(L-R) Gerard de Graaf, Senior Envoy for Digital to the US, head of the EU office in San Francisco; unknown; HRH Prince Guillaume; Eleni Kounalakis 50th Lieutenant Governor of California; Franz Fayot, Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy; Credit: Luxembourg Trade & Investment Office in San Francisco

From Monday 8 to Friday 12 May 2023, His Royal Highness Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg, chaired a working visit to California in the United States, led by Luxembourg's Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot.

Mainly focused on the space sector, this working visit also included a series of interviews related in particular to autonomous driving, artificial intelligence (AI) and CleanTech.

San Francisco

The visit began in San Francisco with a visit to the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability. Inaugurated in September 2022, this new school at Stanford University aims to educate future leaders in sustainable development with a view to fighting climate change and promoting a sustainable future, in particular through research in the field of space resources. Luxembourg's Ministry of the Economy noted that the delegation was received by Arun Majumdar, Dean of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, as well as several space faculty members.

The group then visited Nvidia. A world leader in graphics cards for high performance computing, Nvidia has been collaborating with Luxembourg since 2019, following the creation of a joint AI research laboratory in the Grand Duchy. Nvidia cooperates with Luxprovide, which is in charge of the operation and management of the Luxembourg supercomputer MeluXina.

The delegation later visited WeRide, a major player in the field of autonomous driving. The Chinese company has an R&D laboratory and an operations centre in San Francisco, where it carries out autonomous driving tests on public roads. Prince Guillaume and Minister Fayot had the opportunity to board one of the autonomous vehicles for a test drive.

The first day concluded with a networking event, organised by the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA), during which the new space strategy was presented to the main actors of the Bay Area ecosystem.

The schedule for the second day in San Francisco was dominated by meetings - which the Economy Ministry described as "promising" - with nZero and Fifth Wall, followed by a meeting with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. The startup nZero has developed a solution to gather and analyse data on the consumption of all forms of energy in a company, in order to optimise investment performance and promote decarbonisation. It recently opened a branch in Luxembourg, which it intends to develop to serve as its headquarters for the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. For its part, Fifth Wall is a leading technology-focused venture capital firm for the global real estate industry that invests in technology companies seeking to combat climate change, ageing buildings and infrastructure, as well as housing affordability issues.

During the meeting with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, a public-private think tank responsible for promoting a competitive economy in California and the San Francisco Bay Area, discussions focused on the report concerning economic ties between Luxembourg and Silicon Valley that the think tank is currently writing.

At the end of the day, an official reception celebrated Europe Day (9 May), with the participation of Eleni Kounalakis, Lieutenant Governor of California, Gerard de Graaf, Senior Envoy for Digital to the US and head of the EU office in San Francisco, as well as the diplomatic corps of EU Member States.

Los Angeles

While Prince Guillaume returned to Luxembourg, Minister Fayot continued his trip to Los Angeles where, upon his arrival on the premises of Honeybee Robotics, he met with representatives of the space resources department of Blue Origin, the space company owned by Jeff Bezos. Honeybee Robotics is a space robotics company that was recently acquired by Blue Origin. Discussions focused on possible synergies within the framework of the Spaceresources.lu initiative.

The delegation then visited Offworld, a company developing constellations of autonomous robots for mining on land and in space, which aims to strengthen its presence in the Grand Duchy, where it launched its activities in February 2023. The visit followed the signature of an R&D contract within the framework of the LuxImpulse programme.

On Thursday 11 May 2023, Minister Fayot visited the studios of Infinite Reality, another company aiming to develop its presence in Luxembourg, particularly, according to the Economy Ministry, owing to the Grand Duchy's priorities in terms of data, data protection and cybersecurity. The ministry described initial exchanges with the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) of the University of Luxembourg in the field of the metaverse as promising and noted that Infinite Reality CEO John Acunto will also be present in Luxembourg for ICT Spring 2023.

Minister Fayot went on to visit Airtech, a family business of American origin also established in Luxembourg, which this year celebrates 50 years of existence. A world leader in vacuum materials for the composite materials sector, Airtech, which has also had a subsidiary in Differdange since 1991, has recently been active in the production of resin for 3D printing. With financial support from the Luxembourg state, the Differdange site will soon have a resin production line four times larger than that of the Huntington Beach site in California, noted the ministry. Minister Fayot met with Jeff Dahlgren, President and CEO, and Bill Dahlgren, founder and owner.

On the last day of the working visit, the delegation visited the headquarters of Avery Dennison, world leader in labelling and packaging materials for industry. The company has been present in Luxembourg since 1989 with a factory in Rodange, where it has succeeded in reducing its energy consumption by half since 2007.

Finally, the delegation travelled to the headquarters of SpaceX in Howthorne. After a visit to the production hall, the latest developments around Falcon9, Starlink and Starship were presented and the participants later discussed the company's future ambitions for the Moon and Mars, in particular in relation to space resources.