Article

30.04.2020

#StrongerTogether Biogazelle plays part in fight against coronavirus

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.”

Unprecedented collaboration

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.

Article

06.05.2024

Ecosteryl decontaminates medical waste

Thanks to its low-pollution solutions and the arrival of new investors, the Mons-based company has every intention of continuing to grow. Discover more about this inspiring success story.

Eradicate the environmental and health problems associated with medical waste on a global scale: Ecosteryl's ambitions match the technical expertise of this Mons-based company. Founded in 1947, its core business was equipment and machinery for the mining industry.  Around twenty years ago, it completely reinvented itself by specialising in the treatment of (potentially) infectious waste from the healthcare sector.

A global player with high-profile clients

Today, Ecosteryl is a globally recognised player in its sector, exporting 100% of its production to more than 65 countries. Its customers? Hospitals, of course, but also organisations in the waste recycling sector and international institutions such as the World Health Organisation, the World Bank and the United Nations, as well as cities and states. The company employs around forty people and has an annual turnover of over €20 million.

Medical waste, a critical public health issue

Syringes, dressings, masks, sharp instruments... 15% of medical waste is considered hazardous and therefore requires special treatment. Given that a single hospital bed produces between 0.5 and 3 kg of this waste every day, it's easy to imagine the scale of the problem. The infectious, toxic and sometimes even radioactive risks associated with hazardous medical waste are far from minimal: among other things, it can trigger or accelerate a pandemic, and even give rise to new diseases. Decontamination and recycling of this waste, the only solution to eliminate this health risk, is therefore a global public health issue.

An environmentally responsible process

Direct incineration or autoclaving: these are the two methods used by Ecosteryl's competitors to decontaminate hazardous medical waste. The problem is that these processes are far from being environmentally neutral. Incineration causes significant CO2 emissions and harmful emissions, such as dioxins, and is also energy intensive. And autoclaving requires large amounts of water and energy, again with significant environmental consequences.

It is in this area of the environmental footprint that Ecosteryl has made a difference, thanks to a technological breakthrough developed in collaboration with the University of Paris. The decontamination and recycling process uses microwave and dry heat technology to disinfect hazardous waste. The decontaminated waste is then shredded to reduce its volume, after which it can be processed in the same way as non-hazardous waste. Or better still, it can sorted and recycled.

This process requires very little electricity to operate, and its environmental performance compared to incineration and autoclaving is incomparable in terms of emissions and water consumption.

Too much plastic in medical waste: recycling instead of prevention

Single-use plastic products, equipment and utensils are a fact of life in hospitals. In many cases, this single use is justified, for example for syringes. The problem arises when this waste is directly incinerated. But thanks to pre-treatment, decontaminated and dried waste can be given a second life.

Until now, there has been no machine for this final stage. Ecosteryl's latest development, R-Steryl, fills this gap. It is a unique sorting centre. Placed after the decontamination machines, it can sort decontaminated waste and recycle up to 80% of it. The major players in waste collection and treatment know that recycling is and will be a real challenge in the coming years. Ecosteryl is also positioning itself as a key player in this field, and is investing in a number of analyses to this end.

Private equity to accelerate development

Despite its size in the medical waste decontamination sector, Ecosteryl has no intention of slowing down. The company intends to continue and accelerate its international growth, and welcomes new investors: BNP Paribas Fortis Private Equity,  Wallonie Entreprendre and IMBC, an investment company focused on the Mons, Borinage and Centre regions. Philippe Dufrasne, Chairman of Ecosteryl, comments:  “With these new shareholders, we have found the right partners to help us stay ahead of the game and achieve our long-term goals, particularly in terms of ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) performance.”

A priority to invest in the transition of companies

BNP Paribas Fortis is also enthusiastic about this new project.

“We are particularly proud to support this company, which has developed a unique expertise in the production of cutting-edge equipment specialised in the environmental field. Over the years, Ecosteryl has succeeded in expanding worldwide in a niche market at the intersection of environmental and health issues. This investment is fully in line with our ambition to invest €1 billion in venture capital by 2025, focusing on funds and companies that respect environmental, social and governance criteria,” explains Raf Moons, Head of Private Equity at BNP Paribas Fortis. 

Article

03.05.2024

Transporting and securing energy across Europe

The Princess Elisabeth Island, is the world's first artificial energy island for transporting offshore wind power to land. A combination of innovation, technology and biodiversity conservation.

8,802 km: that's the length of all the onshore and offshore power lines and cables managed by Elia Transmission in Belgium.  As the operator of the Belgian high-voltage grid, Elia keeps the lights on by matching electricity generation and consumption at all times.

Artificial energy island

Grid operator Elia has just started to work on one of the most challenging projects in its history: the Princess Elisabeth artificial energy island. It will be located in the middle of the 285km2 Princess Elisabeth wind zone. This is the second offshore wind zone in the Belgian North Sea that has yet to be fully built. With a capacity of 3.5 gigawatts, the new wind farms will produce electricity equivalent to the annual consumption of 3.5 million households.

Catherine Vandenborre, CFO of Elia: “The Princess Elisabeth Island is a vital link in the successful energy transition in Belgium. The island has a dual function. First, it will bring electricity from the new offshore wind farms to the mainland. And then from 2030, the island will also be connected to wind farms in other countries with which electricity can be exchanged. This will give our country access to cheap and renewable energy.  This is crucial for our energy-intensive industries, which are rapidly moving away from fossil fuels and switching massively to wind energy over the next 10 years. In this way, Belgium is contributing to Europe’s climate goals and the ambition to realise 300 gigawatts of offshore wind in the North Sea by 2050.”

Designing for nature

In terms of location, design and implementation, due attention is being paid to limiting unwanted impacts on the marine environment. “We are going one step further and opting for nature-inclusive design,” explains Catherine Vandenborre. “In consultation with experts, we are taking concrete steps to protect the biodiversity around the island. For example, we are adding ledges to the outer storm walls where the kittiwake – a vulnerable bird species – can rest and breed. Below the waterline, several measures will be combined to create a diverse and rich artificial reef, with a particular focus on the return of the European flat oyster.  The measures have been selected on the basis of their technical feasibility and expected positive outcome.”

Co-creation and innovation

Achieving such a nature-inclusive design required close collaboration and knowledge sharing between all stakeholders and different domain experts. “An instructive process for all involved,” confirms Vandenborre. “With this initiative, Elia wants to set the tone for the environmentally friendly realisation of future offshore infrastructure. Europe’s seas are becoming the power stations of the future. By integrating biodiversity conservation measures from the design and construction phases, we want to increase and accelerate the positive outcomes. The co-creation project with the experts has already made an important contribution to scientific development in this field. But the work is not finished. Monitoring programmes will be put in place to follow up, and if necessary, adjust the selected measures.

Ready for the next gust of wind

As one of the main financial partners, BNP Paribas Fortis is supporting Elia’s transition to a reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy system. BNP Paribas Fortis has already financed 8 offshore wind projects in the Belgian North Sea. These 8 farms together represent 2200 megawatts, equivalent to 2 to 3 nuclear power plants. The next round? New wind farms in the Princess Elisabeth zone. This will be done through project financing, with the underlying contracts and resulting cash flows backing the loans.

Article

03.05.2024

Ziegler’s environmental strategy

How does Ziegler aim for greater environmental responsibility? By methodically exploring various avenues. Their approach is based on four key pillars.

From delivering jars of chocolate spread through the winding streets of Brussels, to storing and transporting satellites to Patagonia, to packing and moving valuable works of art, Ziegler does it all. Founded in 1908, the Belgian transport company provides international logistics solutions via multiple channels.

“The transport industry doesn't have the best environmental reputation,” admits Ziegler CEO Diane Govaerts. "People rightly expect solutions from us in that field. We do not run away from our environmental responsibility and have found a true partner in BNP Paribas Fortis.”

On land, at sea and in the air

Everything we use in our daily lives comes to us by road, rail, water or air. As a transport company, Ziegler is aware of its environmental footprint. The company is committed to improving its Environment, Society and Governance (ESG) performance in a number of areas.

“Our environmental strategy is based on four pillars,” explains Govaerts. "First, we have rainwater systems, LEDs, solar panels, electric charging stations and more. Our lab in Poland is constantly looking for new solutions like these.

Secondly, there is the transport itself. We are switching to the EURO 6 standard, which consumes less fuel and minimises pollution. At the same time, we are actively promoting alternatives, such as rail. Thanks to our trials with electric cargo bikes, we can now make B2B deliveries of up to 500 kg in small city centre streets. We are also developing autonomous electric delivery vehicles. Another interesting development is the use of drones in our warehouse logistics.

The third pillar is our team. We are running a number of educational initiatives to raise awareness of energy savings, recycling and vehicles with a smaller environmental footprint.

The last pillar is our partners, because they have the same needs as we do. This is certainly something we have in common with BNP Paribas Fortis."

No way back

Ziegler is actively looking for solutions. Despite the financial challenges, carbon-neutral solutions tend to be significantly more expensive, Diane Govaerts confirms 'there is simply no other way'. "If your company is not actively changing, you will not be here in five years. We are on the same wavelength as BNP Paribas Fortis in this regard. They are helping us make our transformation possible by providing support and financing. Their knowledge of multiple industries is extremely valuable to us. They are a true partner, making real contributions and helping us to find appropriate solutions. It’s reassuring to know that we can count on their guidance."

The young Belgian Cohabs renovates town houses and turns them into well-equipped, comfortable and stylish cohousing projects. The social and environmental aspects are also important in their story.

"The real estate market has been very tight for a few years. Finding a house or flat in the city is not easy. The economic situation is not ideal for new housing projects, but demand for housing remains high”, explains Youri Dauber, CEO of Cohabs. “The challenge? To curb parcellation and concreting by densifying cities. We also need to make buildings more energy efficient and, last but not least, find solutions to loneliness, which many people suffer from across generations.”

Cohabs has 2.500 rooms, spread adcross 150 buildings in Brussels, Paris, New York, Madrid and Luxembourg. The rent includes all costs such as internet and a Netflix subscription, as well as a cleaning service and the use of the gym, a cinema room, the garden and a coworking space. To make living together easier and avoid any frustrations, Cohabs supplies a number of basic products in all houses, such as toilet paper, washing-up liquid, olive oil and salt and pepper. The Cohabs residents of a city keep in touch through an app and can meet each other at a party held every month.

Not just young professionals

"When we started out in 2016, we had a target group of 25-35-year-olds in mind. But we immediately received a lot of applications from people over 50,” says Dauber. "My own parents, who are 75, pushed me to open up the concept to their generation too. We realised that cohousing is not just for young professionals. There are also people in very different stages of life who are going through a kind of transitional period. This is often accompanied by loneliness, as in the case of a divorce or someone who has lost their partner. We also think about what we can offer families. They need larger communal spaces and well-defined conditions. Like any young and innovative company, we’re evolving as we go along. We learn by trial and error.”

Solidarity and social coexistence

The young managing director is regularly amazed by the social adventure that coliving can be. "We had a 45-year-old Syrian refugee who saw something in cohousing. We thought living with a group of twenty-somethings would never work out. But we were wrong. The relationships built there proved so rich that we’re now working with the French NGO Singa. In the meantime, we offer solidarity rooms in some forty of our houses.”

Design, upcycling and an app

The young company is firmly committed to design. To that end, it works with Lionel Jadot, the Belgian pioneer in upcycling. His approach fits perfectly with Cohabs’ environmental philosophy, which itself also uses recycled materials for renovations. Solar panels and rainwater recovery are also part of this story. "Achieving an EPC score of B or C is our goal. This is exceptionally good for old buildings,” Dauber adds. "We are carbon neutral and a member of 1% for the Planet.”

Ready to push boundaries together

Cohabs was able to count on the support of BNP Paribas Fortis for investments and the purchase of new buildings. “They’ve been part of our story since our third property. Back then, we were just a small company, but we were asking for significant sums of several tens of millions of euros. But they supported us and granted us loans, which allowed us to grow abroad as well. It’s really a collaboration. They put their trust in us and believe in the potential of our concept."

Cohabs is ready to change the world. Discover even more inspiring entrepreneurial stories.

Quotes

“In forty of our cohousing houses, we offer solidarity rooms for people who want to reintegrate into society.”

“My 75-year-old parents pushed me to open up the concept to their generation as well.”

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