As you may know, one of the highlights of the Circular Campus Programme is the innovation competition, which gives participants the opportunity to put what they learned about circular innovation into practice. This competition encourages university students to develop scalable, circular solutions for problems on or near their campus. Ideally, these ideas will accelerate the transition to a circular economy on campus and beyond.
The students design solutions for some of the most pressing urban challenges on campus or in the surrounding areas.
The ethos of the Circular Campus Programme is to provide participants with the knowledge, tools, skills and hands-on experience needed to implement circular systems in the real world.
Every Great Competition Comes with Great Rewards!
The Circular Campus Programme is no exception. Successful participants of the innovation competition receive prizes and opportunities to help them set up their startups and make their ideas a reality.
Out of all of the teams that pitch during the competition finals event, only a select few are chosen to participate in our innovation boot camp. Three teams are selected by the competition judges and two or three wild cards are chosen by RENERGii, a Singaporean innovation firm and venture studio, whose aim is to turn Asian cities into ‘triple zero’ urban spaces using circular economy principles.
This boot camp is run by Shiva Susarla, who is a ClimateLaunchpad trainer and also the Founder of RENERGii and Circular Cities Asia (CCAsia). The boot camp covers the following topics:
Circular economy innovation
Market sizing and segmentation
Customer discovery and validation
Unique value propositions
Circular business impact
Afterwards, two teams from the boot camp are chosen for the incubation opportunity with RENERGii. They provide 3 months of virtual incubation support for two teams and help with refining their business models, design and development of minimal viable products (MVP), networking and partnership-building, and investment readiness. Each team also receives some seed funding during the incubation.
Meet the Winners
In 2021, the two winning teams chosen for incubation were BIOcompoSIX from Bataan Peninsula State University (BPSU) in the Philippines and Team DURT from JK Lakshmipat University (JKLU) in India. Each team received $4000 USD of funding from The Incubation Network.
Team BIOcompoSIX from BPSU in the Philippines
Under the startup name Agros, team BIOcompoSIX identified the problem of biodegradable waste (used papers, dried leaves and grass) being poorly managed on campus. The waste is either burned or left on the ground, which clogs drainage systems. During their time in the programme, they also found there’s a significant amount of biodegradable waste from the agricultural industry that’s ending up in the landfill or being burned.
The circular idea they presented is to make a machine that can turn this biodegradable waste from agriculture into biocomposite materials, which in turn, can be made into higher-value products, such as boards that can be used in manufacturing, construction and creative industries.
Team DURT from JKLU in India
The name of team DURT's startup is Griiken. The problem they identified was the large volumes of cooked food in campus canteens being thrown out as garbage. One of the reasons for this was that the food staff often prepares the food expecting full capacity.
As a solution, the team offered up an attendance management app that requires students to indicate whether or not they will be eating at the canteen a few hours before meal prep begins. The app also provides the opportunity for students to provide feedback on the meals, to help the canteens plan their menus.
Getting These Ideas off the Ground
When talking about the startup ecosystem village, incubation is an important aspect. This juncture is where incubators help establish and grow a startup. It is more than just offering financial assistance.
In this stage, an incubator organisation fosters the early stages of a startup. This organisation does this through different developmental phases until the startup has sufficient financial, human and physical resources to stand on its own.
In CCAsia's Circular Campus Programme, RENERGii comes in to provide incubation support for the two chosen startups.
This incubation focuses on 4 pillars to help startups get even more out of the programme and get their circular business ideas up and off the ground.
Four Pillars of the Circular Campus Programme Incubation
1. Innovation Framework
During the incubation, the teams continue on their circular innovation journey, moving from the ideation phase to prototyping. They work on designing their MVPs, validating their solution, and building and trialling their MVP.
This pillar aims to instil best practice lean innovation. The teams take a lean approach by building MVPs first instead of a polished product or service. The teams strategically determine what they need to design first, apply solution validation techniques to obtain feedback and then process that feedback to inform next steps.
2. Mentoring and Coaching
The incubatees are not only mentored by academics from their university—they also receive 1-on-1 mentoring from RENERGii team members, Shiva Susarla and Gaurav Vora. These mentor sessions focus specifically on their MVPs, validation, investment readiness and pitching.
In addition, the CCAsia team has monthly check-ins with both teams on the call, to help them with challenges they’re facing and to provide an opportunity for peer-to-peer learning and support.
Throughout the incubation, students are surrounded by mentors from their universities and industry experts.
3. Networking and Partnership Building
During the programme webinar and workshops, students get exposed to many industry experts. This incubation is an extension of that and encourages the students to build the right kinds of partnerships and connections within the ecosystem.
This pillar aims to help the teams recognise the importance of strategically building their networks, articulating their needs, and gaining confidence in networking and forging strategic partnerships.
4. Investment Readiness
The incubation helps prepare teams for the next stages of startup growth. They receive support in narrative building and refining their pitch decks for future fundraising endeavours.
During the incubation with team DURT and BIOcompoSIX, they had the chance to meet Kelly Chung, Senior Associate of Network Development at The Incubation Network, who shared insights and resources related to investment readiness. The teams also had the chance to present their refined pitches during the capstone event at the end of the incubation period.
Meet the “Village”
The growth of a startup is made possible by a host of players in the ecosystem - the "village".
These include the universities that the students attend, BPSU and JKLU. They support the teams by providing the space and infrastructure to be creative while testing and exploring their business ventures. BPSU has the SINAG Agri-Aqua Technology Business Incubator, which specialises in business development, branding and marketing and technology management support. The Atal Incubation Centre at JKLU provides access to labs, technical infrastructure and mentorship from faculty.
The main sponsors of the programme, RENERGii and the Regional Project Energy
Security and Climate Change Asia-Pacific (RECAP) of the Konrad Adenauer
Stiftung (KAS) foundation, have been instrumental in bringing the Circular Campus Programme to life. CCAsia has also partnered with a number of organisations and individuals who have supported the programme and played key roles as mentors, expert speakers, innovation facilitators, competition judges and organisational advisors.
What's Next for These Startups?
After the incubation, we send the teams off into the big wide world. And just like any parent, we are proud of our winners, and keenly follow their journeys and successes.
Since the incubation, Agros has acquired the machine it needed to build a prototype, and their university business accelerator is helping them validate their customer base.
They have also begun experimenting and making a biocomposite material, using biodegradable agricultural waste and locally available binders, and hope to start more testing once their moulder is fabricated.
“The team began conducting preliminary experiments immediately after receiving funding to determine the feasibility of the idea and for product quality optimization. A project's expenses are critical to a startup… The next steps for Agros Company are product tests and final adjustments.”
- Andrea Torres, Co-Founder & Business Strategy Head
Griiken has also made significant progress after leaving the nest! They piloted their mobile application at their university for the first test phase and the app is now available on the Play Store. Their academic mentors are supporting them in scaling their business model by moving into at least two other local universities in the coming months.
“We've been working harder on the project ever since the company has been formed and we are delighted to share that the incubation helped us understand our project from a business perspective. It helped us understand the market better and improve our pitches that could appeal to investors. We also got to know what our short term goals should be throughout our testing phases and how we can improve our idea so that it's something that the user would want to use.”
- Ujjwal Solanki, Co-Founder & CEO of Griiken
On the paperwork side of things, they have incorporated and registered their business in India, Griiken Private Limited, and are already hiring interns to help with their application. Their website (www.griiken.com) will be live soon.
Sustainability is no longer a choice, but a necessity as the world races along. Therefore empowering innovators who conceive ideas to address these pressing climate issues is critical.
So if you’re an innovator on your quest for a more sustainable existence and want to make your institution more circular, check out our website to see how we can help you and your institution.
If your university would like to be part of the Circular Campus Programme and offer its students the unique opportunity to learn and grow by participating in the programme sessions or the innovation competition, we would love to hear from you! You can contact the CCAsia team here.