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From energy engineers to energy entrepreneurs

Great ideas need to be developed into business models to achieve sustainable energy transition.
Johannes Nikola and his team in the Energy Transition Business Camp 2018. Photo by The AXEL Team

Many energy engineers have great ideas, but they lack the ability to bring them to market. The Energy Transition Business Camp wanted to give students the tools and knowledge they need for developing their ideas into promising business models.

EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) InnoEnergy Master's School teamed up with AXEL The Energy Accelerator – a supporter of early-stage energy start-ups – to create a four-day comprehensive summer camp on energy business creation. The first ever Energy Transition Business Camp took place in Karlsruhe on 26-29 July 2018.

Last spring, engineering students from around the world were invited to pitch their ideas in a video for an innovative energy product or service. 24 won a place at the camp. Johannes Nikola, master's student from Aalto University, was one of them. His idea was to process offshore waste plastic gyres into safe structures for growing macro algae and therefore compete as an alternative source to high quality sustainable biomass that is needed to produce fuels, such as kerosene.

In the camp Johannes had to make a 90 second pitch about his idea. 

“We were told to be creative”, says Johannes. “I ended up wearing 3 T-shirts on top of each other, and I stripped them off one by one during the presentation. The point was to do something memorable and fun. I stressed about the timeframe, but managed to do the presentation in 70 seconds. The audience loved it! My idea was chosen to the top 5, which were innovated further in the coming days.”

Skills, contacts and motivation

The students had to challenge themselves to put their best ideas, technical know-how, entrepreneurial and team-working skills to the test. They networked with fellow participants, experts and mentors and developed their storytelling and pitching skills.

“We heard inspiring and motivating stories. One entrepreneur had started by constructing a giant windmill on his own backyard, and today he has a company worth billion euros.”

Johannes’ team was the second best in the overall competition.

“Taking part in the camp was an awesome experience and I recommend warmly applying for Innovation Camps, Challenges, Hackathons – whatever is available. These are good opportunities to make contacts, and if you want to bring your idea to the market, it is better to start working on a business model early on.”

Aalto University in cooperation with InnoEnergy

InnoEnergy is the innovation engine for sustainable energy across Europe supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). It supports and invests in innovation at every stage and builds connections across Europe, bringing together inventors and industry, graduates and employers, researchers and entrepreneurs, businesses and markets.

Cooperation with InnoEnergy makes accessible to Aalto University a broad network and important partners for helping to carry forward ideas related to energy and environment from concept into practice. Aalto also cooperates with InnoEnergy to deliver MSc SELECT, one of InnoEnergy’s Master’s School programmes.

More information:

InnoEnergy, http://www.innoenergy.com/
InnoEnergy Master’s School, http://www.innoenergy.com/education/master-school/
MSc SELECT, http://www.innoenergy.com/education/master-school/our-master-programmes/msc-select-environomical-pathways-for-sustainable-energy-system/

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