Georges Schaaf Head of Sector Development – Cleantech & Manufacturing Industry is fresh from attending the 16th Cleantech Forum in San Francisco 2018. We took this opportunity at the beginning of the year to ask Georges about the cleantech business in Luxembourg and the strategy for 2018 and beyond.


Q – Georges, can you please tell us why the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco 2018 is considered a critical event on the agenda?

A – Georges Schaaf Head of Sector Development – Cleantech & Manufacturing Industry

“It’s important globally but for us especially as Luxembourg’s cleantech sector is still at an early stage. We need to attend these events to meet the players in cleantech, to network and to be informed on the latest developments in the sector.

One of the highlights of this event, the Cleantech Group (CTG) presents the annually refreshed Global Cleantech 100 list, which is their barometer reading of the global innovation community’s shifting views on which companies, and which types of companies, are most likely to have big commercial impact in a 5-10 year timeframe. This ranking itself has a big impact and can be a good opportunity for upcoming stars as there are categories such as Early Stage Company of the Year and Rising Star Company of the Year.  In fact this happened to our Luxembourg company APATEQ, specialist for innovative water and wastewater treatment, who were named a Global Cleantech 100 company in 2016.”


Q – Why is Luxembourg interested in cleantech?

A –  “I think it is safe to say that other than a few notable non-believers, the world is waking up to the fact that climate change is real and that sustainability and circular economy are the only ways forward. These topics are really becoming central to any development strategy be it economic or infrastructure etc. and for some time now are no longer an “add on”.

Luxembourg is very much pushing in this direction and has some interesting neighbourhood projects coming up of which the flagship one is occurring in the northern Luxembourg town of Wiltz that has been designated a circular economy testbed as part of a government of Luxembourg initiative to promote environmental and economic sustainability.

There is also the “Porte deHollerich” project, which was presented in March 2013. Taken on by the City of Luxembourg and supported by a number of private groups the plan is to transform some 3.6 hectares of land located at the southern entrance of the capital into a process of urban, energy and environmental transition. The objective is to build a pilot eco-district, offering a high quality of life to its inhabitants while drastically reducing their environmental impact. It is expected that 100% of the thermal needs will be self-produced on site, as well as 20% of the electrical needs. Hundreds of new homes should also have green roofs and sustainable wood and 50% of building materials will come from a 150km radius around the site.

Finally, another very interesting project is the Dudelange Innovation Hub, which later might be integrated into the “quartier Neischmelz” and which will attract start-ups and projects with an eco innovation focus, which in turn will be supported by Luxinnovation. This forms only one part of a larger plan to develop an entirely redeveloped neighbourhood that incorporates ideas of the circular economy and moves away from the ideas of “take, make and dispose” – a neighbourhood that has to be sustainable and carbon free.


Q – Are there many cleantech start-ups around?

A – Cleantech is not as easily a category of start-up as, for example, ICT can be. With cleantech, you need a physical item that must be built, and this involves engineers and generally, a lot of capital before you even have a pilot project or prototype. Because developing a pilot can be so expensive, cleantech start-ups often run out of capital and even if they do build a pilot, it is in Scandinavia, which can be a long trek for someone coming to look at it. Therefore, in many cases it would be handy if the pilot project or prototype would be located in central Europe.


Q – Luxembourg is putting a lot of energy into growing the cleantech sector. Part of your ‎business development strategy involves looking to Scandinavia and the Nordics for good ideas and in the hope of attracting new business opportunities to Luxembourg.  Why Scandinavia?

A – When it comes to cleantech, the Scandinavian countries are leading the way with Denmark, Finland and Sweden in the top spots as of 2017 and Norway in the top 10.   This is why as a first action Luxinnovation joined Cleantech Scandinavia as a member in 2017.

There are a number of reasons for this of which one is their location and their climate which pushes them to focus on energy saving and efficiency. This is very important, as their issues are different from the southern European countries, which are warmer. However, they also have the right attitude regarding sustainability and they have set themselves challenging energy and emissions targets, they invest well in the development of clean technologies, and more and more integrate green living into everyday life.

The Nordic countries also have a very open policy and they tend to be very export-centric as their home markets tend not to be that large so they look to foreign markets. I always says, “If something works in Scandinavia it is proven because their expertise is so high and it can be applied elsewhere”.

So ultimately, you have a situation where Luxembourg is looking to attract cleantech companies and innovation so we look to the best and the Nordics are looking to internationalise. Above and beyond our list of USPS, we are not as far, for example as southern countries and with our multilingualism and very visible and active Nordic community and our continuous high rankings for political stability and expat living our country is a good fit for them.


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