The Big Score
The Sustainability and Manufacturing Big Score sessions took place at the Workero by P&G InQbet campus in partnership with Ab InBev on the 31st of March 2022. The event was organised by Startups.be | Scale-ups.eu.
The concept of The Big Score is simple: it’s all about connecting pioneering startups/scale-ups with Venture Capitalists, corporates and investors. Startups score valuable feedback and possibly funding, while VCs, industry experts, and corporates score by learning about the most cutting-edge technologies and innovations in fields that they are interested in. These connections could result in future collaborations and funding.
The day was split into two sections: the morning session was dedicated to sustainability, while the afternoon session was dedicated to (sustainable) manufacturing. A total of sixteen startups pitched to an expert panel consisting of investors, industry experts, and corporates. Throughout the day, the attendees also have one-on-one meetings with each other, hence strengthening the connections made on that day.
The InQbet campus is proud to have hosted the above event. Home to Procter & Gamble’s corporate accelerator programme and an innovation hub committed to finding sustainable solutions for the entire value chain, the InQbet campus is built on the notion that when companies – large and small – work together, they’ll be able to innovate much faster on matters that are becoming increasingly urgent.
Ab Inbev – the co-host of this day – is, just like P&G, committed to sustainability. Both P&G and Ab Inbev are actively working on making packaging circular, optimising the way they (and their consumers) use water, sourcing raw material in a responsible and sustainable way, and reducing Greenhouse gas emissions.
Let us take a closer look at how the day unfolded, and most importantly, at the startups and scale-ups that are the vanguard of sustainable innovation.
The morning session: Sustainability Startups and Scale-ups
The panel of experts of the sustainability session included Olivier Houpert, Vice President of Global Dish Care R&D, and Brussels Innovation Site Leader at Procter & Gamble, Tessa Gijbels, Partner at Four & Five, Nathalie Roosen, Investment Manager at LRM, and Massimo Venegoni, Manager at AB Inbev.
To start the day, each panellist discussed why working with startups is crucial to accelerate sustainability throughout the entire production chain and they briefly touched on what they would like to see from the startups presenting that day.
Olivier Houpert noted that there were a lot of opportunities in sustainability. As a corporate, P&G’s products are found in households all over the world: by making these products more sustainable, the reach and impact P&G has is tremendous. P&G consequently takes its responsibility to become net-zero by 2040 very seriously.
Oliver added that one of the biggest challenges that R&D leaders faced was helping consumers understand what sustainability was. In Dish Care (with brands like Dreft), for example, P&G focuses on end-to-end sustainability: it’s not only about reducing plastic but also about enabling and educating consumers to use less water and using lower temperatures (to wash clothes, for example). Reducing plastics is an easy message, because plastics are visible, while water use -which is equally important – is a much more invisible issue. Olivier concluded that he’d like to see something new from startups and be inspired.
Nathalie Roosen from LRM agreed that there were ample opportunities for startups in the field of sustainability and social responsibility. Current technologies are simply not adequate to bring about a zero-emissions economy, so startups play a crucial role in taking the necessary steps towards better technology for sustainability. She would like to see startups that stand out and know how to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Tessa Gijbels from Four & Five drew attention to the fact that companies were increasingly being confronted with a new set of risks (such as the changing climate, as well as legislation), and therefore needed to collaborate with startups for acceleration. She also wants to see startups that stand out from the crowd and knows how they compare with their competitors.
Massimo Venegoni from AB InBev mentioned that AB InBev was the world’s largest brewer, meaning that just like P&G, due to their reach, they could have a large impact on the world. Developing the right packaging is one of Ab InBev’s biggest priorities: as such, they are looking for packaging innovations that will make packaging refillable, returnable, or fully recyclable. As part of their goal to be net-zero by 2040, they are also looking to reduce the use of water by 25%.
Finally, Massimo stressed the importance of having a clear understanding of what sustainability was: we need to specify and follow clear metrics to protect the environment. Measuring sustainability in an objective way and establishing objective goals will give companies more incentive to invest in decarbonisation and sustainability. He adds that in order to decarbonise Europe, only 28% of the solutions can come off the shelf, while 72% need new innovation: that’s why open innovation is so important, and why Massimo wants to see boldness, ambition and thinking outside of the box from startups.
Pitch 1: Brauzz
The first pitch of the day was kicked off by Brauzz. Manush Barvar, the Co-Founder at Brauzz, explained the problem: currently, our shelves are filled with cleaning products that are transported in single-use plastic. In addition, the majority of cleaning products consist of 90% water. So basically, argues Manush, we are shipping water and plastic from place to place. This is terribly inefficient, and hence the founders of Brauzz decided that they would launch sustainable cleaning products that cut out this wasteful practice.
All that the consumer needs to do is to add water to Brauzz’s cleaning products. Simple as that. In the cases where Brauzz does employ plastic bottles, these are designed to be durable and refillable. The best part is that you do not need to carry your bottles to a refill dispenser and carry the heavy bottles back. Instead, you order their refill sachets which arrive at the destination of your choice and add water. Their products, moreover, are subscription-based, meaning that refills are sent to you on a regular basis. It’s both convenient, and subscription prices are cheaper.
Pitch 2: PolyPerception
Next, Parshva Mehta and Nicolas Braem joined us remotely to pitch PolyPerception’s solution to analysing material at waste recovery facilities. The current problem is that recycling and sorting facilities generally do not carry out a lot of data collection and analysis.
As a solution, Polyperception’s dashboard – which makes use of Artificial Intelligence and cameras – characterises every item that is processed by these facilities. RGB Cameras are installed in key points (deep multi-object tracking at 30 frames per second), and their system learns continuously (semi-supervised) and thus adapts to different types of waste, different regions, and different facilities. As a consequence, PolyPerception’s dashboard allows for better recyclability and increases the production efficiency of facilities.
With a strong AI team, and in partnership with a leading machine provider, PolyPerception has a considerable competitive advantage.
Pitch 3: Triple Helix
Steven Peleman presented Triple Helix’s end-of-life solution for polyurethane films. Currently, about 90% of Polyurethane is being burnt: a horrible practice. This kind of plastic cannot be ignored or replaced, since it’s the only material that can be used to line or insulate refrigerators and freezers, and is often used to insulate buildings and mattresses. The problem can therefore only be solved by finding an end-of-life solution for this material.
This is exactly the problem that Triple Helix solves: their end-of-life solution comes in the form of a polyurethane recycling plant (to be built in the NextGen district at the Port of Antwerp) that can break this plastic down into reusable components. When this succeeds on an industrial scale, Triple Helix plans to build other small local plants in strategic spots all over the world.
Triple Helix strongly believes that being part of an ecosystem – with a lot of partners – helps, because one cannot do pioneering work without the expertise of several agents. They’re currently part of the Port of Antwerp and BlueChem ecosystems, which is invaluable to their success.
Pitch 4: Edmire
Edmire is founded and driven by designers who believe that we consume too much and that we drastically need to change our relationship with products.
Instead of viewing products as things to dispose of, Edmire promotes the idea of using products as long as technically feasible, explained founder Vincent de Smedt. As such, they are helping makers and thinkers design waste out of their products and services. And this isn’t just some vague concept: Edmire’s sustainability dashboard helps you to arrive at the most sustainable design for your product, based on plotting the sustainability metrics that you value/desire in your product. It therefore, gives designers clear KPIs or metrics during the design process.
Edmire will be releasing a Saas product in Q4, 2022, and are on the lookout for testers.
Pitch 5: Veylinx
Probably one of the most difficult things about bringing innovations to market is to know whether consumers will respond well to them and/or if these innovations are what consumers are looking for. Currently, a staggering 80% of innovations fail when they go to market, explained Rainier van Rietschoten, co-founder of Veylinx.
The problem is that traditional market research works on the premise that if consumers claim they will buy the product, they really will buy the product. However, in practice, consumers often claim they will act one way, but then do the opposite. In other words, most market research is based on ‘claimed intent’: an approach that yields inaccurate results. Veylinx offers more accurate market research by looking at actual consumer behaviour.
How do they do this? By launching auctions and then observing how consumers respond through their actions (buying, not buying). Such auctions give a lot of additional info besides just telling you whether consumers will buy your product. It also gives feedback on how you should price your product, why people buy it, and whether they repurchase a product.
Veylinx is currently looking for partners that can help to validate more sustainable innovations, as well as large partners (such as P&G) with whom they can collaborate to implement and audit auction series.
Pitch 6: Superzero
Next, the Marketing Head of Superzero, Marcial Puente Argumedo, introduced Superhero to the attendees. Superzero has developed an easy-to-install and easy-to-use liquid household product dispenser service and system. They have the largest dispenser network in Belgium, with over 40 dispensers in retail stores such as Carrefour and Sequoia. Consumers buy their first bottle of Superzero dishwasher or laundry detergent, and when empty, simply go to a refill station at their local supermarket, press a button, and refill their bottles.
Superzero has partnered with industrial partners to produce the liquids, and its added value is thus in providing a distribution system that is easy to install, and that brings about zero-waste consumption. In other words, Superzero offers both the dispenser and liquids to supermarkets or stores (where these stores pay for their dispensers through a subscription), while offering customers an easy contact point to refill their bottles.
Superzero is currently looking for strong/established brands to collaborate with them on their refill system.
Pitch 7: Upp! (Upcycling plastic)
Upp! has upped the ante in plastics recycling through their breakthrough technology: namely, a machine called the UnWastor. Jan jaap Folmer, Co-Founder of Upp! explained that the UnWastor processes mixed plastic and melts each plastic at its own melting point, in the process separating the plastics in a truly unique and novel way. These plastics are then re-used by Upp! To make planks, poles, construction material, decking material, street furniture, irrigation systems, and so forth.
Upp! is looking for partners who can invest in future processing factories, as well as partners that can develop products or help develop the waste stream.
Pitch 8: Slimbox
How many times have your ordered a product online, just to receive it in an oversized box with lots of plastic bubble wrap, or air pillows? Toon Pauwels, product manager at Slimbox, noticed the exact same thing: for the most part, boxes aren’t optimally suited to the products that they contain. At Slimbox they created a solution in the form of a machine that can produce exactly the right kind of packaging that will literally fit your product like a glove.
In short, Slimbox offers Boxes as a Service. The advantages are rapid prototyping, reducing packaging volume by up to 50%, eliminating filling material, and lowering the rate of broken goods packaged in a Slimbox.
The afternoon session: Manufacturing startups & scale-ups
The afternoon brought us to the topic of manufacturing. The panellist members for the manufacturing session were Joshua Zake, Global Engineering Innovation & Sustainability Director at Ab InBev, Jochen Vincke, partner at PwC, Steven Lambert, Investment Director at Capricorn, and Patrizio Ricci, Vice President of Product Supply, Global Fabric Care Engineering and Digital Transformation Leader at P&G. Each panellist took some time to discuss what types of manufacturing innovations they wished to see, and what they thought was important in this field.
Joshua Zake spoke about the fact that Ab InBev took a long-term approach to its manufacturing strategy. Part of their strategy is continuously improving engineering and the validation of new technologies. While Ab InBev has its own internal experts, they also look to the outside to see what startups are doing. This is because startups are most often the ones that come up with the most innovative and disruptive ideas.
Next, Jochen Vincke from PwC said that they were on the lookout for startups that could implement quick and effective solutions to adapt to the changing business landscape. The rise of the importance of data capturing in tandem with supply chain problems and shortages means that regional supply chains and factories will literally and figuratively move closer to their consumers. Manufacturers will need to become service providers and to do this, they will need to know their consumers. It’s for these reasons that PwC is looking for startups that can make a big impact in factories and manufacturing. Convenience and quick integration are also extremely important.
Steven Lambert from Capricorn, similarly, said he’d be on the lookout for product innovation that was at a point where major breakthroughs or insights were being obtained.
Finally, Patrizio Ricci said that he was interested in startups with solutions that would make supply chains more sustainable. More specifically, however, P&G has a strong focus on reducing water waste and greenhouse gases, and will thus be on the lookout for disruptive technologies in these areas. Below are the eight companies that pitched in the afternoon.
Pitch 9: Pozyx
Pozyx makes it easy to locate assets or persons on warehouse or shop floors through their real-time location systems (RTLS), based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. This technology yields much more accurate (within 10-30 cms) results than traditional positioning systems that rely on Wifi, Bluetooth, or GP.
Real-time localisation is about more than location, however. It’s also about how things or persons move. Through Pozyx’s location system, Samuel Van De Velde pointed out, you can bring your process to life and consequently make cost calculations for each step. For example, a product’s location can give you insights into how long a product has been in a certain location, whether there are bottlenecks in production, or how certain events trigger certain moves.
Pozyx’s localisation system is an open system that can easily connect with everything in the manufacturing plant.
Pitch 10: Laupat industries
The tenth pitch of the day saw Walter Patijn from Laupat industries describing how they are tackling the issues of recycling tyres and plastics. Currently, end-of-life tyres aren’t being recycled. This is an enormous problem if you consider that more than a billion tyres are produced every year. Laupat Industries’ solution lies in the depolymerisation, or chemical recycling, of end-of-life tyres. Old tyres are broken down and converted into high-quality oil, carbon, and steel. Their technology recycles 100% of each tyre and the process is emissions-free (because vapours are collected and condensed).
Laupat Industries hopes to open up recycling plants all over the world, starting in Belgium, Antwerp, and branching out to the rest of the world. For this, they need seed funding.
Pitch 11: Oxylum
Oxylum’s goal, from the start, was to find a way to create a circular carbon economy, explained co-founder, Bert De Mot. And this is exactly what they did: Oxylum developed a breakthrough new electrochemical technology that can convert captured CO2 into intermediate molecules that can be used in other products, such as formic acid, carbon monoxide and ethylene. Formic acid, moreover, is highly sought after and has a lot of interesting and diverse applications (it’s used in cleaning products, and is added to animal feed, to name just two examples).
Usually, formic acid is made with the use of natural gas – which, as we have seen – is not very dependable. Captured CO2 could be used instead. Converting CO2 into useful products is thus not only scalable and circular, but it also creates high-value products and helps companies to become truly carbon neutral. Oxylum will thus provide CO2 conversion as a service.
They are looking for investors and industrial partners in order to validate the technological and economical viability on a semi-industrial scale. They would also like to partner with companies that use formic acid in their products.
Pitch 12: D-CRBN
Next, Gill Scheltjens – Co-Founder of D-CRBN – presented how D-CRBN recycles CO2 in an energy-efficient way using innovative plasma technology. D-CRBN breaks CO2 down to CO, syngas, methanol, (and so forth), that one can synthesize again to form other products.
Current CO2 mitigations are focused on Carbon capture and storage (CCS), costing billions of euros (and that only to store CO2). There is no business plan. In contrast to this, D-CRBN’s solution allows for durable CO2 recycling and creates value-added products. If the loop is closed and CO2 is converted into CO, it can create revenue of 72 million euros per year. Add to this the fact that D-CRBN can build a business case for each business they work with (taking into account the emissions and the types of chemicals that are interesting to the businesses in question), CO2 recycling can become a competitive advantage for businesses.
Pitch 13: ClimateCamp
ClimateCamp’s software helps sustainability officers at large companies get a handle on measuring and tracking emissions, explained ClimateCamp’s Co-Founder, Laurent Moyersoen. Easy to integrate with your existing IT products and databases, it gives you a high-level overview of CO2 emissions, as well as enables you to run different scenarios on how to reduce emissions. ClimateCamp also generates reliable reports on your journey to reaching net-zero emissions.
Pitch 14: BioBTX
For pitch 14, Tijmen Vries from BioBTX explained how they make a circular economy possible for BTX (a range of materials comprised of a combination of benzene, toluene and xylene). Usually, BTX is formed by using fossil resources, but BioBTX has developed the technology to combine recycled mixed plastic waste (PET, polystyrene, or anything that contains carbons) and biomass (since it contains carbon) to form BTX. They process these materials through catalytic upgrading. The output is high-performance drop-in chemicals with identical functionality to that of virgin plastics. That is to say, the drop-in chemicals are chemically identical to original fossil-based plastics and thus provide a circular and sustainable alternative to fossil-resource-based BTX.
BioBTX is planning to build a PETR Circular chemical plant that will be operational in 2024 and will process 20 kilotonnes of waste material per year. Because BioBTX transforms waste material into chemical products and is thus active on both the input side (waste companies) and on the output side (chemical companies). As such, BioBTX is looking for strategic partners and corporate R&D partners that will help them develop their plants.
Pitch 15: Circular Matters
Next, Pieter Dondeyne presented Circular Matters to the panel and audience. For the founders of Circular Matters, the challenge is to keep as much carbon in the ground as possible. Circular Matters therefore converts biomass to materials that can be used by the manufacturing industry, in the process creating materials that can act as substitutes for fossil-based plastics and resins. They already have a full product roadmap and several products have received validation.
Their Circular Matters Panel, for example, “is a solid, high-density finishing material for interior projects and furniture,” which is sturdy, healthy (since it contains no resins and is made up of 100% plant-based materials), and durable. “It is made with a new technology that converts plant-based sidestreams such as beer spent grain and reed into a strong material.” (https://circularmatters.com/product/).
Pitch 16: Eniris
During the last pitch of the day, Bart Verheecke sketched a picture for us of a world where neighbourhoods aren’t falling apart due to gas extraction, or where your electricity bill does not depend on geopolitical factors.
Verheecke announces that this world is already here: Eniris’s Smart Grid controller (Smartgrid one) adjusts energy consumption based on availability and wind, solar, or power grid tariffs. It’s Energy Demand Management at its best, allowing customers to save time, energy, and money. Eniris also provides data insights about energy consumption, efficiency, and conditional parameters from buildings and solar plants, to energy systems, machines, and production processes.
Wrapping up the day
Throughout the day, Workero got to talk with several startups/scale-ups about their experience at the Big Score event. We also asked them about how easy it is for them to connect with corporates such as P&G and Ab InBev (outside of events like these), and what they thought of being part of accelerator programs and ecosystems.
For Gill Scheltjens from D-CRBN, an event like the Big Score is good for raising awareness of their startup among investors. “All the boxes have been ticked for us; we are very happy.”
For others, like Tijmen Vries from BioBTX, events like The Big Score are very important in order to make a circular economy a reality: “For us, it’s important to have contact with different types of big corporates or large institutions. Just getting these parties together, we see that as very valuable, because it’s not only about doing the business itself but also creating these types of consortia on subsidy applications but also on realising the circular economy. You will need every part of the chain.’ he adds.
Connecting and bringing different parties together is thus not only necessary in the sense that different companies are dependent on each other for certain materials or output (for example, P&G needs renewable resources such as BioBTX provides, while BioBTX needs plastics as a resource), but also in the sense that innovation accelerates when different parties co-create and collaborate.
However, it can be rather difficult for startups to get into contact with corporates. That’s why events like the Big Score, as well as corporate accelerator programmes or ecosystems, are invaluable.
Toon Pauwels from Slimbox, for example, says it’s challenging to actually get into contact with corporates, even if you have the perfect solution to their problems. That’s why events like the Big Score are so important to him.
Marcial Puente from Superzero concurs and adds that even if you manage to get into contact with corporates and there is interest, the process is very slow.
The good news, however, is that corporates increasingly want to rub shoulders with startups. Besides events like the BigScore, large corporations like P&G and Ab Inbev run (corporate) accelerators where more organic, ecosystem innovation can take place. The aim, in the words of P&G’s innovation strategy, is truly to ‘connect and develop’ for faster innovation. The need has never been more pressing, as companies are racing to meet net-zero objectives.
Corporate accelerators, such as Procter & Gamble’s InQbet campus, moreover, aim to gather together an ecosystem of innovators around it not only for the short-term but for the long–term. While collaborating with the corporate is the primary goal, it is not the only outcome, since collaboration amongst members is also encouraged.
Manush Barvar and Ruben Renaer from Brauzz affirm this: they have found that what is especially valuable in an accelerator programme is the network of other startups that one meets. “While coaching and classes are nice to have, it is the people you meet and broadening your network that really makes all the difference,” they said.
Tijmen Vries from BioBTX agrees: most companies make the mistake of only focusing on what they are doing, and only later realise that they also need other parties to make things happen.
P&G’s corporate accelerator programme encourages precisely this kind of networking. And not only does it offer intangible benefits such as expertise, mentoring, and networking, but it also offers tangible benefits, such as being able to rent office space at the campus itself through Workero (coworking space) or Interoffices (private offices) as its partners, as well as access to P&G’s R&D facilities (the consumer lounge, the sensory lab, prototyping facilities and pilot plant).
Manush Barvar from Brauzz adds that what excites him the most about P&G’s ecosystem or corporate accelerator, is the facilities that it makes available to its ecosystem members: “What is of most interest to me is the hands-on things [that P&G’s InQbet campus offers] in our industry because we are in FMCG cleaning. If you have a Sensory lab here and 3D printers, then that’s exactly what we need.”
He continues: “P&G’s InQbet campus also has the expertise that we need – and that is what is really valuable. Typical accelerator programmes can be very helpful, Manush has found, in that they give high-level strategic advice and guidance. But they do not necessarily provide hands-on tailored advice based on the industry that each startup is in. P&G’s corporate accelerator programme, on the other hand, has mentors with a wide range of skills, and knowledge of FMCGs, making it an ideal partner for startups such as those we saw pitching at The Big Score event.
Marcial Puente from Superzero implies the same and states that collaboration with P&G would be ideal since Superzero is not a products company, but rather a service company. Companies such as P&G and Milliken have spent years and years perfecting their products, and thus there is no need for a company like Superzero to reinvent the wheel. The ideal solution would thus be for companies like Superzero to work together with companies like P&G: each bringing their expertise to the table.
Marcial also adds that it can be difficult for startups to get their foot in the door, and established corporates – if they back a project – can lend a lot of credibility to such products through the power of their brands. Events such as The Big Score, as well as corporate ecosystems, are essential to bringing about the association between larger established companies, and young startups.