Formed in 2019 and recognized as the nation’s blockchain innovation cluster in 2022, the Luxembourg Blockchain Lab keeps the country’s blockchain ecosystem moving, launching projects that show the technology’s impact potential across industries and society. Helmed by Emily Allaert, who joined from the LHoFT, the Lab considers blockchain technology’s role critical to Luxembourg’s economic diversification strategy. Here, Allaert sheds light on the Lab’s priorities, activities and hopes for Luxembourg.
Let’s start with the basics: What is the Luxembourg Blockchain Lab?
It’s the innovation cluster where blockchain happens in Luxembourg. We want to federate and help meet the expectations of the local blockchain ecosystem. The Lab is here to guide people in finding new potential applications for distributed ledger technology. We’re also developing the education side, because we believe upskilling is what will prevent anyone from getting pushed to the side.
Can you elaborate on why upskilling is so crucial?
There is much discussion right now about talent and a lack of specific skills. We are also hearing more and more about AI and how people might lose their jobs. Well, in blockchain there are opportunities. Luxembourg is working hard to diversify the economy, so it would be a shame to lose out on opportunities because you don’t have the skills. Companies are having to go somewhere else to find talent when we have individuals right here who might just need 10 hours of training to fill those roles. We want to help the market find the people it needs and help Luxembourg to be attractive for new companies to settle here.
When we hear about new technologies, it’s often within the context of an ‘ecosystem.’ Can you describe Luxembourg’s blockchain ecosystem?
Luxembourg’s blockchain ecosystem is pretty stable, and we hope to see it develop steadily over the next few years. We have really good projects that target pretty much every industry. There are around 50 companies active in Luxembourg, and those are just the ones that are really focused on blockchain. The Lab has five funders—Infrachain, the LHoFT, the LIST, LëtzBlock and Uni.lu/SNT—and that’s really key. We can target every industry, exchange information, share trends and find what we need for projects. Right now, we’re trying to map out everything and be involved as much as possible. It’s like with kids: It takes a village to raise the Lab.
And why is this blockchain ecosystem so important for Luxembourg?
It’s part of Luxembourg’s diversification strategy. Luxembourg is big in the finance industry, and blockchain will definitely impact finance. We believe that blockchain technology can bring new jobs and new initiatives in areas like health and logistics…So many industries can benefit. It’s part of Luxembourg’s strategy to have blockchain as an axis of development, similar to fintech and healthtech. There’s no question that the government is supporting the technology.
What’s a common misconception about blockchain?
The worst thing that is happening to blockchain’s adoption is that the press is focusing on cryptocurrency even if that’s only one part. It’s preventing the technology itself from being widely adopted without any hesitation. No one cares how the internet works, they just use it. We need to get to the same point with blockchain technology.
How do you change that?
We can change that through education and awareness raising. I think people will see its value as soon as there are concrete projects that are delivering solutions, so we need to find the right projects in order to convince people.
That’s where your call for projects comes into play, right?
Yes, we did our first call for projects in 2020, in which we selected eight projects that we coached and mentored. It was more generic and targeted all industries, so we wanted to do a more specific version this time. We collaborated with the Luxembourg Sustainable Finance Initiative (LSFI) and selected SDGs, specifically those working on scope 3 emissions (indirect greenhouse gas emissions), pricing biodiversity and assessing data on social dimensions. We will announce the selected projects with LSFI soon and will mentor them in the coming months.
What else are you working on?
We have the Luxembourg Blockchain Week coming up October 9–13, and are also creating courses for the Digital Learning Hub. We’ve created four learning tracks for IT staff, the general public, the legal community and entrepreneurs. In addition to that, we are in discussion with various stakeholders to assess potential use cases.
What is the status of blockchain in Europe?
We are waiting for European-level legislation that will provide comfort to financial institutions and give us more space to experiment, especially in the fund industry. It will enter into force later this year or early next year. Countries outside of Europe are already active in developing digital assets in the financial industry. In Luxembourg, as a fund center, it’s urgent that we are moving forward.
What are your goals for the Lab?
I’d like everyone to better understand the technology and not make that mistake that blockchain equals bitcoin. I would love to see national projects from various actors in Luxembourg deliver positive outcomes to the citizens, industry and economy. As a small country, we can prove that it’s possible to do this with regulations in mind and still have an impact.