Company: Technoport SA
Interviewed person: Diego de Biasio
Technoport SA is a technology business incubator that supports the creation and development of innovative and technological companies, including start-ups, spin-offs, and foreign companies that aim to establish research, development and innovation (RDI) activities in Luxembourg.
On top of supporting these companies we consider ourselves as a kind of innovation lab that regularly designs, tests and launches new concepts to support the national entrepreneurial ecosystem. Concepts and services like hackathons, the digital fabrication laboratory, living labs, the digital experience lab or coworking activities have partially been introduced by us at national level.
In more than 22 years of existence, Technoport has thus acquired a specific expertise in the organization of innovation programs and hackathon type of events with the aim of fostering and growing the entrepreneurial community around generic or specific sectors. Developing these activities with national or international partners and corporates is also part of our mission. That is why we are actively present in international and European networks of business incubators and science parks since we exist. We recently launched a joint venture with Vodafone Procurement Company here in Luxembourg, called Tomorrow Street. The target here is to support technology and innovative scale-ups to become global players.
On average, the incubator hosts 40 companies on two different locations. We manage in total 16.000 sqm of space spread over the two geographical sites and 5 different buildings. Our size, combined with the fact that we are a generic incubator, allows us to support companies in a variety of sectors like space technologies; industrial engineering; material science; environmental technologies; digital health; cybersecurity and software applications (B2C, B2B).
Back in 2012 we innovated also in the governance structure of our incubator. Technoport operates as a private company (société anonyme) but is owned by public shareholders: the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy and the SNCI (Société Nationale de Crédit et d’Investissement).
How does Technoport support start-ups?
As a business incubator we distinguish mainly two phases of support:
- Very early stage startups start with a free of charge pre-commercial program of 4 months, during which they can receive business support to validate a proof of concept and use some of our facilities.
- The official incubation program is fee-based and can last from 3 years up to 5 years depending on the industry in which the hosted company operates.
Generally speaking, our support is focused on supporting entrepreneurs by giving them access to a unique combination of networks of partners (technical, business, investors), coaching, access to events and general infrastructure.
On top of that we of course give a high importance in constantly improving ourselves thanks to our own internal innovation lab where we test and launch new concepts as already mentioned.
Technoport does not take any equity position on the hosted companies.
How does Technoport select start-ups?
Technoport selection process is quick and flexible. Companies can apply at any time throughout the year. The first selection step is an internal review by Technoport’s management team. The focus of selection here is mainly on the innovative and technology component of the project. This allows the startup to enter the pre-commercial program.
The next steps to enter the official fee-based incubation program are the evaluation by a panel of industry experts and the final approval by Technoport’s Board of Directors. Here we also include an evaluation on the team, the potential and the general business case.
To give you a rough idea, only 7-10% of the received applications are approved.
What added value can you offer to foreign companies that decide to expand their business in Luxembourg?
Technoport has implemented a soft-landing incubation program for foreign tech companies, including multinationals, that want to establish their RDI activities in Luxembourg.
As for startups, we firstly offer a free of charge 4-month Discovery Program giving access to our services, network, infrastructure, as well as to organized meetings with relevant ecosystem players to support the company’s decision to validate the specific business case for Luxembourg and establish the legal entity.
If the company finds a good fit with the ecosystem, it can access the fee-based Soft Landing program and use Technoport as an ideal launchpad to kick-off its activities.
As we already mentioned another way to support foreign companies is through Tomorrow Street joint-venture which aims to help international scale-ups to grow thanks to Vodafone network of partners.
In the context of COVID-19, do you have any advice for young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business in Luxembourg?
Entrepreneurship should be a passion and is certainly a rewarding experience but also a risky one by definition. Being an entrepreneur means perseverance and adaptability and often with sub-optimal resources if we talk about startup companies.
Covid-19, as all other kind of crisis in the past, has added an additional, perhaps more complex layer of uncertainty for the vast majority of the ventures. I am pretty confident that those who will, or plan to, launch in this context will add this external factor of uncertainty in their analysis and business case. And we see this in the applications we are receiving right now.
So, I do not have a specific advice for them unless to continue to test as much as they can the assumptions they make and certainly to factor in this uncertainty in their financial models to make them more robust.