(L-R) Jean-Marie Schiltz, CEO and founder of Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA; Roland Jacoby, CEO and co-founder of Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA; Franz Fayot, Luxembourg Minister of the Economy; Credit: MECO

On Tuesday 29 August 2023, the Luxembourg Minister of the Economy, Franz Fayot, signed an agreement to co-finance the development of new innovative technologies in stage control with Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA, an internationally known supplier of stage machinery and turnkey solutions in stage engineering.

The agreement was concluded within the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg, whose stage is controlled by the Computer Aided Theatre (CAT) control system, developed by Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA.

Founded in Rodange in 1987 by Jean-Marie Schiltz and Roland Jacoby under the name Guddland Digital SA, the company develops and builds computer-aided control systems which were originally dedicated to the industrial sector but which, since 1989, are mainly used for the stages of performance halls. As Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Economy noted, the company has many renowned clients, such as the Sydney Opera House, the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the Esplanade Theatre in Singapore Bay. Since 2002, the company has been 51% owned by the Austrian group Waagner-Biro and was renamed Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems in 2003. Currently, it employs 53 people in Luxembourg and four in China in a sister company, with an annual turnover varying between €8 and €10 million per year.

Specialising in computer-based automation, the Luxembourg company has developed as its flagship product the CAT control system, which is now entering its sixth generation of development (V6). With a user interface in 20 languages, the CAT system is a command to control the entire scene and each of its equipment. More than 200 stages are currently equipped with the CAT V5 system, in more than 40 countries around the world, including the Philharmonie Luxembourg and the Grand Théâtre de la Ville de Luxembourg. Minister Fayot attended a demonstration of the control system used by the Grand Théâtre.

After initial co-funding of CAT V5 in 2014, Luxembourg’s Ministry of the Economy will co-fund a new applied research project, aimed at developing a system of modular stage cars with flexible deployment, based on research into the key technologies required. The overall budget for the R&D project, undertaken jointly with the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST), is estimated at €6,834,157, 57% of which is co-financed by the Ministry of the Economy. LIST will contribute to the project through its expertise and R&D activities in precision positioning, optimisation of radio connectivity, virtual and augmented reality, data analysis using artificial intelligence, robustness optimisation of mechanical components and predictive maintenance. As with previous research and development projects, Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA was supported and accompanied by Luxinnovation to establish its co-funding request.

Regarding the co-financing agreement, Minister Fayot said: “Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA is part of the ‘Hidden Champions’ of Luxembourg. The company contributes to the influence of Luxembourg expertise and innovation among cultural and theatre players around the world. The financing of research, development and innovation activities is an essential aspect for any innovative company, regardless of its activity sector. A wide range of financial aid is available for such support, including for innovative solutions such as those developed by Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA, which rely on artificial intelligence.”

Jean-Marie Schiltz, CEO of Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA, added: “Since 2014, we can count on the constant support of the Ministry of Economy and Luxinnovation. The co-funding we have been able to benefit from is very valuable to us. As part of this new project, we are now also working closely with LIST, and we are delighted about it. Waagner-Biro Luxembourg Stage Systems SA has striven since its creation to innovate constantly and it is moreover one of our strengths which has allowed us to expand in the world and to be able to work in the most prestigious houses.”