©Bart van Overbeeke
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Ingenious solutions to major societal problems. Students’ innovativeness regularly leads to technological breakthroughs. During the TU/e Contest, students from Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) can showcase their best ideas. CyanO2 was declared the winner of the tenth edition of the student competition. The team – consisting of four women – is working on a new technology to capture CO₂ and convert it into raw materials for the chemical industry. 

Why is this important?

Students play an important role in innovation. They often think outside the box and come up with new solutions to social problems. Competitions such as the TU/e Contest give students a platform and show what is possible soon.

Bacteria in the lead role

“About 25% of global CO₂ emissions come from industry,” states Gabrielle Mathieu, business developer at CyanO2, while pitching her company to the audience. In various chemical processes, such as cement production, CO₂ is released. Therefore, several companies focus on capturing CO₂ from the air. They then store this in the ground, she outlines. But CO₂ can also be cleverly reused. That’s why the students devised a bioreactor in which the captured CO₂ is converted into raw materials by cyanobacteria. Those materials can then be used again in various industries, such as the cement industry, thus establishing a circular model. “This way, we have gains on two fronts,” she said. 

Matylda Guz, CyanO2’s modeling expert, is pleased with the award. “We are now really at a tipping point in developing our product. With this money (the grand prize is €5000, ed.), we can make a working prototype,” she says enthusiastically after the award ceremony. CyanO2 wants to become an official TU/e student team soon. 

CyanO2 © Bart van Overbeeke

Guidance for young entrepreneurs

The TU/e Contest gives students with disruptive and market-worthy innovations a stage. Over the past few months, teams worked on their ideas with various workshops and coaching sessions facilitated by the university and companies from the Brainport region. This is how they transformed their concepts into a market-worthy product. A total of 45 teams participated in this process, after which ten finalists were selected. During the Thursday afternoon finals, they were allowed to pitch their ideas and engage in discussions with other students, companies, and other organizations in the region. 

Smart navigation

In addition to the grand prize, other prizes were awarded. Second place was for TouchPulse. This team is developing an app to help visually impaired people navigate. Many people use Google Maps to look at the screen at the station to see from which platform the train leaves, or look at the bus number to choose which line to take. But for people with impaired vision, this is not so obvious, and, as a result, navigating often causes stress. The students at TouchPulse want to solve that problem. 

Circular flower pots

The third prize was going to DieKees. Minne Zeijdner, founder of DieKees, makes a pot for plants out of wool. She explains in her pitch that 8.5 million plastic flower pots are thrown away yearly, and 1.5 million pounds of wool also end up in the trash because it cannot be used in the textile industry. With its sustainable flower pots, Zeijdner has found a solution to both problems. In addition, wool is good for the soil because it contains plant nutrients. Moreover, it ensures that water is better retained in the soil. The product launch will take place during Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in October. 

DieKees ©Bart van Overbeeke

Rain of awards

In addition to the three jury awards, many other awards were presented, either by the university or one of the event’s partners. 

  • Best Prototype Award: T.E.S.T., a biosensor to detect kidney failure earlier.
  • Best Poster Award: DieKees
  • Social Innovator Award: T.E.S.T.
  • Environmental Innovation Award (issued by Sustainability Support Fund): DieKees
  • Partners’ Choice Award: InMotion – project FABBS – a technology to charge electric racing cars within four minutes. 
  • ASML Makers Award (issued by ASML): ArtVista, a smart app to personalize museum visits using AI. 
  • Grow @ TWICE Award – a year of office space at TWICE in the Alpha Hub (issued by TWICE): Touchpulse
  • AL Encouragement Award (issued by EAISI): AIMI (student team Serpentine), which designed a wearable to control a prosthesis with thoughts. 
  • Curious Minds Award (issued by Schunk): Voltalgae, which developed sustainable batteries using algae. 
  • Energy Transition Award (issued by Energy Transition Campus Amsterdam): CyanO2 

Challenge-based learning

“We organize the TU/e Contest because we think it is important that the engineers we educate have an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Isabelle Reymen, scientific director of TU/e innovation Space. The university challenges students to think about technological innovations, but also about implementing technology in society. This aligns with the principle of challenge-based learning that the university is increasingly committed to. “We link students and scientists to companies and organizations to make more impact together,” Reymen states.

Expanding network

The tenth-anniversary edition of the innovation competition was celebrated on a grand scale. The TU/e innovation Space and The Gate also organized a Student Innovation Summit, which closed with the grand award ceremony of the TU/e Contest. During the afternoon program, there was a poster market where the teams shared their plans. The audience chose the winner of the Best Poster Award. In addition, a partner market was organized where partners of the TU/e Contest, companies from the region, got in touch with current and previous participants. Moreover, several workshops were also organized for students and alumni of the university to talk about their experiences as startup entrepreneurs. 

One of the alumni is Jelle Schuitemaker, co-founder of GOAL3. This is one of the successful startups that emerged from one of the previous editions of the TU/e Contest. During the Student Innovation Summit, Schuitemaker shared key developments in his company and the entrepreneurial lessons that come with it. The company makes robust and simple monitoring equipment for hospitals in Africa. “Four years ago, we won the TU/e Contest in the prototyping category. After that, the ball started rolling,” he says. By now, GOAL3’s monitors are being used in several hospitals in Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania, and the first results are coming in. In the hospitals, mortality rates are down an average of 60% because of the new equipment, Schuitemaker outlines. So he advises future entrepreneurs, “If your company solves a problem and you believe in it; go for it. Invest time. Put a good plan on paper and start talking to investors and others who can help you.”


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