Michèle Detaille

“We’d like to see more political support for industry”

Michèle Detaille is chairwoman of Fedil and managing director at Alipa Group Library photo: Matic Zorman

Michèle Detaille is chairwoman of Fedil and managing director at Alipa Group Library photo: Matic Zorman

Talent shortages, technological transformation and ambitious decarbonisation goals all present exciting challenges for Luxembourg industry. Fedil head Michèle Detaille talks about keeping industry competitive.

As chairwoman of Fedil and managing director at Alipa Group, what do you see as the key challenges for industry in Luxembourg in 2022?

Michèle Detaille – They are twofold: finding the right talent in a context of technological transformation and decarbonising our production processes to meet the GHG emission reduction targets. In addition to these two challenges, I see the exposure of many industries to increased costs driven by disrupted supply chains and soaring energy prices.

Is government policy doing enough to support industry?

The government built up a much-welcomed framework of support measures during the pandemic. Efforts undertaken in the areas of research and development, innovation and greening are also well supported. However, we’d like to see more political support for industry in general. We deplore how industrial investment projects are often viewed with an overcritical eye, even though economic, ecological and social performances of the industrial companies in question give no cause for concern. Also, policy makers should constantly tackle the question of whether existing or planned regulation is really required, or whether it stems from an exaggerated mistrust of industrial companies.

The OECD identified R&D investment as low in Luxembourg by international standards. How does this affect productivity and innovation in industry?

Innovation and productivity are not always directly linked to R&D. Technological leadership is much more linked to R&D and several industries in Luxembourg are well known for their remarkable R&D performances. The OECD ranking might result from the fact that a bigger part of Luxembourg‘s economic output is not produced in sectors with high R&D spending. Another explanation could be that some bigger industrial companies in Luxembourg are pure production sites without R&D activities. They belong to foreign groups that concentrate R&D activities in their home country, for example, the US, Japan, France and Germany.

What can be done to improve R&D investment in Luxembourg?

Collaboration between public research and industry is a key element. Fedil suggested the creation of one or more technology parks, where this kind of collaboration could materialise. Besides that, the agency Luxinnovation plays an important role in fostering innovation and supporting companies, especially SMEs, to launch successful innovative activities in Luxembourg. A wide range of financial aids is available to support R&D. Last but not least, R&D investments could also be further stimulated through a more attractive intellectual-property regime.

Following covid-19, there has been an increase in raw material prices in some areas. What are these and how should industry manage this challenge?

Price increases are linked to insufficient production and rapidly growing demand on certain markets. Energy prices are also affected by the economic recovery on the demand side and by some disruptions on the supply side. I think it is important for industry to look for a secured and, if possible, a diversified supply. In this respect, it might help to reshore production that have disappeared from our continent or to (re)develop regional production in important areas. This being said, I think it would be a big mistake to overlook the advantages of globalisation.

This article first appeared in the January 2022 special forecast edition of Delano magazine.