Innovation and Luxembourg, Suffering a Brain Drain!?

Ten years ago, when I started going to the Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg (BNL - the National Library of Luxembourg), the “poverty” of the library (e.g., infrastructure, resources, services, etc.) of the world's richest (if not mistaken) country shocked me. The BNL was so underdeveloped, when compared to many public and private libraries in the USA. More surprisingly, many libraries I had visited in Brussels, Paris, and other cities were not so nice, either.

(Just note that some BNL librarians appear to be cold and distant at first. But, when they get to know you, they can be friendly, very helpful, and even sweet.)

Over the last ten years, the BNL has improved dramatically, and has become one of the best/favorite libraries I know in the region so far. Although I still miss some aspects of American libraries – for example, specialized librarians (e.g., law librarians) and more conducive, competitive, extremely intense, and intellectually stimulating atmospheres for studying, I am OK with the BNL. Hope that it keeps improving in coming years.

However, talent management in Luxembourg concerns me/us greatly.

It is obvious that Luxembourg has an advantage in attracting people because of competitive salaries, benefits, etc. But, it may not be so good at retaining their top talents in some sectors (though, of course, there are really talented people in Luxembourg, but some of friends have been disenchanted. They have moved to other companies and countries with better opportunities).

There seems to be something dysfunctional: something does not ignite, but undermine the passion of people.

Nevertheless (please correct me, if I am wrong), the Luxembourgish law of 2009 provides a framework for a financial aid scheme and an advantageous tax scheme encouraging exploitation of intellectual property. As indicated on the Luxembourg Portal for Innovation and Research, “Under this scheme, up to 80% of the net income generated by the exploitation of an intellectual property right is exempt from tax, under certain conditions. The scheme covers patents, trademarks, designs, domain names and software copyrights. This tax scheme applies to companies located in Luxembourg.”

In my opinion, talented people may not necessarily work for money, fame, power, or overall comfort, but they may believe in their contribution to the society, or to something really big: altruism, dedication, innovation, justice, progress, new technologies, professionalism, etc. Their talents need to be challenged openly, nurtured greatly, and brought forward. And, Luxembourg has enormous potential for that, partly due to its economic power (capital) and labor (from neighboring countries).

But, generally speaking, the lack of motivation may emerge from various kinds of factors, which can jeopardize efforts of the citizens. Luxembourg is no exception: bureaucracies killing opportunities and leaderships for innovative research; nepotism favoring the docile people with the scarcity of talents and visions over outspoken intelligent people; mediocrities systematically discouraging exciting projects; lack of open-mindedness unwelcoming criticisms, negative observations, bold suggestions, and the like because people tend to take any comments so personally; authoritarianism and lack of transparency allowing a boss to take all the credit instead of his/her staff; and, above all, decisions being made by some leaders about matters for which they lack the minimum expertise and for which they do not take any advice, since that is their prerogative ... all kinds of behaviors destroying any chance of progress and innovation.

Seemingly, some leaders may lack real visions, but are busy with keeping their comfortable positions. Some people totally avoid being held accountable for new projects. As it happens everywhere, some may use and abuse their power to block the top talent. Although the talent of the future needs to be fostered, the majority of younger people do not aspire to greatness, but try to become “fonctionnaires”, quickly settling down, driving a BMW, etc. (though, nothing wrong to be civil servants with BMW).

Any country has both good and bad points. And having known many countries, I still like Luxembourg and the people. I know that Luxembourg strives for better academic performances and a better environment for cultivating talents. I hope things get better for the next ten years, as it has been the case with the BNL.

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