R&D Field & Cybersecurity - Growing Stronger in Luxembourg

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R&D Field & Cybersecurity - Growing Stronger in Luxembourg

Overview of the Luxembourg R&D ecosystem through time

A young but fast-growing Research Location

Luxembourg has developed a strong R&D and technological culture. The Government has indeed invested substantial financial and organisational resources into these activities. The aim is to power the transformation of specific sectors, such as the Information Security sector. As a result, many big players have decided to establish their R&D centre in Luxembourg. Additionally, a number of start-ups have chosen the Grand Duchy to relocate or to start their activities.

It all started back in 1987 with the first law on the public-sector research and the creation of the public Research Centres (now LIH and LISER). In 1999, the National Research Fund (FNR) was founded, followed in 2003 by the University of Luxembourg.

The 2007 FNR Foresight study defined the national research priorities and the reviewed the 1st OECD Innovation Policy. In 2009, the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedecine (LCSB) and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security Reliability and Trust (SnT) were created.

Out of a merger of the two main technology-focused research centres, the LIST (Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology) was created in 2015, in addition to the BELVAL Research and Innovation Campus and the 2nd OECD Innovation Policy review.

 Another important initiative: Luxinnovation, the National Agency for Innovation and Research, established in 1984 and subsequently constituted as an Economic Interest Grouping (EIG) in 1998, combines initiatives of: the Ministry of the Economy, the Ministry for Higher Education and Research, the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Labour and Fedil (the  Business Federation Luxembourg). Luxinnovation offers a wide range of integrated and personalised services, which are based on a sectoral approach and provided free of charge to businesses of any size, to innovative start-ups and to public research organisations.

The Luxembourg public R&D is a complex organisation with multiple actors and stakeholders, as shown here:

Players in the Public Research Field

University of Luxembourg

The Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) at the University of Luxembourg contributes to establishing Luxembourg as the European centre of excellence and innovation for secure, reliable and trustworthy ICT systems and services. The interdisciplinary approach is essential, taking not only technical aspects into account, but also addressing business, human and regulatory issues. SnT fosters interaction and collaboration with industrial, international and government partners.

Part of the Computer Science and Communication Research Unit, the Laboratory of Algorithmic, Cryptology and Security (LACS) focuses on cryptography, building secure public-key cryptosystems, systems and network security and information security management.


The “IT for Innovative Services” (ITIS) department at the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) aims to bolster this domain through multidisciplinary scientific and technological research leading to the development of innovative IT services. ITIS gathers about 140 highly skilled researchers and engineers from various disciplines to address technological, organisational, human, and economic aspects of innovative IT services.


The National Agency for Innovation and Research, offers a wide range of integrated and personalised services free of charge to businesses of any size, including innovative start-ups and public research organisations. Luxinnovation acts as a facilitator for companies that seek to obtain national or European funding or that plan to launch an innovative activity. Equally, Luxinnovation is the right partner for those looking for technological expertise or aiming to enhance their innovation management capabilities. The Agency’s role is to help them shape and implement their innovation projects, notably by facilitating access to knowledge and technologies, to research infrastructure and markets, as well as to co-operation or business opportunities.

Within the Agency, a number of Clusters have been created in order to support specific fields of activities:


The Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) is the main funder of research activities in Luxembourg. It invests in public funds and private donations into research projects in various branches of science and the humanities, with an emphasis on selected core strategic areas. Furthermore, the FNR supports and coordinates activities to strengthen the link between science and society and to raise awareness for research. It also advises the Luxembourg government on research policy and strategy.

The FNR aims to be a driving force for Luxembourg’s innovation capabilities and focuses on the following three strategic objectives to foster research with impact:

  • Attaining scientific leadership in key areas
  • Turning public research into a competitive advantage for Luxembourg
  • Anchoring Science and Research in Society

All research centres in an overview

A constantly evolving R&D landscape

Luxembourg’s R&D is a young and surprisingly dynamic field experiencing constant growth in terms of projects, quality of researches and scientists.

The SnT for example has undergone a rapid development by recruiting top scientists, launching over 40 EU and ESA projects, creating a technology transfer office (TTO) protecting and licensing IP, launching spin-offs, and creating a dynamic interdisciplinary research environment with some 260 people.

As a key testimony of the growing success of the Centre, Professor Lionel Briand, FNR PEARL Chair and Vice Director of the SnT, has been awarded an “Advanced Grant” by the European Research Council (ERC) for his research in the field of software reliability and security. He is the first Luxembourg-based researcher to receive an Advanced Grant, the most prestigious of the European Commission grants. Lionel Briand will be receiving 2.3 million Euros in funding over the next five years. This funding adds to a series of recent successes at the University of Luxembourg in acquiring research funding, including two ERC Consolidator Grants. The various research groups within the SnT:

All research projects of the SnT, can be found here: http://wwwen.uni.lu/snt/research/our_research_projects

Luxinnovation (http://www.whd.global/downloads/2015-global/mFtag1h.pdf) is also an important player supporting the R&D field. Its aim is to stimulate the competitiveness of the country’s economy through research, innovation, creativity and design. The team is today composed of 45 people from 12 different nationalities and will keep growing in the future. The main objectives are as follows:

  • Contribute to enhancing RDI skills of start-ups, SMEs and large enterprises
  • Participate in the intensification of RDI activities carried out by researchers within the public research organisations
  • Help developing a sustainable culture of research and innovation in Luxembourg

The Luxembourg ICT Cluster, as part of Luxinnovation, is a young network that supports the various actors in the field of information and communication technologies in Luxembourg with the goal of creating and developing new sustainable business opportunities through collaborative R&D and Innovation projects.

The University of Luxembourg counts today 6157 Students, of which 545 PhD, 230 Professors and 425 Research Staff. The research is a main priority for this young University that has recently ranked among the top 200 universities worldwide, released by the highly regarded Times Higher Education (THE) journal. The future looks bright for the University and the Research Field as the 120 hectares of grounds used in the past by Luxembourg's largest steel foundry in Belval, will be transformed into 20 buildings and used to house all major research and innovation actors. In figures, this means: around 7,000 students and 3,000 teaching staff and researchers.

Since 2010 and by looking at the statistics in 2014, the status of Luxembourg’s innovation and research performance has largely been growing, thus positioning the country as one of the major players in Europe. And 2016 looks even brighter…

The objectives for 2016 and the upcoming years for the R&D public field have been recently announced:

  • More consolidation, less growth
  • Sharper strategy, clearer focus, impact-oriented
  • Professionalisation at all levels
  • Better strategic coordination within and between institutes
  • Increased public outreach

Other players in Cybersecurity R&D

The long-standing importance given to R&D and especially Information Security is clearly identified by the Luxembourg Government :

"For a country building its economic strengths on ICT, Cybersecurity is an essential asset to its economic attractiveness. (…) Cybersecurity creates trust among citizens and businesses. However its implementation is often discriminatory from the point of view of costs and complexity (…) Cybersecurity represents an economic opportunity. We strongly believe in the empowerment of all the stakeholders, as part of the democratisation of information security. Our approach is customer oriented, collaborative and coordinated at national level". Étienne Schneider, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy, at the Warsaw University of Technology, Poland (May 2014)

Luxinnovation released already in 2011 its FOCUS magazine (Research and Innovation in Luxembourg), presenting different initiatives in the field of ICT Security: http://www.luxinnovation.lu/Publications/FOCUS-Research-and-Innovation-in-Luxembourg/FOCUS-on-Research-Innovation-in-Luxembourg-N°5-2011-Leading-the-Way-in-ICT-Security

In addition to the public players and initiatives, such as the SnT & other research groups, there are several private or semi-private players also involved in R&D activities.

CIRCL, the CERT for the private sector, communes and non-governmental entities in Luxembourg, provides a reliable and trusted point of contact for any users, companies and organisations based in Luxembourg, for the handling of attacks and incidents. Its team of experts acts like a fire brigade, with the ability to react promptly and efficiently whenever threats are suspected, detected or incidents occur. CIRCL’s aim is to gather, review, report and respond to cyber threats in a systematic and prompt manner.

As a result of this, CIRCL is also involved in R&D related initiatives such as a project about data mining and analysis of data from different perspectives and summarise them to useful information; Malware Information Sharing Platform and Threat Sharing (MISP), an innovative platform to share, store and correlate Indicators of Compromises of targeted attacks.

Another actor, which has contributed to a number of research papers and initiatives, is itrust consulting. One of them, titled “Improving Cyber SecurityAwareness on Industrial Control Systems: The CockpitCI Approach”, defines a PIDS architecture, designed to address cyber-security needs of a critical infrastructure (CI), such as a SCADA system.

Luxembourg involvement in the EU programs

Luxembourg is highly involved at the European level by contributing to a number of Cybersecurity related projects and programs.

The Cybersecurity contractual Public-Private Partnership

The Cybersecurity contractual Public-Private Partnership (cPPP) – a Digital Single Market Initiative, gathers industrial and public resources to deliver innovation against a jointly agreed strategic research and innovation roadmap. Its objectives are twofold:

  • Help stimulate the competitiveness and innovation capacities of the digital security and privacy industry in Europe.
  • Ensure a sustained supply of innovative Cybersecurity products and services in Europe.

ECSO, the new association contracting with the European commission, was created beginning of July, with SnT and SECURITYMADEIN.LU as founding members.

Participation in Horizon 2020

Over the first two years of implementation of Horizon 2020, the EU provided €9mn for the co-financing of projects in Luxembourg in the ICT domain (Excellent Science, LEIT and Societal Challenges 1, 6 and 7). Overall, 21 Luxembourger organisations participated in 28 projects (3% of total projects) and coordinated 4 projects.

Secondary and Higher Education establishments received 31% of funding, compared to an average value of 31% for the EU as a whole. Research Organisations received a lower share (EU Average 27%). Private sector entities received 52%, above the EU average (38%). Of this, 20% of total funding went to large enterprises and 32% to SMEs. Public and other organisation received about 8% of the total, above the EU average.

Luxembourg's participation (in terms of share of total funding) relates primarily to the following Strategic Objectives: ICT for trust and security and software, services and cloud and ICT for Creativity.