be integrated and the members that we are here to serve. My steering committee team and I have to develop a long-term strategy for both Luxembourg and our members who operate at international level. This strategy will of course reflect the major trends in the transport and mobility sectors.

In the short term, once an idea has been put forward and the action to be taken decided upon, my role involves intervening to get things moving if I can see that no progress is being made. It is important to ensure that what we are doing reflects what we said we would do and that we keep moving in the right direction.

We must also ensure that we operate efficiently and assess what we have actually achieved with each action taken. It is all very well taking part in a student fair, but wouldn’t it be great if it really offered some benefits for our members? How many students did we meet? How committed were they to securing a work placement or their first professional role? This quest for efficiency should be the same for all of the events we organise, even the breakfast meetings.

The number of participants that an event attracts is not a relevant KPI. Concretely bringing two companies together, that’s an indicator of success.
My role is therefore to ensure that everything we do is effective and offers some sort of benefit for our members. If this were not the case, then we would have to review what we do and change how we do things accordingly.”

What sort of international influence does the cluster have?

“I distinguish between ‘letting it happen’ and ‘making it happen’ and I am obviously a great believer in the latter. We have direct or indirect ties with various organisations in Brussels, which enables us to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and emerging issues. This also means that we can share this information with organisations that don’t have the means or resources to obtain such information for themselves.

The President of the ILEA and Vice-President of the cluster, for example, runs a research group within the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), and we are also represented on the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC). We also hope to become more active in European circles and improve the visibility of Luxembourg on the international stage – that’s another of our objectives.”

Are you also looking to strengthen cooperation with other clusters or foreign federations, particularly in the Greater Region?

“Our most active colleagues are our German colleagues in Rhineland and Saarland, and we are also regularly invited to attend events there. Automotive Day, for example, is held in a different country every year. It was in Saarland last year and will be held in Luxembourg this year.

With this in mind, we will also be working with the Belgian Federation for the Technology Industry, Agoria, which also operates in the automotive industry.
This sort of international networking is, of course, so important; we can’t just stay in our own little village all the time. We have to act accordingly if we want to improve our international visibility or even increase our visibility within Luxembourg.

For the time being, this is limited to basic interaction and joint participation in events, but we are considering ways of collaborating on actual projects. An event like Automotive Day is a step in the right direction in this respect.
I have learnt, for example, that our German colleagues require members to pay a contribution, and this money is then used to organise a lot more events. None of the members of the clusters in Luxembourg pay a membership fee, but it might be something that is worth exploring, bearing in mind that it would then be an investment, since members would enjoy real benefits in return for this contribution.

I also think that we need to interact with other clusters more, and there are certain activities that we should all be undertaking together. If we work in silos we are missing out on good opportunities to improve our efficiency.”

What does your roadmap consist of in practical terms?

“We are in the process of finalising it, in fact. On the one hand, we have the five pillars that I have already mentioned, and on the other, a few of the major trends dominating the sector at the moment. These are, for example, decarbonisation, which includes electrical mobility, security and connectivity, of which autonomous driving is an integral part, and manufacturing of the future, with involves the digitalising and automating our companies.

With this in mind, we are in the process of determining the avenues we will pursue, ensuring that all of these trends are covered in the various pillars identified. Obviously, we must reflect both our members’ views and the trends coming out of Brussels when it comes to producing such a roadmap for the 2025-2030 period.

We are also working on a number of short-term projects, such as the upcoming Automotive Day.

The Luxembourg AutoMobility Cluster currently has around fifty or so members. Is that sufficient in your opinion?

“It’s a good basis to start with, but there is room for improvement, which will involve a certain amount of work. We must notably determine who can become a member and the procedure they need to follow. We believe that we need to greatly extend the scope beyond manufacturers and suppliers alone. There are an increasing number of service organisations and even start-ups operating in the sector who are not necessarily manufacturers or suppliers, and this is a positive development for the sector.

Obviously, the larger the cluster becomes, the greater the means available to help us progress. We also hope to attract other companies operating in our sector, which represents a very large proportion of our national economy. Few people know that virtually every car on the road anywhere in the world contains at least one part that was designed or developed in Luxembourg.”

What do you still need now for the cluster to become fully operational?

“I would say that it is vital now that we be able to meet the needs and expectations of all of our stakeholders. On the one hand, there are the companies, but there is also the country and all those seeking employment. Only when we succeed in developing activities that can benefit all of these parties and meet their expectations can we consider the sector to be very advanced.

At the same time, we are very keen to do more to contribute to public research in the sector, which will also require us to create a highly engaging environment. An innovation hub comprising a handful of start-ups and based at the Automotive Campus would be a great start.

I have also noticed that lots of companies, and not just those operating in our sector, have huge potential, but they don’t realise it. Many don’t realise just how much better they could be in terms of productivity and innovation, which is a real shame. There are even some companies that are struggling but really have no reason to be.

Even though it is important to keep costs under control, analysing losses and values is an entirely different approach that can prove beneficial in so many ways. No-one really knows what’s going to happen in a few years’ time and you have to be prepared to change, or even change your business.

As a cluster, we’re not going to tell company directors “This is what you have to do”, but we can, however, encourage reflection and discussion and draw attention to the issues that matter. If a company still needs help getting things moving, then we can help them by drawing on the considerations and experiences of another company, for example.

We have a major asset in the fact that our members are rarely competitors – one of the benefits of being so small.

At a purely operational level, we are somewhat lacking in resources when it comes to bearing the entire workload ourselves. One full-time person is not enough and we are trying to offset this deficiency as best we can through the voluntary efforts of the members of our steering committee. That said, I recognise and appreciate the fact that Luxinnovation has given us control of a small budget that allows us to carefully plan what we do.”

What is your own vision as president?

“My vision resembles the one defined when the cluster was created, namely helping to develop the automotive sector to make it the largest industrial sector in the country and helping to achieve international recognition for Luxembourg in our industry.

It is vital that we innovate and develop our skills, and if we are to better prepare the sector for the major mobility trends of the future, which include decarbonisation, digitalisation and decongestion, we must focus our efforts primarily on innovation by inviting even greater collaboration with both public and private research initiatives. We are establishing a working environment that will appeal to the young talent that is so vital to developing the automotive and mobility sector.

We may have a great card up our sleeve, but obviously we can’t play it alone; we have to look beyond borders for research centres with which we should be collaborating, including The Institute for Automotive Engineering (ika) of RWTH Aachen University, for example. We have already held a number of discussions on joint working topics, and there is, of course, plenty of inspiration to be drawn from what works well in other countries.”

Visit the Automotive Day website!

Luxinnovation contributes to the economic development of Luxembourg by fostering innovation, fuelling international growth and attracting foreign direct investment supported by: Ministry of the Economy, Ministry for Higher Education and Research, Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, Luxembourg Chamber of Skilled Crafts and FEDIL – The Voice of Luxembourg’s Industry.

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