The second edition of the TU Delft Impact Contest has just started. Students who want to turn their unique ideas and ground-breaking research into a business plan can register for the competition. But why should students participate? And why does TU Delft organise the Impact Contest? Former participant Avishek Goel: “I never intended to become an entrepreneur.”
Smart kettle for boiling water
Together with his team mates Diego Quan and Sanne Wassink from Quantum Energy & Engineering, Goel made it to the national finals of the 4TU Impact Challenge last year, and got to visit Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Their invention: a smart kettle for boiling water which harvests waste heat form a cook stove and generates clean electricity to light a rural household and charge mobile phones for less money than candles or kerosene lamps. Aside from clean lighting, it will provide its consumers with clean drinking water.
“The prime minister was so enthusiastic about our product that he put us in contact with the foreign minister” – Avishek Goel
The product has already passed the proof-of-concept phase. “We are now working at the TU Delft labs to optimise the product, and we expect it to be market ready in six months,” said Goel. Contacts have already been made in Guatemala to launch the product.
The project has taken off since the finals in November. “The prime minister was so enthusiastic that he put us in contact with the foreign minister,” says Avishek. It turned out that the invention fits well into one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: access to energy for everyone. “Shortly, we will have a meeting with Foreign Affairs on how we can collaborate.”
The example of Goel demonstrates the added value of the Impact Contest. “The difference with regular education is that during the Impact Contest, students take the first concrete steps towards setting up a company,” says Aleksandar Giga of the TPM faculty. He organises the competition together with Soapbox. How viable is your idea? Is there a market? What about marketing? “It’s about the big picture: during the Impact Contest, students learn how to evaluate a good business idea in practice and build a business model around it.”
Industry provides validation
Students at TU Delft regularly come up with brilliant ideas and starting a business is one of the ways to ensure that you can also make a social impact. “With the Impact Contest we make the connection with the industry, which has a lot of experience with developing new products and markets,” says Victor Scholten, the director of the Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship (see box below).
Because of the involvement of companies, we can make these ideas even better. “That comes on top of education and students don’t learn that otherwise,” says Scholten. “The industry ensures the validation of the idea. “Moreover, the opportunity to win a prize also provides the necessary motivation.”
“Companies are inspired by the energy of the students and their innovative ideas”
Large companies are connected to the Impact Contest via X!Delft. “We invite companies via X!Delft to share their expertise during workshops and to advise students,” adds Giga. “It’s really about linking business experience with students.”
This year, therefore, all teams will also receive an entrepreneur as a coach. “We want students to get the most out of the experience of the business world,” says Giga. Former participants, including Avishek, are also involved in the Impact Contest as mentors.
Much is demanded from the participating companies – about 40 this year. But they also benefit from it. Inspiration, that’s what it’s all about. “Companies are inspired by the energy of the students and their innovative ideas. Of course, they are also looking at how they can translate these innovations into their own company.”
It would be nice if these companies also become launching customers of the startups that arise from the Impact Contest, but that does not happen often. More important is the advice that students get and access to the corporate networks.
Impact Contest provides exposure
“The Impact Contest gave us a good stage and exposure. It really opened doors for us, “says Goel. In addition to access to Foreign Affairs, for example, it also led to contacts in Uganda and other possible markets in Africa.
It also gave him the boost he needed to become an entrepreneur. “Before I started, I doubted a lot. I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur, but I wanted to do something about social innovation. Now I know that I can also achieve this through this way. Now I am an entrepreneur.”
DELFT CENTRE FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Victor Scholten on entrepreneurship and TU Delft:
“Our main task is to make students think more entrepreneurially from the technology and knowledge they gain at TU Delft. What is the value of technology and how do you ensure that certain technologies are also applied? For this, we offer education at bachelor, master and PhD level.
“In recent years we have made the transition from general thinking about entrepreneurship to more thematically oriented education: programmes that focus on, for example, entrepreneurship in the healthcare sector, digital technology, energy and the circular economy. The aim is to get closer to the technology used in these sectors, so that you can make the link with practice more easily.
“Our education is growing by 10 to 15 percent per year and the field of entrepreneurship is moving as well. Technology offers more and more opportunities to entrepreneurs and we conduct research on this. We also organise many activities to create an entrepreneurial atmosphere, such as the Impact Contest and the Delft Startup Night. ”