‘Because we’re going to be legends.’ These words sounded from the Designlab speakers during the official launch of the UT Challenge final on Thursday 21 June. Like the first edition in 2017, this year’s final was part of the Entrepreneurial Day organized by the University of Twente. Both events are professionally intertwined, making the UT Challenge a valuable addition to the university’s Entrepreneurial Day.
Frank Kresin, managing director of the Designlab, hosted the UT Challenge for the second consecutive year and added a personal touch to his role. He supported the participants on this exciting day from beginning to end and offered them words of encouragement and advice when needed.
The semi-final started at 11:00 AM. Proud parents and grandparents filed in early to take their seats in the front row, ready to support their favourites with their presence. The jury entered and took their seats at the designated table. Each of the 22 semi-finalists then delivered a concise one-minute pitch in the hopes of landing a spot in the grand final. The quality of the pitches was outstanding. Each participant managed to stay within the one-minute timeframe while delivering an impressive story. Jury member Ilonka de Beer [Secretary Twente University Fund] added that all of the ideas were linked to relevant social challenges. ‘They all want to create a better world.’ Given the outstanding quality of the pitches, the jury had to examine the content of the ideas extremely carefully in order to make a thorough selection. It was no easy task!
While the jury deliberated, guests visited the Entrepreneurial Market in the Waaier. At various stands, companies and students explained their activities and innovations to interested visitors. The market was a hive of activity. Groups of people chatted and networked throughout the room. Dutch news radio station BNR broadcast live from the innovation market to keep interested Dutch listeners updated on the latest developments. The company representatives were extremely impressed by the UT Challenge. According to Jamie Kerpicsi, [Communications Officer at Thales], the best part of the challenge was sharing knowledge and experience with the participating students.
The grand final started at 2:00 PM sharp. The large hall in the Waaier made an instant impression: the projections on the wall really brought the room to life. Victor van der Chijs, president of the University of Twente’s Executive Board, kicked things off before offering the stage to CEO of ASML Peter Wennink. His advice to all those present: be different!
Jury member Joost Brinkman – Entrepreneurship Education at the University of Twente – announced the finalists in each category, after which the battle unfolded! Two finalists battled it out in the categories Ideation and Prototype, and three finalists competed in the Start-Up category (the jury couldn’t choose just two and settled on three finalists instead). The finalists delivered one last impressive pitch and held their own during the jury’s tough question round. Once all the pitches were finished, the jury left to determine the winners.
In their absence, the audience enjoyed a musical intermezzo by Jeangu Macrooy, a singer-songwriter who performed several beautiful and impressive songs. This made the wait much easier!
Jeangu left the stage to a warm round of applause from the audience, after which the jury entered the room.
It was decision time. Victor van der Chijs got straight to the point and announced the winners. The ASML Makers Award was presented to FeathiR for their miniature version of an infrared spectrometer. CarbonCode was presented with the audience award for their tracker, which provides additional insight into the impact that our behaviour has on the environment. The three main category winners were up next. The women from An Alarming Problem were deemed the winners in the Ideation category. They plan to use their prize money to further develop their innovation: an algorithm to reduce the number of false heart arrhythmia reports. App een Oma (Message a grandma) was the winner in the Prototype category. They hope to connect countless senior citizens with their loved ones with their device, which converts digital text messages into old-fashioned postcards. And finally, Carbon Core was declared the winner in the Start-Up category. Their combination of a unique 3D printing technique and lightweight carbon material makes it possible to develop prostheses more quickly and more affordably. The audience award was presented to Carbon.
We can look back on yet another successful edition of the UT Challenge, which presented high-quality and socially-aware ideas and innovations. These impressive developments suggest a bright and promising future ahead. We can’t wait for the 2019 edition!