A man of action in the service of science

  • University / Central Administration and Rectorate
    12 July 2023
  • Category
    Research, University
“Collecting donations is like entrepreneurship: if it works, it gives me a satisfaction that cannot be paid for with money.””

Norbert Friob

The well-known Luxembourg entrepreneur Norbert Friob is one of the earliest donors supporting the University of Luxembourg.

Norbert Friob, Luxembourg building contractor, president of the FNP construction group, book author, and longtime chairman of the “Confédération luxembourgeoise du commerce” in the 1990s, is a real doer. Coming from a modest family, he started as a technician in the steel industry, then became a passionate businessman and founded or participated in the creation of more than 50 companies in his long and successful career.

“When someone complains that something should be done, I always reply: don’t wait for others to take the initiative – just do it yourself!”, says the 81-year-old serial entrepreneur. Don’t talk long, but act – Friob also approached his social commitment with the same attitude and drive. Whether for UNICEF, for tree-planting campaigns in Africa or for Red Cross disaster relief, Friob has been mobilising people and organising successful fundraising events since the 1980s, often on behalf of his Rotary Service Club.

Norbert Friob is one of the first and most loyal donors to the University of Luxembourg. When he talks about one of his first actions in favour of research, his eyes begin to sparkle. This action is called “Espoir en tête” and was started by Rotarians in France. The idea is to invite people to a movie premiere and the money collected via the ticket sales goes to research. The French colleagues let Luxembourg adopt the principle as well and this is how Norbert Friob mobilised funding for research into neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease at the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine (LCSB). The researchers use the money to buy laboratory materials, for example. “The use of the donations is very transparent, and I can find out and see for myself at the annual donors’ event,” emphasises Friob.

Norbert Friob’s father died of multiple sclerosis in mid-life, which is also a neurodegenerative disorder. “I myself was always doing well in life, so I said to myself: give something back to the community out of gratitude,” says Friob, today himself a grandfather of 10 grandchildren. Since it was a good tradition in his company to donate, it was important to him to continue this tradition and secure it in the long run when he retired from the company management. This is how the idea came about of setting up his own foundation using his fortune. The mission of the “Fondation Norbert Friob & Fils”, created in 2021, is the support of brain research and entrepreneurship. Apart from funds for biomedical research at the University, Friob’s foundation has recently started to support the activities of the University of Luxembourg Incubator as well.

He is convinced that there is still great potential for fundraising in Luxembourg and calls for other representatives of the business world to become donors as well. “Collecting donations is like entrepreneurship: if it works and something meaningful comes out of it, it gives me a satisfaction that cannot be paid for with money.”