TOP STARS 2018innovaTion challenge fOr PhD STudents And ReSearchers Summer School took place in Trento in July 16-25 2018, with 55 PhD students and young researchers of 24 different nationalities, coming from 24 European Universities.

The project is funded by EIt RawMaterials and the Laboratory of Metallurgy of the School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering of NTUA is among the project partners.

The aim of the Summer School was to introduce students to entrepreneurial thinking and behaviour, business and innovation processes, high-tech ventures marketing, and business model generation techniques. The 10 teams faced topics of challenges proposed by 4 companies: Umicore, a global group of technology and material recycling based in Belgium, Breton Spa, world leader in the production of machines for processing natural stone, metals and plants for composite stone, Innovando, a fast-growing company focused on new technologies, and CarboREM, a DICAM start-up dedicated to the creation of innovative industrial plants for the treatment of sewage sludge, digestates and organic waste.

The Summer school offered a unique hands-in opportunity to address a societal challenge in the Raw Materials framework by. The challenges were introduced through presentations, tutorials and workshops on approaches focused on techniques to assess and promote feasible solutions on both technical and business aspect, combining the technical expertise with innovation and entrepreneurship experience.

For 10 days, students worked in teams to identify a technical solution and develop it into a business proposal. This experience helped to foster a community of students from various universities and nationalities and to create an interaction with companies and start-ups operating in the specific field.

With respect to traditional Summer schools, TOP STARS combines focused-lectures fromv academics as well as practitioners,  project work, field and usability tests, customer validation work, field visits and socializing events. Focus is put on harmonizing the technical capacities with soft-skills such as: business project work, team building, (personal) networking and cultural exchange, knowledge on interaction between ethics and society and creation of a global awareness of societal and business trends.

Beyond building technical competences and offering potential solutions to societal challenges, in the ten days, the students learned how to work in teams, how to prepare a business plan, how to be effective in passing key information and how to be successful in pitching. They aim was to transform the way they interact with the job market and they create opportunities for their future.

In the school multi-disciplinarity is emphasized and students are confronted with participating stakeholders (companies and start-ups) to consider the sustainability and relevance of their ideas. The teams’ ideas and solutions were pitched in front of a jury , comprised of CLC South of KIC EIT Raw Materials, representatives of the companies promoting the challenges, HIT-Hub Innovation Trentino and of the European universities of the project partners (KU Leuven and the National Technical University of Athens -NTUA).

The jury awarded, 4 teams, oner for each challenge:

Unicorn Entertainment, which received the award for the challenge proposed by Umicore, presenting a sustainable marketing campaign to entertainment companies in Europe, aimed at increasing the revenues of its customers by collecting old mobile phones.

PhosphoRise won the CarboREM challenge award. The team analyzed the need still existing in the CarboREM process to recover the phosphorus to comply with the restrictive current legislation. PhosphoRise has developed an innovative solution that allows the recovery of phosphorus with an efficiency of 75-80% without the additional formation of by-products.

NanoRubber received the award for the challenge posed by Innovando. The team studied a process that not only can improve the specific strength of the Innovando rubber, but could also increase the durability of the final rubber mixture, with the possibility to increase the value to the existing product, without significant change in the production process or the raw materials.

BioforceAdditives (BFA) won the prize for the Breton challenge, proposing BioForce BF5: a bio-based catalyst obtained from renewable resources, that does not require chemical treatment or complex processing during the production phase.

The project partners, together with consultants and specialists from Aster, have assisted the students along with the academic representatives of the University of Trento and NTUA as mentors, through lectures and direct coaching throughout the summer school.

More information on the TOP STARS 2018 website.