Robovision has emerged as the best-known AI player in the Benelux countries. However, this young firm has an even more extensive vision. “Healthcare, agriculture, the environment… within five years artificial intelligence will have become omnipresent,” foresees CEO Jonathan Berte. BNP Paribas Fortis is an important partner in their growth.
Jonathan Berte, who trained as a civil engineer, smiles as he thinks back to the pioneering years at Robovision. “In fact, when I was a kid I had a really analytical mindset. In the scouts and at school I used to keep note of absolutely everything. It was really important for me to collect information. I was a kind of ‘infoholic’. But just gathering information gets you nowhere. That also goes for information that’s just stored on hard disks. The added value comes from using that information efficiently.”
How exactly do you do that at Robovision?
“Technology is evolving at lightning speed. These days just about everybody has a smartphone in their trouser pocket. Apart from anything else, these devices create a great deal of information, so we need to keep up on the algorithmic front and artificial intelligence helps us with that. That’s how we can provide governments, institutions and companies large and small with a platform for automated decision-making on the basis of visual data. In addition we constantly ask ourselves how we can democratise artificial intelligence. So in a way we’re like the Airbnb of artificial intelligence.”
What might that visual data be for example?
“In May, in collaboration with the University of Antwerp and security firm Securitas, we set up a smart camera in a shopping street in order to measure to what extent people were complying with social distancing requirements. This is important information for the decision makers in this country. Of course we don’t have to look through the images ourselves. We get them analysed using a specific type of artificial intelligence – self-teaching algorithms or what are known as neural networks. They’re designed somewhat along the lines of our own brains, though not nearly as complex.”
Which brings us to the fashionable expression ‘deep learning’. Are machines eventually going to make themselves smarter than us humans?
“Oh, that’s already underway at this very moment – in radiology, among other fields, plus also in games. Remember the legendary Go match between South Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol and a computer, which was beautifully represented in the 2017 documentary film AlphaGo? We’re also focusing on deep learning, because neural networks are very efficient at dealing with visual data. However, it will be some time yet before AI can equal a human being in intuition for instance.”
You’ve now evolved from a startup to a scaleup. Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
“The society of tomorrow will be one in which everything will be properly measured and dealt with. For instance, we’re also working in the field of horticulture, where AI can be applied in quality control – to spot fruit with an abnormal shape or colour, say. Lots of agricultural and horticultural businesses have got into difficulties over the last few months because pickers from Eastern Europe weren’t able to enter this country. Those businesses will very probably be investing in AI and automation over the next few years. In these kinds of fields, the coronavirus has taken us to a digital society almost overnight.”
What sort of partners do you need in order to succeed in your aims?
“During our growth from startup to scaleup, BNP Paribas Fortis has always been an important partner. You have really taken a lot of trouble to understand our story. Of course you do need to grasp our plans from a banking standpoint in order to be able to assess the risks. But quite apart from that, I have the feeling that you’re particularly good when it comes to supporting the whole tech and startup scene.”
Electric cars are gradually becoming the norm
As of 2026, a favourable tax regime will only apply to electric company cars. This is an important step towards more sustainable mobility – and an extra reason to go all out in greening your fleet.
The evolution towards a greening of company cars has now also been laid down by law. Thanks to a number of tax changes, electric company cars or e-cars will be the most interesting choice from now on. The perfect time to start electrifying your fleet already today.
The tax deductibility for newly ordered non-emission-free vehicles (diesel, petrol and hybrid cars) will gradually be phased out. Up to 2026, however, this will be 100% for emission-free vehicles (purely electric or hydrogen-powered cars). Afterwards, this deductibility will gradually decrease to 67.5% by 2031.
Electric driving isn’t just more tax-efficient
Electric cars are already 100% tax-deductible. And yet most fleets aren't really green yet. One reason is that the purchase price of an electric or hybrid car is considerably higher than that of a comparable car with a combustion engine. There’s been a noticeable evolution here due to the market mechanism, though, and prices are now less far apart.
But the purchase price isn’t the only factor to consider. In making this choice, it’s actually better to look at the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership). This includes all expected costs: consumption, maintenance, CO2 contribution and tax deductibility. And these four elements are all more favourable for electric cars. If you use the TCO rather than purchase price as a yardstick, you’ll see that a green fleet of e-cars will be the most advantageous choice for your company in the future.
Even though electric driving is the future and it’s clearly time for a new mobility, the tax scheme for cars powered by fossil fuel won’t change overnight.
- Until 30 June 2023
For company cars ordered before 1 July 2023, the current conditions regarding tax deductibility will continue to apply. For company cars that are leased or rented operationally and for which the beneficial ownership is not transferred, the closing date of the lease or rental contract is considered. The costs of a diesel, petrol or hybrid car remain 50 to 100% deductible, while the costs of electric cars remain 100% deductible.
- Between 1 July 2023 and 31 December 2025
For non-emission-free vehicles ordered as of 1 July 2023 until 31 December 2025, a transition period will apply, and the deductibility is gradually phased out. From a maximum of 75% in 2025, to 50% in 2026, to 25% in 2027, and ultimately 0% deductibility in 2028. As of 2025 the minimal deductibility of 50% is abolished. The CO2 contribution for these cars will also increase significantly each year. Emission-free cars will remain 100% deductible.
- As of 1 January 2026 onwards
Non-emission-free vehicles ordered as of 1 January 2026 will no longer be deductible. Only emission-free vehicles such as electric cars will then be 100% deductible. But this favourable scheme will also be gradually phased out over the next few years, to 95% for vehicles ordered in 2027, to 90% in 2028, to 82.5% in 2029, 75% in 2030 and eventually to 67.5% in 2031.
- Plug-in hybrids (PHEV)
For plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) ordered as of 1 January 2023, the tax deductibility of petrol and diesel costs will be limited to 50%. Electricity and other costs are not covered by this restriction. This measure is designed to encourage the use of electric motors and PHEV. Otherwise, PHEVs will continue to follow the non-emission-free vehicle rules.
And for your employees?
If you allocate a company car that your employee can also use privately, this benefit will be taxed as a fixed benefit in kind that depends on the list price and CO2 emissions and the fuel type. The status of the company car as an alternative remuneration will remain in place until after 2030. For the time being, therefore, nothing will change in the benefit in kind of the company car with respect to the employee. Although electric vehicles generally have a higher list price, zero emissions can make up for the difference and in many cases, turn out favourably for your employee.
What about charging?
To help your employees make the most of an electric car, you can have a charging station installed at their home if possible. Both the device and the installation at your employee's home are 100% tax deductible and there is no additional tax benefit for them.
As a company, you can, under certain conditions, benefit from an increased cost deduction for the installation of charging stations on your company premises. This amounts to 200% for investments made in the period from 1 September 2021 to 31 December 2022 and 150% for depreciations relating to investments made in the period from 1 January 2023 to 31 August 2024. A condition is that the charging station is depreciated linearly over at least five taxable periods and at the earliest as of the fiscal year that is linked to the taxable period during which the charging station is operational and publicly accessible.
Switch to an electric fleet
In addition to favourable tax conditions, there are many other excellent reasons to opt for electric cars today.
- It is an environmentally friendly solution that leads to 17-30% less CO2 emissions than the emissions from ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles throughout the entire life cycle of the vehicle.
- A wide range of new models is already on the market today and will only increase in the coming years.
- Most new models already have a driving range of 300 to 600 km.
- Advantageous Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).
- Electric driving is pleasant and causes much less street noise.
- The public charging infrastructure is expanding rapidly.
- Access to low-emission zones and cities that ban diesel vehicles.
Nowadays, responsible fleet management is built around sustainability. Don't wait any longer to electrify your fleet and reduce your company’s ecological footprint. Our mobility partner Arval will help you to green your fleet and support you in your transition to electric vehicles.
Discover all our solutions or discuss them with your relationship manager.
Building a sustainable chemical industry together
As a bank, we promote sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation. Together with BlueChem, the first incubator for sustainable chemistry in Europe, we are taking some important steps in the chemical industry.
In December 2021, BNP Paribas Fortis extended its exclusive partnership with BlueChem for a further three years. A logical step after the successful cooperation over the past years.
BlueChem is the first independent incubator in Europe to focus specifically on innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable chemistry. It provides legal, administrative and financial support to promising Belgian and international start-ups and ambitious growth companies. BlueChem recently invested in a brand-new building on the Blue Gate site, the new climate-neutral business park in Antwerp. The incubator provides start-ups, SMEs, large companies, research centres and knowledge institutions with fully-equipped and freely-configurable labs, individual offices and flexible workplaces. Tenants include a company that splits CO2 molecules into useful chemicals, a company that develops protein sources for meat substitutes, and a company that extracts chemicals from polluted industrial waste water.
Didier Beauvois, Head of BNP Paribas Fortis Corporate Banking: “We are very proud to be a partner of BlueChem, which, like our bank, feels very strongly about sustainable development and open innovation, which is why we chose to immediately extend our partnership with BlueChem by a further three years. Our aim with these kinds of initiatives is to help companies and industries meet the conditions set out in the European Green Deal, the European Commission’s initiative to make the European Union climate neutral by 2050.”
As a leading bank in Belgium, we believe in taking our responsibility and contributing to the sustainable development of our society, now and in the future. A promise we can continue to deliver thanks to our partnership with BlueChem.
Our primary role within this unique partnership is to share our expertise. The bank has a centre of expertise, the Sustainable Business Competence Centre, which closely monitors innovative, sustainable developments, using this knowledge to support companies in their sustainability transition. We also have a wealth of experience, through our Innovation Hubs, in fine-tuning business plans for start-ups that want to evolve into scale-ups. Making our network available is a second crucial role. We connect with potential clients and investors and identify synergies between start-ups and large companies. Contacts that also offer added value for our Corporate Banking clients.
Barbara Veranneman, Chairman BlueChem NV and Director International Affairs essenscia: “BlueChem partly owes its success to strong strategic partnerships, such as with BNP Paribas Fortis, among others. Our sustainable chemistry incubator is thus able to provide the right facilities in the right place, in addition to specialised, custom services. This access to high-level expertise is definitely an asset, offering start-ups and scale-ups optimal support so they can focus on their core business: bringing sustainable innovations to market."
Why the chemical industry?
The chemical industry is a major contributor to our country’s economy. Antwerp is home to Europe’s largest and the world’s second-largest integrated chemical cluster. We can have a major impact by providing optimal support to start-ups and scale-ups throughout Flanders in terms of innovation and sustainability.
We don't always realise that developments in the chemicals industry impact every aspect of our daily lives: virtually every technological product contains plastics, smartphones are jam-packed with chemical elements, the biodegradable packaging of the products on supermarket shelves, research into new batteries, recycling that involves a great deal of development, etc.
A good example is Triple Helix, an innovative growth company that was one of the first to move to BlueChem and which received support from the bank from the outset. The company is preparing the construction of its ‘SurePure’ recycling plant for polyurethane foam and PET shells, which will be converted into new raw materials, for new applications. Polyurethane is used in mattresses, car seats, insulation panels, etc. But this is just the first step. True to the motto ‘Molecules as a service’, Triple Helix is already planning similar initiatives with glass, stone and wood . Considering waste as a resource creates a huge growth market.
Steven Peleman, Managing Partner Triple Helix Group: “What makes BNP Paribas Fortis such a valuable partner is that it can bring the right parties to the table, essentially becoming a lever on the pathway to a more sustainable industry. It’s not just the financial aspect. The bank also looks for strategic partners, helps us to strengthen our credibility, and brings in potential investors. A bank that looks beyond purely financial considerations can create tremendous added value for us.”
Sustainability and innovation in the chemical Industry
Innovation in chemistry is the key to overcoming our planet's sustainability challenges. The chemicals industry develops crucial innovations and products to successfully address climate change, even though it is not traditionally considered a 'greener’ industry. There are several opportunities: better recycling techniques to extract sustainable metals from waste, biodegradable plastics, the replacement of certain substances in existing materials, or the greening of a chemical production process. Moreover, innovation is not an easy feat in the chemical industry. It takes a lot of time, guts and money to scale up from a lab setting to industrial-scale production.
European Green deal
All these efforts to increase sustainability are part of an EU-wide initiative. The European Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission to make the European Union climate neutral by 2050. It proposes to achieve this by drastically reducing CO2 emissions and by immediately absorbing or offsetting any remaining carbon emissions in Europe by 2050, for example by planting forests or with new technology. This would make Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world. An ambition that we, as a bank, are more than happy to lend our support! And what about you as a company?
Would you like to know more about how we promote sustainability and open innovation or do you require support for your transition to a more sustainable business model? Discuss this with your relationship manager or the experts of our Sustainable Business Competence Centre.
Ingrid Daerden of Aedifica is the new ‘Trends CFO of the Year’
With this award, which was presented on 20 October for the tenth year in a row, Trends and BNP Paribas Fortis are highlighting the achievements of a Belgian CFO.
Ingrid Daerden of Aedifica won the award this year, succeeding Nicolas De Clercq of Kinepolis. She owes this to a miracle 2020 in which, despite corona, Aedifica raised more than 700 million euro and got a Bel-20 listing.
In addition, the Walloon biotech group Univercells received the award for ‘Deal of the Year 2021’. Univercells raised 120 million euro from a number of prestigious investors and is preparing an IPO.
Ingrid Daerden’s great track record at Aedifica
The jury named Ingrid Daerden ‘CFO of the Year’ because of her contribution to the strategic development and financing of Aedifica’s growth. Since she joined Aedifica as CFO three years ago, the healthcare real estate specialist has enjoyed remarkable growth. During that time, the 47-year-old commercial engineer paved the way for seamless financing and built her finance team into a solid foundation for Aedifica’s growth. In 2020, the healthcare real estate company became a fixture on the Bel-20, raising over 700 million euro in capital. In June this year, it raised another 286 million euro, and in September Aedifica issued a 500-million-euro bond. In times of COVID-19 this all went smoothly. The jury also saw the integration of sustainability and ESG criteria in the financial policy.
Ingrid Daerden won over four other outstanding candidates: Charles Jacques of Masthercell, Jean-Pierre Mellen of Recticel, Nadia Messaaoui of Technord and Geert Peeters of Greenyard.
Univercells wins the 'Deal of the Year 2021'
For the third time, Trends also awarded a prize for the ‘Deal of the Year’. All mergers or acquisitions and capital operations (initial public offering, capital increase, private placement, etc.) in which a Belgian company was involved in 2020 qualify for this award. Univercells received the award. The Walloon biotech group managed to persuade KKR, an American investment company, and funds linked to the foundations of Bill and Melinda Gates and Georges Soros, to enter into its capital. This complex operation earned Univercells the ‘Deal of the Year 2021’ award.
Since 2012, BNP Paribas Fortis and Roularta have been highlighting the exceptional qualities of CFOs in Top 500 companies in Belgium. The jury’s choice is primarily determined by the strategic vision and leadership shown.
Deliverect, Odoo and Abriso-Jiffy win the Private Equity Awards 2021
On 13 October, our bank and the Belgian Venture Capital & Private Equity Association put the spotlight on these companies, as they achieved remarkable growth thanks to private equity.
A number of fast-growing Belgian companies were once again honoured at this year’s Private Equity Awards. This event highlights the role that venture capital investors play in the growth of both start-up, fast-growing and mature companies. Raf Moons, Head of Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis, represented our bank in the jury.
The jury had the difficult task of choosing one winner from three nominated companies for each of the three categories – Venture, Growth and Buy-out.
- The ‘Venture company of the year 2021’ category focuses on young companies developing and marketing an innovative product or service with the support of a venture capital investor.
- The ‘Growth company of the year 2021’ category is for companies that expanded their business significantly through organic growth or an acquisition policy. They brought a financial partner on board without the latter aiming for control.
- The ‘Buy-out company of the year 2021’ category focuses on the transmission and growth of companies achieved by management and a private equity investor with a controlling stake.
- Venture company of the year: Deliverect
This fast-growing SaaS company connects delivery platforms with food companies around the world. To help companies manage their delivery and pick-up operations more efficiently, Deliverect integrates food ordering platforms into the cash register system, eliminating the need to re-enter orders and the costly errors that come with them. Deliverect was founded in 2018 and is headquartered in Ghent. It employs more than 200 people.
Deliverect emerged as the winner because the company has achieved enormous growth in the short term. The company is active in 38 countries and, therefore, certainly has the opportunity to become a global player within its sector. The delivery and takeout solution developed by Deliverect is crucial to the restaurant industry and became very relevant during the pandemic.
Other nominees in this category were AgomAb Therapeutics and Imcyse.
- Growth company of the year: Odoo
Odoo is a suite of open source business apps that cater to all business needs: CRM, e-commerce, accounting, inventory, point of sale, project management, etc. Odoo has more than 7 million users, located in more than 120 countries. The company has over 1,700 employees, was founded in 2004 and is headquartered in Grand-Rosière (Walloon Brabant).
For the jury, the resilience shown by the company in recent years was one of the decisive factors in selecting Odoo as the winner. A deciding factor was also the quality of its products, which are not only very modern but also very user-friendly. Finally, the company, firmly anchored in Belgium, has a large international reach with its presence all over the world.
UgenTec and Univercells were also nominated in this category.
- Buy-out company of the year: Abriso-Jiffy
Abriso-Jiffy has evolved from a local 'bubble & foam' manufacturer to a leading European group specialising in sustainable protection and insulation materials for the packaging and construction sector. The group was founded in 1985, is based in Anzegem and employs approximately 1,500 people across 15 production sites in 11 European countries.
This company was chosen by the jury because of its track record. First of all we are talking about a successful turnaround, followed by the entry of Bencis Capital, the acquisition of Jiffy and finally the very attractive exit. This journey was accomplished by a broad-based team. In addition, ESG criteria are deeply embedded in the company’s business model, making Abriso-Jiffy a true ambassador for the Private Equity Awards.
In addition to Abriso-Jiffy, Corialis and Circet Benelux were also nominated.
Didier Beauvois, Head of Corporate Banking and Member of the Executive Board of BNP Paribas Fortis:
"As co-founder of the Private Equity Awards, we have organised this event now for the fourth time. On the one hand, to highlight successful Belgian growth companies and, on the other hand, to show how private equity can help companies. Not only innovative scale-ups, but also companies that wish to make the transition to a more sustainable business model through extra investment, have a natural need for capital. This type of investment often only pays off in the longer term. That is why, as a bank, we believe it is important to assist companies with this through our private equity offering. In this way, we can make a positive contribution to the Belgian economy and to society. We are actually freeing up additional resources for this and intend to double our private equity portfolio to EUR 1 billion by 2025."
Read the full file on Private Equity in Trends-Tendances:
- Full portrait of the winners in Trends/Tendances (Dutch/French)
- Interview with R. Moons, Head Private Equity BNPP Fortis and P. Demaerel, Secretary General at BVA (Dutch/French)
- Interview with B. Peeters and Q. Masure from Tiberghien (Dutch/French)
- Interview with M. Thumas and J. Van Assche from Eight Advisory (Dutch/French)
- Interview with M. Herlant and S. Spitaels, Associaties EY Strategy and Transactions (Dutch/French)
- Robovision: “Within five years artificial intelligence will have become omnipresent”
- Electric cars are gradually becoming the norm
- Building a sustainable chemical industry together
- Ingrid Daerden of Aedifica is the new ‘Trends CFO of the Year’
- Deliverect, Odoo and Abriso-Jiffy win the Private Equity Awards 2021