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Seven UNIPI students in Belgium for the final event of the "Sustainable Changemakers Programme"

A CircleU-University-Alliance-promoted initiative

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Seven students from six different departments of the University of Pisa participated in the final event of the "Sustainable Changemakers Programme" in Belgium, promoted by Circle U., the university alliance of which the University of Pisa is a partner with eight other prestigious European universities. After several workshops and online training activities, the changemaker students from the nine partner universities were asked to develop innovative business ideas that responded to sustainability challenges. At the end of this journey, the students took part in a 2-day in-person final event at the Université Catholique Louvain-la-Neuve. Here, they were given the possibility to connect and interact with experts in the business sector and present their business ideas to an assessment committee.

The group of participants from the University of Pisa: from left to right, Annapia Ferrara, Lorenzo Lami, Monia Mannucci, Silvia Barghini, Veronica Pistolesi, Filippo Fincato and Benedetta Pollini, all with their certificates of participation.

The Sustainable Changemakers Programme, now in its second edition, is a comprehensive journey for doctoral and master's students from diverse backgrounds. The programme begins with intensive online training by teachers from partner institutions, encouraging a critical study of current sustainability problems and delving into the concepts of systematicity and complexity of sustainability. It also emphasizes the importance of agency for social innovation. The students are then equipped with theoretical-practical tools for entrepreneurship, such as case solving, business models, and pitching strategies, which they apply in developing a business project to mitigate current unsustainable practices.

Representing a diverse range of academic disciplines, the students from the University of Pisa who participated in the Sustainable Changemakers Programme included Monia Mannucci from the Civil and Industrial Engineering Department, Silvia Barghini from the Department of Economics and Management, Benedetta Pollini from the Department of Earth Sciences, Lidia Trombello from the Department of Translational Research and New Technologies in Medicine and Surgery, Veronica Pistolesi from the Department of Computer Science, Lorenzo Lami from the Department of Energy, Systems, Land and Construction Engineering, and Filippo Fincato from the Department of Civil and Industrial Engineering. Additionally, Professor Alessio Cavicchi (UNIPI coordinator of the programme) chose Annapia Ferrara, a post-doc researcher at the Department of Agricultural, Food and Agro-Environmental Sciences, to guide and support the students in defining their final project.

During the in-person final event it was underlined how the strength of the projects promoted by the Circle U. Alliance lies exactly in giving students a voice through activities that promote collaboration and highlight not only cultural diversity but also interdisciplinarity, encouraging socially innovative paths. The business ideas proposed in this edition were definitely captivating. The bet for the future is to offer students who might be interested the possibility of participating in an incubation path through dedicated structures of the Circle U. Alliance.

The students' business ideas tackled a variety of sustainability issues with practical solutions. These included an interactive board game for children to educate them about sustainability, innovative thermoregulatory technologies for windows to reduce domestic consumption, a management plan for the redevelopment of urban spaces through socially beneficial events, an online platform for the valorization of public and private green spaces, a new system for reusing gray water from buildings to sustain green walls or roofs, and a circular economy initiative to convert organic waste into biofuel.

  • 20 December 2023

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