Verhaert Masters in innovation is Belgian’s most significant player in product innovation. But the company also is a substantial reference in Europe when it comes to the space industry. Manager Innovation Acceleration Pieter Deleye talks about a world of innovation, start-ups and Antwerp’s ecosystem.
Pioneering innovation group
Verhaert is a pioneering innovation group that helps companies and entrepreneurs in their innovation process, creating new products, businesses and services. The company has roots that go back to 1969 and has designed more than 1.000 products. They believe innovation is one of the few instruments to create sustaining added value and a better world.
One-stop-shop for space innovation
Verhaert helps others by increasing their capacity to innovate. Pieter Deleye, Manager Innovation Acceleration: “The European Space Agency (ESA) appointed us as the Belgian Space Solutions Center. That means we’re the one-stop-shop for every start-up or company in Belgium that wants to innovate in space. We use our experience and product development knowledge from working in other industries to assist them. More specifically: we offer advice, we provide mentor training, and we organise networking events where we connect start-ups with other start-ups, partners and investors in Belgium and abroad. Next to that, we create new start-ups, provide access to finance to start new companies, accelerate innovation initiatives and lower the risk.”
Applying space technology
Verhaert aspires to find links with other industries; they don’t limit themselves to the space industry. “We always try to look further”, says Pieter. “By applying space technology, systems and know-how in non-space applications, we boost innovation at both ends. O-boy is a nice example. This start-up is developing a watch that can be used on hikes in areas without cell coverage. Their product uses satellites for positioning purposes and will also be able to put out a mayday if needed. We help this start-up by offering technical and business advice. We have what it takes to translate a technology into a product with high intuitiveness.”
The beauty of innovation lies in the fact that it is within reach of everybody on the planet. It is an endogen capacity of humanity for growth and value creation. It is an intellectual exercise shadowing all other competitive advantages that in most cases are only temporary.
Paul Verhaert, founder of Verhaert | Masters in innovation
Today Verhaert is located in Kruibeke, but the company is originally from the centre of Antwerp. And even today, they are still present in Antwerp’s bustling city centre. The Beacon is a platform that catalyses innovation and strengthens ties with technology companies. “We were very keen to be part of this innovation community, and today we also have an office there. We use our knowledge and experience to develop and expand the fields of IoT and AI.”
Building an ecosystem
Cooperation is everything in innovation. For space this is especially true. “Intensive collaboration, beyond borders, is part of the game”, explains Pieter. “The best cases are when technicians in China start writing a programme and that Europeans take over when the Chinese go to bed. After a day of hard work in Europe, the Americans take over in their turn. The result? Two days’ work is done in just one day. Verhaert is building a space ecosystem in Belgium and Europe in that spirit. Our ambition is to work together to use space technology in other fields of application. Every space traveller says the same thing: we live on a tiny blue planet. Let’s break through borders and work together for a better world.”
Interested in more stories like this? Discover Antwerp Space, QinetiQ, Seafar and Helicus.