May 21, 2024

How has Luxembourg become Europe's unlikely healthtech hub?

Despite having just 650k inhabitants, Luxembourg is fast becoming a promising space for health innovation

Sadia Nowshin

5 min read

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Luxembourg’s government launched its Life Sciences and Health Technologies Action Plan in 2008 to boost and support founders trying to build new health solutions. Sixteen years later, the country’s healthtech scene has gradually made a name for itself in Europe. 

Zied Tayeb, cofounder of biotech startup Myelin-H, relocated to Luxembourg in 2021. “There was nothing,” he says. 

It couldn’t be more different in 2024. The country boasts innovation hubs that attract founders from across the continent, with smooth collaboration between hospitals and researchers as well as plans to set up a new healthtech innovation dedicated campus for companies are underway. 


But how has a country with just 650k inhabitants managed to become a space where healthtech innovation can grow and flourish? 

Size matters 

“Luxembourg's size is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness,” says Carole Brückler, head of digital health technologies at Luxeumbourg’s Ministry of the Economy.

For Tayeb, it’s been a positive. “It’s good to be a big fish in a small pond,” he says. “If you do something great, you get the attention, which is important in the early days.” 

He adds that a smaller startup community also means communication across the network is easier. “You can directly contact the people who will help you move the needle [and you] know which doors to knock on for help,” he says.  

From day one, startups require high quality data and we want to be a place where innovators that need health data have a trusted space to do that.

Another perk of the relatively small size of the country is the opportunities that healthtechs can access more easily than in larger ecosystems. 

For example, one opportunity available to healthtech founders is the ability to run a national-level pilot for their product across the hospitals in the country, says Brückler — and with a vibrant community where almost half (47.3%) of the population are foreign nationals, the patient pool offers a diverse selection of demographics. 

“You have a very rich testbed when it comes to testing real life environments,” she says. “Luxembourg offers you a really rigorous testing ground to get your proof of value demonstrated.”

This also provides a promising environment for generating data, which Françoise Liners, director of health technologies at Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Economy, says is a vital consideration for healthtech startups. 

“From day one, startups require high quality data and we want to be a place where innovators that need health data have a trusted space to do that,” she says.  

To strengthen the healthtech ecosystem, Luxembourg is trying to build a reputation for data generation.


“It’s always a matter of trust: this is a strong value we want to build in Luxembourg,” says Liners.  “It’s the trust of the people who are giving their data in a direct or indirect way, but also trust for the medical users of the solutions. They have to trust that the device is based on the best approaches.” 

A hub for research

Alongside data generation, there’s other operational support available to early-stage startups in Luxembourg. The country boasts research institutes dedicated to furthering research in health and life sciences, like the Luxembourg Institute of Health and Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, with a community of specialised academics ready for founders to glean advice from.  

In order to develop, nurture and attract companies, you have to provide those companies a roof first.

“Luxembourg helps to really build a network of partners with the different expertise and capabilities that are able to, from day one, nurture the startup, [offer] support and help them to go through the different stages and steps” of building a company, says Liners. 

Fostering that innovation further is a primary focus for the future. Luxembourg looks to ramp up its research offering in the coming years, with its new Health and Advanced Life Science (HE:AL) campus set to open by 2027 — a 130k square metre space located conveniently next to thesecond largest hospital in Luxembourg, Südspidol, and research institute at the House of Biohealth. 

“The HE:AL campus is the concretisation of an ambition,” says Liners. “It’ll be a place where people can see that an ecosystem is developing. 

“In order to develop, nurture and attract companies, you have to provide those companies a roof first,” she adds. 

The HE:AL campus is also poised to inspire the next generation of tech talent emerging from the country’s academic institutions with an interest in becoming part of the startup community, she says: “It could really be a place where citizens, teenagers and students can come and see what AI in healthcare means in reality,” says Liners.  

Getting to market 

Another key focus for Luxembourg — and an advantage it has over larger, busier ecosystems — is supporting founders to get to market as friction-free as possible, says Brückler. 

“No one comes to Luxembourg to conquer Luxembourg,” she says. “They come to access an international environment. Luxembourg thinks internationally first.” 

Investors will have more and more interest in your ecosystem when they find good projects to invest in.

One element of that is certification: healthtech companies need their ISO certification to pledge their dedication to quality and a CE mark (or UKCA in the UK) to prove conformity with the set standards for products to be sold in the EU. But this can be a confusing process, especially for first-time founders. 

In response, Luxinnovation — the national innovation agency, which supports healthtechs in Luxembourg to launch and develop — has set up a bespoke programme, says Brückler, which helps companies define their roadmap to obtain specific certifications and helps them navigate the process through the support of an external consultant.  

Financial support is also an important part of Luxembourg’s vision for boosting its healthtech appeal.

Alongside subsidising the certification consultancy fees, the country also offers startups help with the cost of clinical trials, as the Ministry of Economy and National Research Fund cofinance part of the study. “This allows companies to get to validation quicker,” says Brückler.   

Liners hopes that the support the founders find in Luxembourg will have a knock-on effect on the VC cash flowing into the country — and says that she’s already seen an improvement in recent years. 

In 2023, startups across the country raised around $266m according to Dealroom, which was progress on the $254m raised the year before and bucked the downward trend seen elsewhere across Europe. 

“We see more and more investors coming from surrounding countries to have a look at what we have,” she says. “[That] is a good sign because usually, investors will have more and more interest in your ecosystem when they find good projects to invest in.” 

If you would like to scale your company in Europe, contact Startup Luxembourg for support. You can also discover more about the ecosystem on LinkedIn.   

Sadia Nowshin

Sadia Nowshin is a reporter at Sifted covering foodtech, biotech and startup life. Follow her on X and LinkedIn