SDC 2024 Ideathon: Two intense days of innovation

28 June 2024

Two intense days of innovating solutions to four of the Sustainable Development Goals just concluded for 120 Master’s degree students and 25 mentors from companies and academia.

The framework for the event was to assemble student groups across nationalities and Master’s degree programmes to identify a problem and develop innovative solutions to one of four SDG’s within 24 hours. Finally, they presented their solutions to the audience.

‘We want to give the students a genuine experience of working with innovation and to showcase what can be achieved through transdisciplinary collaboration. By combining the unique strengths of different fields of expertise — technical, behavioural, and political — you can create complex solutions and ideas that would otherwise not be possible. We hope the Ideathon will expand the students’ perspective and spur their interest in innovation going forward,’ said Senior Researcher Morten Foss from Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center - Aarhus University.

From food waste to organic fertilizer

Within each challenge two winning solutions were selected.

Mads Ryfeldt Rasmussen studies Innovation Management and together with his group members he took first place in the challenge: Responsible Consumption and Production.

In short, their winning solution focuses on two challenges: Food waste and the use of synthetic fertilizer.

‘Our idea is to make use of the food waste from restaurants, private householdings and supermarkets. The food waste can chemically be converted into organic fertilizer, which can replace synthetic fertilizer, and in that way, we tackle two challenges at the same time,’ says Mads Ryfeldt Rasmussen.

He teamed up with Ruiyang Zhang from Life Science Engineering and Informatics, Yang Wu from Nanoscience and Technology, Jiaqi Wen from Neuroscience and Neuroimaging and Yun Shuang Liu from International Food Quality and Health.

‘It was challenging and rewarding to collaborate across the programmes. The students from the natural science programmes were really knowledgeable about the technical know-how, whereas I used my experience to facilitate the group work and develop the business case,’ he says.

Mirroring how we operate

Throughout the Ideathon, the students were aided by seasoned professionals, both from academia and companies. Among the mentors was Qian Sun, Senior Director at Novo Nordisk in Beijing, who finds the mixing of students with different backgrounds very valuable.

‘It was impressive to see how the students quickly identified problems and were able to come up with good solutions and excellent presentations in just 24 hours, working together in cross-cultural groups. This mirrors how we operate in international companies, where working in global teams is the norm. Being a mentor in the Ideathon was very exciting, and going back to the university to meet the young generation was rewarding,’ says Qian Sun.

SDG’s meet Green Joint Work Programme

The four SDG’s that were processed, which  all align with the Green Joint Work Programme between the Government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of the Kingdom of Denmark were:

1) Responsible Consumption and Production

2) Climate Action

3) Clean Water and Sanitation

4) Good Health and Well-Being.

The driving forces behind the Ideathon were Morten Foss, Principal coordinator for the SDC Nanoscience theme, Center Coordinators Amalie Maj Christensen and Vibe Drostgaard.