Region/Countries: Benelux Countries, Europe Industry: Aviation / Aerospace Date: July 2017

Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Aviation and aerospace products are the country's leading category of imports from the U.S., spelling opportunity for Wisconsin exporters.

Luxembourg enjoys one of the world’s highest per capita GDP levels. As it has few natural resources, its economy mainly depends on the banking, steel and manufacturing sectors. Once largely dependent on the iron and steel industry, Luxembourg began to diversify its economy in the 1960s, initially focusing on the service sector and managing to become one of the world’s top 10 financial centers.

As part of overall diversification efforts, Luxembourg joined the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2005. Commercial aircraft were already an important import product for Luxembourg, and since joining the ESA, the space industry has grown to include over 40 companies. Industry revenues rose by 21 percent to $2.6 billion in the four-year period ending in 2013. The number of people working on private sector space projects is rising by an average of 15 percent per year. The scope of the sector can also be seen in Luxembourg’s import figures. Aviation and aerospace products are the country’s leading category of imports from the U.S., totaling over $560 million in 2016. Worldwide, Luxembourg’s market share of the imports of spacecraft, satellites and spacecraft launch vehicles is over 37 percent.

With the launch of the SpaceResources project, Luxembourg’s government is aiming to explore the natural resources of space and invest more in the country’s space program. For this purpose, investments will be made in advanced research activities and technological capacity. Luxembourg already ranks fourth among European countries in terms of space investment. To further promote the space industry, the Ministry of the Economy has developed a space policy whose main objectives are to:

  • contribute to the diversification and sustainability of economic activities in Luxembourg;
  • consolidate and enhance existing skills in the field of telecommunications and media, and ground systems; and
  • give an international dimension to the activities through access to international networks.

At the European level, the aim is to:

  • increase Luxembourg's contribution to ESA programs for the current budget period—an increase that affects both the budget for areas of confirmed Luxembourg interest, such as telecommunications, and new contributions in the areas of Earth observation, navigation, technology and security; and
  • Provide a budget at the ESA level to implement a national space program.

At the national level, the government has provided a budget for the development of bi- or multilateral cooperation with major space players outside Luxembourg.

As early as the 1980s, there were already companies in Luxembourg focused on aerospace. One of the biggest is Société Européenne des Satellites (SES), a satellite operator founded in 1985, and now one of the world leaders in this sector, with a fleet of about 50 satellites that reach 291 million people around the globe. The success of SES led other aerospace companies to establish a presence in Luxembourg. Examples include Gradel, Luxspace, CTI Systems, Hitec and Euro-Composites.

The investment of Luxembourg in a diversified economy also offers opportunities for Wisconsin companies. As aviation and aerospace is already an important export category for Wisconsin, and the state’s aerospace sector is projected to grow at a rate of 3 percent annually for the next 20 years, the state is well positioned to play a part in Luxembourg’s aerospace expansion efforts.

Companies that are interested in these opportunities can take a look at the Luxembourg Space Cluster, whose goals include bringing together enterprises and research laboratories, increasing the visibility of members, stimulating cooperation at the international level, and identifying and developing new business opportunities through collaborative projects. The cluster has a strong presence at international conferences and fairs, and organizes events to provide opportunities for members to meet potential partners from other countries. It also actively assists players from abroad that are interested in getting involved with the cluster.