Biogazelle is playing a huge role in the shared battle against the coronavirus. In record time, the Ghent biotech company has developed a test for detecting infections.
Since 2007, Biogazelle has offered support to the pharmaceutical and medical industries. The company develops revolutionary techniques for tasks such as detecting new illnesses, multiplying tiny amounts of genetic material to create analysable samples.
“In just 10 days, we have come up with an extremely sensitive coronavirus detection test,” says CEO Mieke Van Acker. “Our speed and flexibility have amazed the big pharma companies. We started with 2,000 tests a day, and that number has already shot up. But we are still a long way from our limit.”
To drive capacity even further, Biogazelle has invested in a robot. “Very soon this will automate certain manual operations,” the CEO explains. “Inactivation of the virus is currently done manually. By automating this step in the process, we will significantly increase efficiency.”
Biogazelle is part of a coronavirus consortium established by minister Philippe De Backer that also includes three large pharma companies and a university. “We are joining forces to further increase the testing capacity in our country,” says Mieke Van Acker. “Such a collaboration is unprecedented.”
Every link is crucial
According to Van Acker, every link in the chain is equally important. “We ourselves are supported by Ghent University, UZ Gent and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology. We have help from volunteers, and industry colleagues have also offered test apparatus.
But the financial support from BNP Paribas Fortis is as valuable as the scientific aspect.” This financial support consists of a credit line and leasing agreement. Biogazelle will also make use of BNP Paribas Fortis Factor, a series of solutions aimed at optimising work capital and the resulting financial needs.
Greater flexibility and lower costs thanks to mobility budget
Solving traffic congestion problems will require a broad range of solutions The mobility budget is one of these.
Is there a solution to traffic congestion? Constructing more roads is not the answer, because they will become congested as well before long. How about imposing a toll on freight transport? While this is supposed to reduce the number of lorries on the road, their place will probably be taken by passenger cars. Not only that, but a toll may make delivery vans even more popular than they already are. By 2030, the number of kilometres spent on the road by these vehicles will rise by 43%. The Planning Office estimates that the rise in duty on diesel will do little to combat congestion.
Many experts consider company cars to be one of the main culprits. They believe that the treatment of company cars is far too generous in Belgium. Both the OECD and the European Commission have criticised the tax benefits associated with company cars in our country. "Half the cars on Belgian roads are company cars", people sometimes claim. This is simply not true. The CVO (Corporate Vehicle Observatory) requested the registration figures for the Belgian vehicle fleet from FEBIAC (Belgian Federation of the Car and Two-wheeler Industries):
- Belgium has some 700,000 light commercial vehicles and 930,000 other vehicles (buses, lorries, motorcycles, etc.).
- However, passenger cars actually account for the lion's share of vehicles on the road, at 5.6 million. Of these, 4.48 million belong to private individuals and just 1.12 million to companies and self-employed professionals. It is clear, then, that the latter are not the only culprits when it comes to creating congestion. Abolishing tax benefits for company cars alone will not resolve the issue altogether.
A change of mentality
There is no miracle cure. The solution is like a jigsaw – it has multiple pieces. A change of mentality is required above all else. Perhaps you would like to encourage your employees to choose the most efficient, least polluting and reasonably priced mode of transport for every journey. A mobility budget would make this a possibility in the future. The experts at Arval Belgium, one of the major players in the lease market, are preparing a suitable approach. Els Costers (Sales Director at Arval Belgium):
"The concept is simple. Instead of giving employees a car, parking space, rail pass or rental bike, they receive a mobility budget. This budget enables the employer to set an agreed amount to be spent by the employee on a range of transport options: company car, public transport, bicycle, pool car, etc. The employer specifies the budget size and the means of transport available. The employer and employee also discuss the types of commute that the mobility budget is intended for: commuting to work and professional travel only or private use as well."
The mobility budget has many advantages for employers:
- You are seen as an attractive employer, because you encourage a flexible working environment and you offer your employees freedom of choice and flexible mobility solutions.
- You meet your CSR targets (corporate social responsibility) by stimulating public transport usage and by reducing the number of cars deployed, kilometres travelled and litres of fuel used.
- You lower your TCM (total cost of mobility), because you have more control over your lease vehicles, increasingly pay for use rather than ownership, and reduce administrative burden.
In turn, your employees have more freedom and flexibility when organising their travel. Last but not least, it also benefits the environment. The then Flemish Mobility Minister Hilde Crevits commissioned the Mobility budget works pilot project in 2012. The project showed that employees with a mobility budget decide more often not to use a car in favour of a different mode of transport. Car usage for journeys between home and work fell by 37% among the five companies that tested this system.
The mobility budget is evidently a fantastic system. So why is it not yet being utilised all over the country? Well, proponents of the system are waiting for a new law to resolve a series of legal stumbling blocks, especially with regard to taxation and social security. The bill has already been drawn up. Els Costers:
"Today, it is impossible for an employer to make all modes of transport available to employees. The legal rules are different for professional, commuter-based and private travel, and they also change depending on the means of transport. This makes the administrative side of things highly complex and time-consuming. The mobility budget intersects all of these rules. The new law needs to resolve this. Once it is passed, things can move quickly."
Ready for the mobility budget? Here are a few simple rules to take on board.
To implement a mobility budget, an analysis needs to be made of travel habits and the way in which the organisation functions. This analysis enables you to see which combinations are desirable, feasible and profitable.
Involve social partners when introducing a mobility budget.
The following combinations are now feasible from a tax perspective:
company car and tax-free company bicycle
company car and bicycle allowance
company car and public transport
a smaller or electric car for daily usage with a larger family car for holiday periods. In this case, the benefit in kind must be calculated according to usage.
Focus on maximum flexibility. A package such as Arval Select makes it possible for drivers of lease cars, for example, to use different vehicles depending upon their varying mobility needs.
Vehicle lease companies are also taking on the role of mobility consultants
Vehicle lease company such as Arval Belgium are evolving from pure suppliers into mobility consultants with a broad range of solutions.
What does Arval Belgium, one of the major players in the lease market, still have up its sleeve when it comes to benefiting from the new perspective on mobility? Els Costers, Sales Director:
"We are developing a mobility platform under the name Arval Mobility Link. The platform has three modules. One of these modules is the mobility budget. When this mobility budget's legal framework and uniform tax treatment have been fine-tuned, organisations will need a clear summary of the different methods of transport, prices and journeys.
The second of these is the dynamic lease budget. It is a tool aimed specifically at lease car drivers. Currently, you agree with your lease car drivers on a specific number of kilometres that they are permitted to drive each year, for example 30,000 kilometres. This maximum amount is the same for everyone. If an employee exceeds this limit, they may have to pay for the additional kilometres. If another employee is below this limit, for example 10,000 kilometres, that is unfortunate for them because the salary deduction is calculated on the basis of 30,000 kilometres per year, not on 10,000."
The dynamic lease budget works more fairly. This method is used to calculate the number of kilometres permitted to be travelled per year per employee or group of employees. This figure is calculated based on commuting distance. This means that employees who commute from Limburg to Brussels are no worse off than a colleague who travels from Vilvoorde. An employee who drives fewer kilometres records this in a savings fund, and they can then convert this amount saved into a bonus or different form of incentive. You can impose a levy on employees who spend more time on the road, e.g. 5 cents per kilometre. Employees who car pool receive another bonus. The same applies to drivers who fill up their tank at a cheap petrol station or who adopt an economical driving style.
Els Costers: "We provide the tool and help employers devise an arrangement tailored to their specific requirements. The exact arrangement depends on the targets set by the organisation: managing costs, travelling fewer kilometres, consuming less fuel, reducing CO2 emissions, encouraging employees to take part in a car pool or use other means of transport, etc."
Arval Mobility Link will be rolled out this year. That can happen quite quickly. This is what you need: an arrangement in line with your organisation's targets, a platform on which everything is registered, a black box in the lease car and... an honest employee. After all, the employee has to assign the kilometres travelled to the appropriate category on their laptop or smartphone: commute, professional, or private.
"The black box that we plan to employ for the Arval Mobility Link platform is already in use for the Arval Active Link telematics solution", Els Costers explains. "The device registers the journeys taken by the driver, the speed at which they drive, brake and accelerate, fuel consumption and so on. This can help to make employees aware of their driving behaviour and to encourage them to drive economically, defensively and safely."
Many companies have a relatively limited lease fleet. Nevertheless, they do reimburse travel expenses. The first module under the Arval Mobility Link, the travel allowance module, is designed specifically for employees without a lease car or mobility budget. This tool enables employees' travel expenses to be correctly recorded and reimbursed, explains Katrien Jacobs (business team manager at Arval Belgium):
"In many companies today, reclaiming travel expenses requires a lot of paperwork: employees bring their rail tickets, parking tickets and petrol station chits to the office, where they are then placed in a folder or, in a best-case scenario, entered in a spreadsheet. It can then take months for the requisite amount to be transferred to your employees' accounts. It is not particularly convenient. This tool allows employees to declare their travel expenses online. Furthermore, a link to the organisation's HR platform makes it much easier to reimburse these expenses."
Crowdsourcing: the basics
Are you undecided about the various ways of increasing your offering? Has R&D encountered a technical problem? Perhaps your clients know more.
The concept of crowdsourcing is simple: you call for the contribution of your customers and/or the general public. An approach which is gaining popularity worldwide even though it is not actually new. As far back as 1714 crowdsourcing by the British government led to the invention of the chronometer and therefore a reliable method of calculating longitudinal position at sea.
Three hundred years later the basic principles remain the same: in crowdsourcing you work with a network of individuals and communities within and largely outside the company. They make a contribution in the form of ideas, time, expertise or financial support. This enables new solutions to be accessed and makes realisation of joint projects and optimisation of tasks possible while keeping down costs.
This system is based on exchange, transparency and communication. It also works for all sectors and at all management levels. You should be able to engage a community of designers for your product development for example and choose the best proposal together with the public. Then you will bring it onto the market, possibly even financed via crowdfunding.
The crowd is ready for this
This is certainly no science fiction, as proven by the growing success of the system. It is also the ideal time to get involved with crowdsourcing:
- communicating with the crowd is easier than ever before thanks to technological development, the social media boom and the development of online communities;
- the crowd is straining at the leash: a joint survey by several European universities showed that 54% of Europeans would like to support projects by companies and private individuals creatively and/or financially;
- co-creation, or developing a project together, is hot. The crowd can join in with a project for a whole host of reasons: the necessity for a creative outlet, commercial motives, dedication to society or just for a sense of honour or fun;
- the economy urgently needs sources of financing and innovative projects in order to achieve new growth and to increase competitiveness.
It will definitely take some getting used to as such a system radically changes the way in which a company gathers information, carries out research, produces and even finances projects. At the same time relationships with clients or users change as they evolve into potential colleagues, financiers and ambassadors.
But this does not have to be a threat. On the contrary, crowdsourcing provides you with a unique opportunity to relinquish your traditional methods. You can now look externally for ideas, get feedback from the crowd on ideas developed internally or even combine both approaches. The possibilities are endless.
The dos & don’ts of crowdsourcing
A good crowdsourcing project creates a win-win situation where the initiator and the crowd feel that they are achieving something together. How do you approach that?
In crowdsourcing the 'crowd' component is at least as important as the 'sourcing' component. In order to be successful you must build up this community and win it over. This is where the challenge lies: the crowd is not an anonymous, homogeneous mass but a collection of individuals and sub-groups. You need to seek out and mobilise each one separately. 5 tips for a powerful crowd dynamic:
Take care of the presentation of your project
Your project must appeal. Present it with photos, short films or a clear presentation – vague sketches or a half-baked concept are inadequate. Keep your explanation as simple as possible. After all not every potential funder is a specialist or an engineer.
Also, don't forget to keep your target amount as realistic as possible. Above all do not create the impression that the campaign is an excuse for personal enrichment or that you will channel the money off into other, existing projects. If you work with rewards, ensure that they are original and attractive, divided up into transparent and attainable blocks of financing.
Build your crowd
Look for the suitable crowd and get these people right behind your project. Approach them via all possible channels and assign them various roles: creative or technical input, critical analysis, ambassadorial, ... When doing so keep the threshold as low as possible, within your company as well. It is recommended that you bring as many of your people as possible into contact with the crowd in order to ensure healthy cross-pollination.
Live your project
A project without animation has little chance of success. So be motivated and keep motivating others. Respond to queries, take comments into consideration and intervene where necessary. Remember that participants cannot be squeezed to produce viable ideas. They too must go through a creative process in which they can gradually shape their input. So ensure that they continue to be involved. For this purpose it is necessary to approach each sub-group differently: encourage, win over (again), congratulate, permanently challenge, ...
Keep your campaign exciting
Keep communicating, even if some of the messages may be negative. The greater the involvement you demonstrate, the greater the loyalty of the funders and the greater their willingness to accept delays or problems.
A good dosage is important here. Ensure that news is provided at regular intervals to keep the crowd involved so the attention on your campaign does not fade away.
Your project, your rules
The principle: you decide where you want to go with your campaign while being open to suggestions from the crowd. So you lead the crowd to the desired end product rather than the other way round. Otherwise the outcome may be rather different to what you had hoped. A few examples of how not to do it are the recent – and hastily cancelled – campaigns which resulted in the product name iSnack 2.0’, a chocolate bar filled with mince, or a washing-up liquid with a scent of roast chicken...