Policy and strategy

Main players

Two main ministries are in charge of R&D policy:

  • The Ministry of Higher Education and Research

(MESR - Ministère de l’Enseignement
Supérieur et de la Recherche) responsible for research
in the public sector; and

  • The Ministry of the Economy and Foreign Trade

(MECE - Ministère de l’Economie et du Commerce extérieur)
responsible for research in the private sector.


Besides the two ministries and the FNR who are key players in executing R&D policy, Luxinnovation also plays an important role in the development of Public-Private-Partnerships in R&D and in the Cluster programme of the Ministry of the Economy and Foreign Trade.

Since the start of the decade research has become a central part of Luxembourg’s general policy, with the importance of the Lisbon strategy and Barcelona target being taken into account by the government in 2004. This has led to ambitious objectives being set, especially since research became a significant part in the Luxembourg National Reform Plan – “National Plan for Innovation and Full Employment” in 2005.

Performance Contracts

Following a study carried out by the OECD in 2005 on the strengths and weaknesses of the Luxembourg research system, the Government actively developed a national R&D policy and agenda, which resulted in the introduction of Performance Contracts in 2008 between all Public Research Centres and the Government, as well as between the FNR and the Government and Luxinnovation and the Government.

The aim being to define a three-year research development strategy in the different institutions, by giving them large autonomy concerning the definition of an implementation strategy and by measuring the outcome in terms of indicators that were commonly defined as goals.

Foresight and Definition of Priority Areas for R&D in Luxembourg

In a small country like Luxembourg, research needs to focus on a limited number of priority domains in which critical mass may be reached. At the beginning of 2006 the National Research Fund (FNR) conducted the Foresight study, aimed at identifying which research domains should be prioritised both short and long term within the public sector that were of socio-economic interest to Luxembourg society.
From the results of the Foresight exercise the extensive new FNR programme ‘CORE’ was implemented, whose prime objective is to foster scientific quality in the identified priority areas (see section Research Policy Goals in Brief).
A substantial budget of more than 20 million EUR per call has been allocated to this programme, for which annual calls are scheduled until 2010, the first launched in 2008.

FNR CORE Programme Thematic Priorities 2008-2010

Domains Thematic research priorities
Innovation in Services
  • Development and Performance of the Financial Systems
  • Business Service Design
  • Information Security and Trust Management
  • High Performance Telecommunication Networks
Sustainable Resource Management in Luxembourg
  • Sustainable management of water resources
  • Sustainable Uses and Sources of Energy
New Functional and Intelligent Materials and Surfaces, and New Sensing Applications
  • New functional and intelligent materials and surfaces
Biomedical Sciences/
Regulation of Chronic, Degenerative and Infectious Diseases
  • Regenerative Medicine in Age-related Diseases
  • Translational Biomedical Research
Labour market, educational requirements and social protection
  • Challenges for the Educational System, Labour Market, Social Protection Including Territorial Aspects
Identities, Diversity and Integration
  • Identities, Diversity and Integration

Human Resources in R&D: reform of the national PhD and Postdoc grant scheme

One of the big policy issues is the development of Human Resources in R&D. Thus, in 2008, the national PhD and postdoc training scheme is undergoing an in-depth reform. The so-called BFR scheme was set up by the R&D Framework-Law in 1987. The instrument was designed to support researchers who had a thematic link with Luxembourg; whereby the majority of grants went to PhDs and postdocs outside the country if they collaborated with either a public research institute or a private company in Luxembourg active in R&D. However since the set-up of the University in 2003, the number of BFR grantees within Luxembourg has constantly grown.

In June 2007, a bill of law was submitted to Parliament by the Luxembourg Government, reforming the BFR scheme, under the new title of ‘Aides à la Formation-Recherche’ - (AFR). The AFR reform is expected to come into force on 1st October 2008. While the BFR scheme has so far been managed by the Ministry of Research, the future AFR scheme will be managed by the National Research Fund (FNR). The budget for the AFR scheme will increase significantly from approximately 6 million EUR under the former PhD and Postdoc scheme in 2007 to approximately 18 million EUR per year in 2010, of which approximately 75% is PhD funding.

From 2008 onward, the envisaged strong budget increase can be partly attributed to the transition from low-cost BFR fellowships to high-cost AFR work contracts (wherever possible), and partly to an expected yearly increase of approximately 20% of the number of postdoc grants funded.

There is a clear determination of the Government to support this strong increase, during a period where the Luxembourg R&D landscape develops and needs new people, in view of the ambitious new City of Science (Cité des Sciences), currently under construction in the south of the country, where the University of Luxembourg and the Public Research Centers will be regrouped on one site from 2012 onwards.

While it was not possible under the former BFR scheme to complement a PhD grant with a postdoc grant, which was clearly a deficit in terms of career building, the reformed AFR scheme allows this cumulation under the condition that the grantee can prove mobility between countries from the PhD to the postdoc grant.

The future AFR scheme will rely basically on work contracts for both, PhD and Postdoc grantees.

Further information on AFR, see website www.fnr.lu.


Research Policy Goals in Brief:

Lisbon Target - National Reform Programme

  • Increase Public Research Funding to 1% of GDP in the medium term
  • R&D human resources – increase the ratio of number of researcher per job from 6% (2005) to 10% (2010).
  • Increase the level of internal R&D expenditures from 1.8% of GDP (2004) to 2.4% (2008) and 3% (2010)
  • Strengthen national and cross-boarder collaborations
  • Reform of the national PhD and Postdoc Grant Scheme in 2008

Governmental programme

  • Build the City of science, research and innovation (La Cité des Sciences), grouping together all public research institutes, the Faculty of Sciences, Communication and Technology and an industrial estate for innovative start-up and technological companies (completion expected 2012)
  • Develop the University of Luxembourg, with a strong focus on research and innovation

Governmental and National Research Programme

  • Focus public research on a limited number of topics and areas
  • Create Competences Centres, focusing on a limited number of topics building on public/private partnerships
  • Set-up a national Mobility Center at the University of Luxembourg

Annual Governmental Declaration 2006

  • Strengthen R&D in the public sector – raise public investments to a level of 0.66% of GDP until 2009