The place to be

“There’s capacity to get things done efficiently and quickly”

Luxinnovation CEO Sasha Baillie took on her role in 2018 Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Luxinnovation CEO Sasha Baillie took on her role in 2018 Romain Gamba / Maison Moderne

Luxembourg isn’t just a financial centre: choosing to do business from Luxembourg presents a host of opportunities on both the professional and personal fronts.

For those living in the grand duchy, the benefits of the country are evident: not only is Luxembourg located in the heart of the EU, but it’s business-friendly, with a multilingual and multicultural fabric to boot.

But the country isn’t just well connected to the greater region or Europe. Inside the borders, plenty of players are helping to connect the dots. Case in point: ­Luxinnovation, the national innovation agency, whose mission is to foster ­companies and research organisations in their innovation and economic developments, also helping to attract international ­investment in line with the gover­n­ment’s ­objectives.

In Luxembourg, “you can be in the centre of things, where there’s an ease of interaction, and this is something that really matters to businesses,” explains Sasha Baillie Sasha Baillie, Luxinnovation CEO. “There’s the capacity to get things done efficiently and quickly by these personal direct ­connections to key decision makers.”

The agency is part of a broader ecosystem to help businesses and other partners easily link up. Its services help facilitate large-scale cooperation projects, i.e., with research and tech players. ­Targeted prospecting also plays a role. As Baillie explains, “what we have done is help to identify better the key sectors we are developing in Luxembourg, what is it that those sectors have in Luxembourg and where are there gaps--and how do we fill those gaps? What is it that we need to attract to Luxembourg that’s going to be reinforcing and complementary to what we already have?”

Its clusters--in areas ranging from cleantech and healthtech to creative industries--reinforce those business-research links to help boost innovation.

Assistance in accessing funding

Its specially dedicated EU funding team also helps entrepreneurs gain knowledge and insight into funding opportunities, at the national level and beyond. It serves as the national contact point for ­Horizon Europe, the EU’s key research and innovation funding programme which aims to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

“We follow those programmes, and we make the connection between what’s going on there, where we have companies that have the competencies--or at least the potential to take part in such consortia--to develop also new technologies with other companies in Europe or other research and technology organisations, and how we can help our companies apply [and] take part in these programmes where there’s going to be some European financing coming in,” Baillie says.

A total €95.5bn has been earmarked until 2027 for the Horizon Europe programme, but Baillie says the application process can be quite “complex… with a lot of details to be provided,” and so the Luxinnovation team helps organise seminars or one-to-one briefings with potential applicants to help get them on their way.

“At a success rate of nearly 20%, we are the third highest in the EU [in terms] of success in applications,” Baillie adds. “That really is thanks to this team that prepares the companies and research organisations as well, with their funding application, so it really is as fluid and as successful as possible.”

A “tremendous” evolution

Baillie also understands the challenge of adapting to new cultures, as her career previously took her abroad to Brussels, Belgium, and Moscow, Russia.

Upon her return to the grand duchy eight years later, she says she was impressed with the way Luxembourg had “evolved tremendously”--not just due to government investment and infrastructure, “but in culture, and in evol­ving mindsets. It’s become more open-minded, inviting… I have a lot of my friends who really feel very comfortable in Luxembourg and wouldn’t leave anymore, built up their own network of ­colleagues and friends, and really become part of Luxembourg.”

A financial centre, but not just

Another individual who has found it easy to work and live in Luxembourg as an expat is John PsailaJohn Psaila. The Deloitte Luxem­bourg managing partner has been based in the country for two decades, initially arriving in 1999 for a five-week exchange and later returning in April 2001 after deciding his native Malta no longer suited him. “Working in a multicultural environment like Luxembourg has a unique charm. You may start the day with a ‘Moien’ [Luxembourgish for “hello”], continue your work in English and then switch to French, German or Italian, depending on the client or colleague you are dealing with,” he says. “I believe it comes with a higher mutual understanding and respect, and creates positive social dynamics that unite the wide diversity of ­people living here.”

According to Luxinnovation figures, in fact, the share of foreign citizens in Luxembourg’s workplace--which counts both cross-border workers as well as non-national residents--is above 73%. The highly skilled workforce is also evident in the fact that inhabitants speak, on average, 3.6 languages, which puts the grand duchy top of the EU league table.

Psaila has also witnessed the country rapidly evolve since he first arrived over 20 years ago and still praises it for providing an excellent quality of life, both personally and professionally. “Excellent schools, a rich cultural life, a truly multi­cultural environment, and a dynamic and highly qualified labour market are only a few of the pillars on which Luxembourg’s success is built,” he says, adding that the location in the heart of the EU provides “endless opportunities” for those wanting to explore more of Europe, all the while having a good place to root themselves. 

An innovation mindset

Similarly, David CapocciDavid Capocci, managing partner of KPMG Luxembourg, fell under what he calls the “Luxembourg spell,” one with which many long-term expats in the grand duchy are familiar. Capocci has also worked in the grand duchy for more than two decades.

“From two-year contracts being extended well past 20 years, to people who commit hour-long commutes every day from the neighbouring countries, Luxembourg has a unique way of grabbing your attention and never letting it go,” he tells Delano. 

Capocci took over the reins for a four-year term in October 2020 and has a CV that includes 20 years’ experience in alternative investment funds. He’s also an avid cyclist--one of many to take advantage of the more than 600km cycling paths across the country, some along picturesque rivers, others following converted railway lines. This path network is constantly expanding.

“As I cycle along the path that connects Cloche d’Or with Kirchberg, the two financial centres of the grand duchy, I could easily forget that I am cycling through the heart of a city,” he explains. “This ability to step outside of my office and five minutes later be lost in one of the best-kept forests in Europe is one of the ways Luxembourg hooks you in.”

Whether taking in the architecture or noticing new businesses taking up residence, the exec is impressed not just by the accelerating development of the country, but also for the sort of opportunities presented to employees which might not be as readily accessible in other financial centres. In Capocci’s words: “Employees have needed to upskill continuously in order to keep up with Luxembourg’s expansion. You can feel this innovation mindset pulsating from every building and, as a result, this collective drive to create the future here in the grand duchy is what makes it such an exciting place to be.” 

This article originally appeared in the Delano October 2021 international supplement