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“Connecting is a key word in innovation”

Jan De Clippeleer about the activities of The Factory, a startup within EY.

It’s been 1.5 years now since The Factory was launched as a startup within EY. Loyal to the lean startup methodology, The Factory has learned a lot from its first year. The team sets up innovation programs within EY, supports startups & scale-ups through the EYnovation™ program and now also offers innovation tracks to corporate clients.

While sharpening their KPI’s and service offerings, we had a chat with Jan De Clippeleer, Executive Director at EY and Innovation Enabler at The Factory. “I’m contributing to all 3 types of sport within The Factory. I primarily focus on the corporate innovation programs, but I also support the EYnovation™ program that helps startups & scale-ups. Last but not least, I’m a passionate internal innovator within EY.”

Jan is a serial innovator with over 33 years (!) of relevant experience in setting up innovation tracks within global companies and high tech industries, like publishing & printing and medical devices and healthcare IT. Besides his corporate innovation experience, he launched and ran a few ventures himself. Jan has the entrepreneurial mindset that is key within The Factory’s team.

“We are successful and growing,
but not naive”

How did The Factory come to life? “The Factory is born within EY as a startup to facilitate open innovation. EY is typically known as a large service provider with more than 250 thousands experts on board, specialized in tax, legal, audit, advisory. Even though EY is very successful and growing, we are not naive. Some of our business models could become obsolete under the influence of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Machine Learning and IoT. Rather than being disrupted by someone else, we explore these technologies ourselves within The Factory, as an innovation engine. Let me quote Eric Ries on this. In his book ‘The Lean Startup’, he claims that every company needs its own innovation factory, where in lean startup mode, you explore continuous innovation. That’s what The Factory is for EY.”

Can you describe the activities of The Factory? “The Factory is active across 3 innovation axes. First of all, we focus on internal innovation within EY, we support innovators in startups & scale-ups and thirdly, we enable innovators in large corporations.”

How does “Enabling innovators” represents The Factory’s identity?“You can read our slogan “Enabling Innovators” in 2 ways. First of all, we are innovators ourselves. We have an impressive team of experts, highly creative and experienced in innovation. Much more important though, is the second meaning of our slogan: we’re enabling other innovators around us. We focus on impactful innovation projects for our 3 main stakeholders: corporates, startups & scale-ups and EY. The home base of our team is the EY wavespace™ in Antwerp, which is a meeting point for open innovation in which we develop activities to enable our different stakeholders and connect them with each other.”

“Innovation is not just about tools & technology, it’s adopting a new mindset”

What is the added value of The Factory? “EY has a huge network and an unbelievable amount of resources and knowledge. Obviously, The Factory stands on the shoulders of many EY experts, methodologies and tools to stimulate innovation. Even though The Factory is quite young, we are already one of the biggest players in corporate innovation thanks to the knowledge within EY, and our colleagues of EY Cognistreamer and EY VODW.

But most important is the mindset. We create an atmosphere and a mindset that is open to change, open for innovation and where failure is an option. This is the only way to set up projects and explore new futures within EY. The mindset is key.

The added value is very clear when we connect people. EY has a huge network of which I haven’t even scraped the surface yet: a rich wealth of knowledge and expertise is available. That by itself is a huge opportunity: to connect the dots within EY. Even more important is to connect all the stakeholders around us with that knowledge. Beautiful things happen when we connect one of our corporate clients with agile startups. Suits & jeans coming together, that’s what we live for. Connecting is a key word in innovation.”

How do you make these connections? “Connections happen in everything we do. We organize tons of events in the EY wavespace™ to create synergies between our network. The EYnovation™ program has a rich agenda of In the Spotlight evenings, intensive workshops, bootcamps… we also take them on international missions and organize pitching sessions to connect startups with potential buyers or investors. The ultimate example of bringing innovators together is when we facilitate co-creations between a startup and a corporate.

Last but not least, want to create a community of intrapreneurs within EY. We provide a platform and trainings for all those people willing to work on the challenges of our company and inventing new ways to serve our clients.”

“The EY wavespace™ is the crossroads of innovation in which The Factory resides.”

What are The Factory’s challenges for 2019? “The challenges are based on the learnings we made in 2018. Being a startup ourselves, we’re constantly testing and validating what we’re doing as we go. In general, we will broaden and deepen our spectrum on different levels. We will improve our internal innovation program substantially by adding structured trainings and pushing more targeted challenges, always keeping in mind how to create the biggest impact for EY. To our rich portfolio of the EYnovation™ program, we will add new workshops and some exciting new destinations for the Go Global Missions! Our offer towards corporates will also improve, standing on the shoulders of many colleagues within EY. Backed by the international wavespace team, we will stay at the front row of innovation in EY.”

More information about The Factory:
More information about the EY wavespace™ Antwerp:
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