For two days, Luxembourg hosted the sixth edition of the world Summit for Materials. Organised by The Economist magazine, with the support of Luxinnovation, Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) and Fedil, this event brought hundreds of experts – producers, scientists, technicians and decision-makers. The event aimed at clarifying the role of new materials in the forthcoming manufacturing industries.
For Luxembourg, hosting such an international event is far from being merely anecdotal. During his opening speech, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel highlighted the importance of the iron and steel industry in the history of Luxembourg’s economy; the starting point for all the developments that have marked the country over the past 150 years. “The iron and steel industry has been the base of the development of all the other processes related to materials,” he explained. “After extracting the ore from the soil, we are now extracting grey matter.”
The Prime Minister also reminded that more than 300 researchers are active in the field of research for new materials between the List and the University of Luxembourg
New opportunities in space
If, for a long time, Luxembourg’s economy was monolithic, today characterised by a great diversity of industrial activities. Players such as DuPont, Ceratizit, IEE or Goodyear have largely contributed to the emergence of new innovative developments. “The European Research Center established by Goodyear is a perfect example of the success of this diversification policy,” said Xavier Bettel, who notably focused on the emergence of nanotechnology. “The development of nanomaterial research is crucial for Europe’s competitiveness,” he affirmed.
The emerging space mining adventure is an excellent showcase for Luxembourg and a major lever for the technological influence of the country. “More than 700 people are currently employed in activities related to space,” said the Prime Minister, praising the merits of Luxembourg as pioneers in this sector, which opened up new prospects for development.
An active cluster
“It is important for us to follow the evolution of materials because the research activity is important for our diversification,” stated Xavier Bettel, recalling that Luxembourg’s investment in R&D positions it alongside dynamic economies such as Switzerland or Singapore.
In Luxembourg, the materials & manufacturing sector is one of the most important for the national economy, representing some 32,000 jobs in 2015. Managed by Luxinnovation, the Luxembourg Materials & Manufacturing Cluster now has more than 70 companies (from start-ups to multinationals, public research organisations, banks and consultants), and works on four major projects: the development of the National Composite Center, created in 2016; setting up an additive manufacturing technology platform (3D printing); the advent, expected for 2018, of the future HPC (High Performance Computing) supercomputer and the generalisation of the 4.0 industry principle driven by digitalisation and robotisation.
The smart factory is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution; the big company as well as the small will eventually need to make this transformation. Luxinnovation can support them in their project, including helping companies find national funding programmes.