More than 230 private and public players from the wood sector responded positively to the invitation of the Wood Cluster managed by Luxinnovation to join the second Wood Cluster Forum at the Kulturhaus in Mersch. Mrs Carole Dieschbourg, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, opened the discussions and highlighted the importance of wood and, in particular, how this local resource should be treated. “About 750,000 m3 of wood are produced each year in our forests, a real asset to protect. Preventing the deterioration of the state of our forests and ensuring their sustainable management is essential if they are to fulfil their ecological, economic and social function.”
Luxembourg has a first-rate forest estate covering an area of about 90,000 hectares. Its forests cover more than a third of the national territory, with a very high proportion of hardwoods (64% of the total surface area) compared to softwoods (36%). The wood sector in Luxembourg is constantly evolving. Activities ranging from the maintenance and exploitation of trees in forests to the use of finished products by the final consumer illustrate the richness and great diversity of the sector, which includes a pool of extremely varied jobs and dynamic companies.
An almost complete value chain
In order to understand the full scope of the sector’s value chain, the Wood Cluster in collaboration with Luxinnovation’s Market Intelligence department presented a detailed mapping of the wood sector. “We started from the premise that there were many statistics on the wood sector, but few that provided a detailed understanding of the value chain,” explains Philippe Genot, Wood Cluster Manager. The objective of this study is therefore twofold: to identify all companies that fall totally or partially within the wood sector and to categorise them in order to deduce the sector’s strengths and weaknesses.
“We started from the basic idea that in order to add value to a sector, it is first necessary to have a good knowledge of the local ecosystem and the companies that make it up,” says Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation. “Our Market Intelligence department has already successfully tested this mapping service in other sectors. The wood market is in full evolution, driven by several positive factors that are essential for the successful development of the sector. We can see this in a very concrete way through the in-depth work we do every day with these companies.”
This new sector study identified 1,277 companies representing a total of 19,000 jobs. 8 categories of companies were defined: wood harvesting / trade, sawmills / processing, industry, energy, architects / engineers, construction / carpentry, skilled crafts / woodwork and trade / miscellaneous.
“What emerges very strongly from this analysis is the importance of companies in the craft and woodwork sector, but also in the wood construction sector. In terms of employment, these two sectors total about 15,500 people, or 81% of total employment. However, it is important to note that there are companies for each category in the value chain. Industry and the energy sector supplied by wood products account for 5% of companies and 9% of total employment in the sector,” explains Sara Bouchon, Head of Market Intelligence at Luxinnovation. “We have provided the cluster with a methodology and tools to analyse and update this data at regular intervals in order to keep abreast of current events and trends in the sector.”
This census work will therefore benefit all the cluster’s activities. For the cluster manager, Philippe Genot, “this database will make it possible to adapt our communication and better target cluster actions according to the category and profile of the company”.
Sectoral collaboration and innovation
Another observation raised by the mapping is the maturity of companies in the sector. 50% of companies are more than 12 years old. This is a significant presence, but it also implies that these companies might face challenges of modernisation, digitisation and innovation. “This is where the interest lies in undertaking innovation initiatives and cross-sectoral collaborations,” explains Philippe Genot. Many projects led by the cluster were presented, an opportunity for the players to get to know them and participate.
“Industry 4.0 plays an essential role in the development of the forest-based sector and in this context, collaboration with companies in other clusters creates more added value at each level of the wood processing chain,” concludes Philippe Genot.
At the end of the afternoon, Pierre Goetschy, Chargé d’Affaires at Prefalux, Jos Bollendorff and Philippe Schmit of SGI ingénieurs, Peter Stadler, CEO of Kronospan Luxemburg and Albert Goedert, Partner at BENG architectes, were given the floor. All five of them discussed the importance of innovation in the forest-based sector and presented their projects in collaboration with the EcoInnovation, Manufacturing & Materials and Creative Industries Clusters.
The closing remarks of this second Wood Cluster Forum were made by Claude Turmes, Minister for Energy and Spatial Planning, who thanked the Wood Cluster and all members for their active participation. He recalled the actions of the government’s policy in favour of sustainable construction, sustainable energy renovation and renewable energies. “Wood is not an infinite resource. Camille Gira initiated a working agreement, confirmed and signed by Minister Carole Dieschbourg, between the administrations of the Greater Region. Our action is in this direction. Enhancing the value of the wood sector means working beyond our borders.”
Things are getting hot in the wood sector, a good indicator that a new dynamic is underway.