Innovation through startups
A hub of innovation, Silicon Valley is home to the world’s most successful tech companies. Repeating this entrepreneurial success in Belgium is a priority for the government, which has encouraged colleges to set up spin-offs. Business leaders support this. According to the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, getting ideas to market quickly is ​essential for achieving success.
Guido Vandervorst, Deloitte Belgium’s Managing Partner Innovation, agrees. “Fostering innovation is a crucial factor for the survival of the Belgian economy,” he asserts. “Innovators are needed now more than ever, as globalisation and economic uncertainty have increased competition. The business landscape has changed in ways that were unimaginable five years ago and organisations must adapt and innovate to create future opportunities.” Innovation is also needed in Belgium to address major social challenges, Guido adds, such as transport mobility, environmental problems and the cost of social security.
On the plus side, Belgium has a good research base. Every major university has facilities for start-ups, mostly built around strategic research in the fields of digital, biotech and nanotechnology. And our country is already doing well in terms of incubation centres, where entrepreneurs with bright ideas can take their first steps and put a business plan together. Moreover, Belgium has a number of measures that support R&D and innovation, such as the Patent Income Deduction regime.
Yet while the European Commission report Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2014 labels Belgium an “Innovation Follower”, which denotes an innovation performance above or close to the European average, the country lies far below the European average in terms of its innovation growth percentage.
Investigating these challenges, Deloitte innovation leaders spent more than half a year in discussions with venture capitalists, business angels, incubators and universities about fostering entrepreneurship in Belgium. This exercise showed that young entrepreneurs in Belgium often have difficulty growing their start-ups into mature companies. Sam Sluismans, Partner Innovation, remarks, “It’s hard for entrepreneurs to get access to local funding. Financiers are afraid of risk. There’s also a lack of mentoring in business development, and in creating and running a company.”
“The Deloitte Innovation Centre is a great idea because young entrepreneurs need the professional support that Deloitte ​is offering.”
Jo Libeer, Managing Director, Voka (Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Flanders)
Investing in the economy of tomorrow with the Deloitte Innovation Centre