Luxembourg’s importance as European digital hub to increase

European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, commissioner in charge of the digital single market, is set to announce concrete progress in setting up a European digital hub in the Grand Duchy.

According to internal documents from the Commission seen by the Luxemburger Wort, the EU’s executive branch is planning to increase staff for its specialised departments for digital affairs by 65%.

The Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT) and the Directorate General for Informatics (DIGIT) will go from 228 employees today to 378 by 2020.

The distribution by department is still “under discussion”, the Commissioner’s office said, but the numbers reveal an intention to make Luxembourg the centre of the single market strategy and development.

Luxembourg as main sponsor

On Saturday, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Ansip wrote in the Wort: “This digital hub, already closely collaborating with Luxembourg’s authorities, will play a key role in the implementation of the digital single market.

“It will work on different prioritised subjects: robotics, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, high-performance computing, data economy, public services online, digital solutions in the health sector, inclusion, culture and work.”

On the legislative side, the Commission is working towards harmonising national regulations that block the free circulation of data and of which one of the main barriers is the impossibility of looking at online content protected by intellectual property rights linked to other jurisdictions (so-called geo-blocking).

Bettel’s government, with its ‘Digital Lëtzebuerg’ initiative, is one of the main supporters and sponsors of this initiative, which seeks to unify and integrate the digital market.

Public/private synergies

Luxembourg’s governments have been investing for years in digital infrastructure like cable connections and data centres to channel and store data.

The Grand Duchy is in the Top 5 of the “Digital Economy and Society Index 2017”, due in particular to excellent marks when it comes to connectivity (second out of 28).

The European Commission has chosen Luxembourg as its centre to pool all data currently stored in “30 centres distributed over several countries”, according to a member of Ansip’s office.

In December 2016, European Commissioner Günther Oettinger inaugurated the Commission’s second data centre in Luxembourg.

Its financing — 56 million euros — was taken on by the Grand Duchy for a period of 7-8 years.

At the end of this period, Luxembourg will ask the Commission to pay rent.

High-performance computing

A project for a High-Performance Computer (HPC) is part of the same strategy and will also be conducted in cooperation with Luxembourg.

This HPC will be able to process several billions of operations per second and is being partly developed in the Grand Duchy.

Apart from research and public administration, several sectors such as finance, the pharmaceutical industry, transport and energy should also be able to benefit from the development of these investments.

The European Investment Bank, based in Luxembourg-Kirchberg and which is at the centre of the strategy for the digital hub in Luxembourg, will be used as a facilitator between public and private capital within the framework.

According to Ansip’s office, the vice-president’s visit this Monday “will allow a review of the development of the digital hub so far”, in addition to financial and judicial hubs already in development.