Le Gouvernement du Grand-Duché du Luxembourg
Luxinnovation's CEO Sasha Baillie

"Innovating is mandatory!"

Organised by the magazine Paperjam, the "2024 Luxembourg Trend Makers" event provided an overview of the major trends to expect in 2024. Six experts from the economic world participated, including Luxinnovation's CEO Sasha Baillie, who emphasised the crucial role that innovation must play in addressing future challenges.

The task was not simple: taking a stance on the major trends expected for 2024 and exploring how each person, in their way, can contribute or act to meet the new challenges that arise. Unsurprisingly, the topics revolved around technology, sustainability, and innovation.

"Luxembourg is a small country and can be an innovation laboratory," stated Nancy Thomas, CEO of the IMS Luxembourg network (Inspiring More Sustainability). "We are a prosperous country, and we have the responsibility to set an example. We must view every activity from the perspective of sustainability and find ways to unite and gather all forces around each issue."

Regardless of the angle from which the topics were approached, the theme of talent also emerged in the discussions. "Whether for technological or financial innovations, or sustainability, the common point is the ability to attract the minds that can implement all of this," said Nicolas Mackel, CEO of the Luxembourg for Finance promotion agency. "As a country, we must both offer a well-positioned environment to attract these talents and invest massively in training. For example, in sustainable finance, if we want to instil the necessary reflexes in employees in financial institutions, the institutions must give them the opportunity to learn. And they need support for that."

A question of motivation

Maintaining high levels of employee motivation is also a major challenge, especially in light of the latest Gallup report cited by Nancy Thomas: with only one in ten employees claiming to be "engaged", Luxembourg is among the lowest in the European ranking. "Beyond the salary needs to be compensated, we also need to provide them with more transparency in training and give them access to meaningful activities," she emphasised.

"All challenges can only be overcome with motivated employees," added Carole Muller, President of the Luxembourg Confederation and CEO of Fischer Bakeries. "In the next 10 years, we will need about 300,000 new employees, including 100,000 to fill new positions. It is important to make companies more appealing to the incoming Generation Z, and make sure to meet their demands for flexibility and need for personalised responses. We need to work on labour law and a working context that promotes this commitment to address the issues discussed tonight."

Innovation, a part of the solution

Beyond the "talent" aspect, society faces numerous major challenges: climate change with its waves of drought or floods, geopolitical upheavals and fundamental shifts in economic power, leading to increased vulnerability in supply chains. "Not to mention all the technological issues surrounding data and artificial intelligence," pointed out Sasha Baillie, CEO of Luxinnovation. "Innovating is mandatory! It enables us, for example, to anticipate and manage floods, find solutions to partially resolve vulnerability in supply chains, and develop technologies for defence and security to better protect ourselves. That's why, as the national innovation agency, we are convinced that innovation is part of the solution."

She expressed great enthusiasm for the prospects offered by developments in artificial intelligence, for which she believes Luxembourg is well positioned, especially on the eve of the "historic" agreement concluded in Brussels on the AI Act aimed at regulating the development and use of artificial intelligence. "Having such a regulatory framework is important; otherwise, innovation is difficult. In Luxembourg, we have three key ingredients for AI: access to data through the Luxembourg National Data Service (LNDS), immense computing power provided by MeluXina, one of the eight European supercomputers, and a highly qualified research environment with enormous data capacity, often overlooked. The country is well-positioned, but we can do better, especially thanks to the political stability that enables businesses to turn challenges into real opportunities."

Sasha Baillie was also interviewed in the December 2023's issue of Paperjam.

Taming AI

The completion of this European framework is a major challenge for media companies, as mentioned by Mike Koedinger, founder and CEO of Maison Moderne, the publishing company of Paperjam and Delano magazines, among others. "Currently, the model proposed by the text excludes the creation of content by real people who have been paid for it and receive nothing in return. This is a disaster for journalists and content creators," he warns. "We are demanding, among other things, that content on which AI learns be traceable. By the time the text is finalised at the end of January, we still have some time to change the angle of this text."

The adoption of artificial intelligence tools is undoubtedly one of the major challenges for companies in the immediate future. "Progress to come will be even more exponential because users increasingly master the tools," notes Maxime Allard, Head of Data & AI at the start-up Circu Li-ion. "At the same time, some companies are still slow to adopt such tools because they are afraid or don't know how they could really benefit. But others have understood that they can use them to increase productivity, not to replace someone. Being able to adopt these tools will foster innovation and productivity and allow flexibility and efficiency that we didn't have before."

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