An interesting innovative product or service may qualify for a subsidy from the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Agentschap voor Innoveren en Ondernemen or VLAIO). But sufficient attention must be paid to drawing up a strong subsidy application as it requires detailed knowledge of the evaluation criteria.
Zero Friction is working on a software solution to make invoicing in the energy sector more dynamic, taking into account the increasingly numerous options inherent in the energy transition. They successfully applied for an innovation subsidy with the help of EY. But how does such a collaboration work in practice? Where are the pitfalls and how does EY make the difference? A conversation between the 'sparring partners' Jabran Bhatti (EY) and Wim Jacobs, CEO of Zero Friction.
As an introduction could you briefly present Zero Friction?
Wim Jacobs: “Together with Lars van Elewijck and Yoni Nijs, we started in 2018, so I think that we can still be labeled a start-up (laughs). We combine experience in both the software and the energy sector and capitalized on it to identify a gap in the market. We live in an age of an energy transition that is still in its infancy. More and more solutions are starting to interact with each other. However, we realized that there was no good invoicing solution that could meet these developments. In fact, this is still often done in a static way: the end customer pays advances and receives a final settlement once a year, which always comes as a surprise. This frustration is apparent in the market, but it can be avoided. With our software, we want to make the invoicing in the energy sector into a dynamic process. It must be possible to predict, inform and advise on more efficient consumption. This allows us to better support the heating suppliers and building managers who make up our customers.”
How did you come into contact with EY?
Jabran Bhatti: “The first contact was through my colleague, Liesbeth Peters. We soon realized that the people at Zero Friction were full of ideas, but moreover that they possessed an important innovative component. It is often no easy task for a young enterprise to finance an innovation. Fortunately, the Flemish government provides a number of instruments that can help, such as an innovation subsidy. To qualify, you must devote sufficient time as a company to drawing up and defending a well-founded dossier. And it is precisely here that we played a role in completing this process.”
Wim Jacobs: “The collaboration proceeded in a very interactive way. We had no shortage of ideas (smiles). We know where we are and where we want to go but crossing the gap in between is another matter. Drawing up this kind of innovation dossier requires expertise in itself and it has to be said that the VLAIO, the Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which decides on this subsidy, told us that we had a strong dossier – a compliment for Jabran and the other people who worked on it.”
Jabran Bhatti: “We strive to use our in-house expertise to serve the client as well as possible. It is no coincidence that the first thing we do is to put together a team tailored to the specific requirements of the customer involved. We have in-house technical profiles, such as computer scientists, experts in electrical engineering, life science, mechanics or chemical experts and economic profiles. EY’s strength is precisely that we have these colleagues with diverse backgrounds who speak the client’s language.”