On 9-13 September, the students of EIT Labelled Master Programme in Sustainable Materials (SUMA) took on the entrepreneurial challenge and followed the summer school “From raw materials to sustainable businesses” organised by INP Grenoble.
The goal of the 2019 SUMA summer school was to support the SUMA master students in developing competencies in the field of entrepreneurship. The courses and activities were focused on methods and tools to guide the process of startups creation. The students had a privilege to work with Michel Cezon, a certified trainer with an extensive experience in coaching technology start-ups.
The summer school started immediately with a challenge – the students were asked to form teams and make a tower out of the most atypical materials (spaghetti, marshmallows and tape) in a very limited amount of time. Some towers went up, other fell and ultimately those that worked best in a team with achievable plans had the highest standing structure. Thus, the first lesson about startups: the importance of teamwork.
After this first activity, Michel Cezon tested the students again by asking each of them to give a one-minute start-up pitch to the rest of the group. The students then had to vote for the best ideas and as a result, 3 ideas with the highest amount of votes were selected and 3 groups were formed. Each group, for the rest of the week, was further developing and mastering one of the initial ideas.
The coach guided the SUMA students through many different exercises, slowly introducing new concepts and further developing previous ones. As time progressed, the simple initial ideas transformed into more advanced ones. The students learned how to find a problem and a solution and used these as a basis for further analysis. They did market research to find customer segments, cost structures and revenue streams were explored as well as the ways to secure funds.
On the last day, the groups pitched their complete start-up ideas to the board of experts in innovation and business which assessed the quality of students’ work and provided valuable feedback.
Overall the magic was not so much in the ideas themselves but in the way in which conversations unfolded. As one of the participants, Simone, put it, “An opportunity to work so much, so intensively with a single team is rare in an academic environment.” It allowed the students to learn skills that typical courses do not teach, including those of business and communication. Ultimately, the SUMA Summer School not only offered the tools to help the students in becoming future entrepreneurs but also sparked the curiosity in what is possible.