4 minute read 15 Oct 2019
Wavespace_Ingmar_Wouter

How EY wavespace Antwerp helps businesses grow with innovative technology

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EY Belgium

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

4 minute read 15 Oct 2019

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Bringing together young companies and established values to taste the art of the possible, that is what the wavespace is all about.

A business space with a bar in the middle, a Lego table in the corner and a climbing wall a little further on. That sounds more like a start-up than like EY. And yet: "In our wavespace, established companies and start-ups can meet and learn from each other," said Wouter Desmet and Ingmar Christiaens of EY.

No company is immune to disruption. Companies that have been successful in the past ten years are not certain that they can continue along the same lines for the next ten years. EY acts as a catalyst to adjust the traditional way of thinking and acting," says Wouter Desmet, partner at EY and responsible for innovation. "In our wavespace we are working on a new mindset in which we inspire companies. In doing so, we take into account the latest technological developments, often supplied by local start-ups."

"Many know EY as a solid auditor, but our consulting department is less well-known today. With this wavespace we want to make it clear that we are also ready to provide advice and are even at the forefront with solid, supporting material. We invite companies to come here to get a taste of the art of the possible," says Ingmar Christiaens, partner at EY and responsible for advice to multinationals, agile finance in particular.

Of course you can brainstorm anywhere, but you get far fewer results in your normal office than in the wavespace.
Wouter Desmet
EY WEM Innovation Leader

What exactly happens in the wavespace?

Desmet: "This is a place for open innovation, where we organize hackathons or brainstorms, for example. Here, start-ups and large companies can get to know each other and exchange ideas. This setting inspires innovation. In the wavespace you can write on the wall or get to work with Lego. Of course you can brainstorm anywhere, but you get far fewer results in your normal office than in the wavespace."

"You get a very different dynamic here. That is why our team also consists of people you don't traditionally find at EY: hackers, software developers, designers, etc. They support the teams that are working internally or externally on innovation. At the same time I can reassure the established values. Compared to a traditional incubator or accelerator, it is all a bit more defined here. We have monitored the balance: both groups feel at home here. No empty pizza boxes are lying around (laughs)."

Christiaens: "Large companies are increasingly realizing that they need a broad perspective. Just looking at their sector is no longer sufficient. They also don't need us for that. They want to learn from others, from other sectors, and also from the younger companies. Those often come with innovative and creative ideas. And so we help those multinationals to think out of the box and see how additional value can be created, and this supported by technology."

Are Belgian companies ready for that?

Christiaens: "This out-of-the-box approach is opposite to the traditional mentality that every hour spent must produce a yield. Here, companies get oxygen. The new ideas come naturally when they brainstorm for a day, or even a few hours, outside their familiar nest, inspired by us and others. You can't usually quantify that, but they still feel the vibe. They often end up with us afterwards and we help them give concrete shape to their ideas."

Does this wavespace belong to an international network?

Desmet: "That's right; each of the 19 international labs has its own focus. In Antwerp this is open innovation and agile finance, in Paris cyber security and in Madrid artificial intelligence. There are differences, but there is also uniformity, which means we can work together efficiently. The technology that you see here can also be found elsewhere and can be easily connected, allowing us to truly immerse ourselves, even across physical regions and time zones."

This out-of-the-box approach is opposite to the traditional mentality that every hour spent must produce a yield.
Ingmar Christiaens
EY Belgium Advisory Partner

Christiaens: "You no longer have to travel, but you get an experience as if you were present. We recently held a session with AB InBev about how technology can support the achievement of the five-year strategic objectives. The wavespace in Johannesburg took the lead and five others called in. We learned a lot then as well".

Why in Antwerp?

Christiaens: "Thanks to the support of some Belgian colleagues who have grown in EY at European and world level, we were able to develop a wavespace in our country. We could also have chosen another city with a strong start-up scene, for example Ghent or Brussels, but in our new offices in Antwerp, we could start from a blank slate. Moreover, we are close to the station and the historic center. That is interesting for companies that also want to hold a team building session here and want to go into the city afterwards."

Desmet: "You get a campus feeling in the Post X Business Park, which is in line with our focus on open innovation. For our corporate clients, this is an inspiring setting and start-ups and scale-ups immediately feel at home. We have a partnership with the Flemish government to help start-ups. With the worldwide EYnovation program we offer them a range of products and tools. We not only make our knowledge available, but also our network."

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Summary

Large companies are increasingly realizing that they need a broad perspective. Just looking at their sector is no longer sufficient. Wouter Desmet and Ingmar Christiaens explain how the wavespace brings young companies and established values together.

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By

EY Belgium

Multidisciplinary professional services organization