Wizata Founder & CEO Jean-Philippe Hugo: “It is particularly important for us to help the process industry.”
Photo: Vincent Duterne
The Economist’s “World In 2019” predicted that tech, including artificial intelligence, will be everywhere this year. And the grand duchy is no exception. One Luxembourg startup, Wizata, has made rapid developments in AI.
Founded in 2014 by then 26-year-old Jean-Philippe Hugo, the company’s current CEO, Wizata uses AI technology to empower industry and metal manufacturers to optimise their capabilities.
The technology “goes from predictive to prescriptive analytics: from the multitude of possible outcomes that are simulated, the best course of action is identified to achieve the objectives, generating recommendations to improve production processes,” says Hugo. These optimisations can range from environmental and energy challenges, to improving quality and cost reduction through predictive maintenance.
Since its founding in 2014, Wizata has made quick strides, winning the Startup of the Year at the Luxembourg ICT awards in 2016 and being named 2017 Microsoft Country Partner of the Year for Luxembourg.
After its initial launch, Wizata benefitted from a fundraising of €1.5m via the Digital Tech Fund, Luxinnovation and BIL in 2018, enabling the company in the same year to double its number of full-time employees, from 10 to 20. The company is now in the phase of scaling up to more international customers. According to Philippe Maes, chief strategy officer and partner, there has been a current focus on steel, but the platform could also be used in derivatives, like copper, or materials such as glass, cement or lime.
“Luxembourg was once at the forefront of the industrial revolution, and it is particularly important for us to help the process industry… in its renewal through digital transformation,” Hugo says. In fact, both Hugo and Maes see Luxembourg as “fertile ground” when it comes to new technologies and AI, whether it’s because of talent or the startup ecosystem.
“In Luxembourg, the Digital Tech Fund, Luxinnovation, the Chamber of Commerce and the ministry of economy are fostering a fertile environment for cutting-edge tech in a global market,” says Hugo. Maes adds: “There’s a big trend now to work with very niche, specialised companies [that] are… agile and don’t have the massive overhead and legacy that larger companies have.”
Wizata chief strategy officer & partner Philippe Maes Photo: Vincent Duterne
Based in Luxembourg, Wizata has also attracted talent from locations as wide-ranging as Russia and Ukraine to Spain and Morocco. “Luxembourg is a very attractive place for talent, that’s a big asset,” says Maes.
AI creating opportunities
The Wizata platform is Microsoft-based, but one area in which Maes sees some barriers is in the view of the cloud. He hopes more will get comfortable accessing the cloud, given that it is “secure, powerful… and cheaper” than other options. “There’s a lot of paranoia around [AI],” including the fear of jobs being replaced or functions automated. “But then, you have a huge demand for other types of profiles. The people we’re hiring are 100 percent Stem [science, technology, engineering and maths], so I think it will create great opportunities also.”
Maes says: “I see AI as an additional tool, an additional way of getting information, not very different from suddenly having the internet or cell phones or apps… it’s just an extra tool that humans have to improve their quality of life.”