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ACE News: looking back on the successes of the ACE x EIT InnoEnergy collaboration

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June 2021 marked the 5th anniversary of the EIT InnoEnergy Explore Program, a fruitful collaboration between EIT InnoEnergy and ACE (Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship). After 5 years of co-organizing successful programs in the European metropolitans of Antwerp, Barcelona, and Amsterdam, it is time to shine light on the success stories that the program has generated thus far.

EIT InnoEnergy is a European organization dedicated to promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and education in the sustainable energy field. They do this by bringing together academics, businesses, and research institutes. Therefore, joining forces with the university business incubator of Amsterdam (ACE) was the natural step to bridge the gap between these domains.

Aside from the program taking place at Amsterdam Science Park all these years, the participants of the previous programs had the chance to experience similar tracks in Antwerp and Barcelona to get a diverse overview on challenges in the smart cities domain throughout Europe. Every program has its unique approach, tailor-made to the corresponding city and its ecosystem.

Amsterdam Science Park transformed with the emergence of the lively startup environment that the Startup Village embodied, which resulted in a failure-friendly environment for young yet ambitious talent to blossom and develop their innovative ideas into thriving ventures.

Several success stories emerged from this program in Amsterdam, and according to co-organizers Mar Martínez (P.h.D) and Xavier Crusat (Market & Innovation Advisor) – this was not a coincidence. Amsterdam is a startup magnet. It is deeply rooted in entrepreneurship, creating the perfect environment for new startups to succeed.

Throughout the program, participants are encouraged to use all of their senses to experience the city. Specifically, to take in and absorb the mobility of the city. As the participants are doing a master’s in Energy for Smart Cities, this is an invaluable experience for the students. Knowing this, you would think the pandemic would negatively impact the program. However, they discovered that “in fact, we were able to add more value”, according to Mar Martínez. Pivoting to an online format brought the program to a new level. Although the program lacked real-life experiences in the cities, it also enabled participants to join the program worldwide. “Nonetheless, nothing compares to face-to-face experiences, but we managed to compensate for this by enriching the content of the program,” says Xavier Crusat.

The program strives for diversity by welcoming participants from different backgrounds.
Typically, the participating students are (electrical and mechanical) engineers, and 90% of the participants are non-European. Most remarkably, this EIT master’s program attracts the highest rate of women compared to other similar masters. After the program, some participants continue to pursue their innovative business ideas, and others take their entrepreneurial mindset and innovative approach to add value to (corporate) companies. One of the teams that decided to further develop their innovative idea after joining the program is a female-founded initiative: Verdantips.

Founded by EIT InnoEnergy graduates Mackenzie Banker, Mahima Kanwar Rathore, and Natalia Isabel Fano Yela, Verdantips envisions becoming the go-to platform for people and businesses to make sustainable choices in everything they do. Their vision came into existence when the founders discovered their shared struggle on ‘how to live sustainably’ when they participated in the Entrepreneurship Journey part of the EIT InnoEnergy Master program.

The program helped the founders to test and validate their ideas in a failure-friendly environment and enabled them to kickstart their ideas without carrying the responsibilities. Since joining the program, Verdantips achieved commendable milestones: the Verdantips app was recently approved by the App Store and PlayStore. To celebrate, the team will be hosting a launching party in Barcelona soon.
The founders will continue to validate their business model and hire a CTO to help them further develop their MVP. Keep an eye out for Verdantips and all further developments of their initiative here.

About EIT InnoEnergy
At EIT InnoEnergy, sustainability is about more than lowering emissions. True sustainability also means an industry that’s commercially viable, endlessly innovative, and highly competitive. We make this possible by supporting sustainable energy innovations which provide industry with risk free, pioneering new technologies that reduce energy costs, increase system performance, decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, create jobs, and increase competitiveness.

About ACE Incubator
ACE Incubator empowers students, academics and professionals who are starting or growing their business. ACE is powered by the knowledge institutes in Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam (UvA), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) and Amsterdam UMC and aims to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and entrepreneurship.

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