A year in review: Space, technology and start-ups
In May, the world watched as Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted into space with four astronauts on board. It was the first ever private space flight, launched by the entrepreneur’s company Space X, and although no Luxembourgers were aboard the ship it marked a turning point in the future of commercial space – a growing industry that the Grand Duchy is hoping to turn into a gold mine.
In a sign that the country is making headway with these plans, a number of events signalled that Luxembourg’s private space industry is also taking off.
Luxembourg-based space firm Spire Global, which helps monitor shipping lanes, was listed on the New York stock exchange, and SES sent a half a billion euro satellite into space, as the company continued to help the US launch its 5G network, for which it could collect up to €3.32 billion over the next two years.
Most recently Canada-based NorthStar Earth & Space, which tracks debris out in space, announced it would be setting up its European headquarters in Luxembourg at the start of 2022, in a sign that the country's space industry will continue reaching for the stars well into the future.
But there were also set-backs, with space start-ups across the Grand Duchy feeling the strain from electronic chip shortages that have been hitting mobile phone and game console providers across the globe. The US pull-out from Afghanistan earlier in the year also forced SES - who provide its satellites to governments and militaries - to revise its 2021 revenue forecast downwards.
Luxembourg this year also showed that it was a force for tech giants to be reckoned with, when in July the country's data protection regulator the CNPD slapped a whopping €746 million fine on US online retail giant Amazon for alleged data protection breaches.
The company however had a small win in the battle to overturn the sanctions when a Luxembourg court in December suspended a €746,000 fine the US retailer had to pay each day, as part of the CNPD's punishment.
The CNPD also cast doubt on proposed Covid-19 laws earlier this year - which have now been passed - that force workers to present a vaccination certificate or negative Covid-19 test to be able to enter the workplace.
And in another indication that the country is not quite managing to get to grips with EU-wide GDPR data protection regulation, a slip-up with parliament's IT systems led to thousands of residents' personal details - that should have been hidden - were exposed online on its website.
In other digital news Luxembourg got well underway in transforming the population's health records to a totally online system, but top doctors said the system was bulky and inconvenient.
And despite the pandemic, Luxembourg's start-ups continued to flourish, although a lack of capital for the small companies is preventing many from scaling up, while the country's venture capitalists still head abroad to invest in start-ups, rather than in the Grand Duchy itself.
All-in-all Luxembourg's space, technology and start-up sectors had to deal with a challenging year, blighted by a pandemic that has led to problems for companies worldwide. So it was welcome news for budding entrepreneurs and tech geeks wanting to take a break that in the future, they can hop on a train to Barcelona for the weekend to take a well-earned rest.