Sustainable innovations in the InGenious course

Sustainable packaging, anti-theft recycling bins and packaging materials that can replace plastic. These are some of the ideas that were recently pitched by students from the InGenious course at Linköping University.

Sam Anlér, 35, Danae Diaz Escalante, 28, Oskar Johansson, 25, Linnea Tjernberg, 23, och Klara Gustafsson, 24. CompAct Sam Anlér, 35, Danae Diaz Escalante, 28, Oskar Johansson, 25, Linnea Tjernberg, 23, and Klara Gustafsson, 24.

Interdisciplinary

In front of an audience of curious visitors, six groups of students from different programmes and faculties at Linköping University (LiU) took to the stage at Lövverket, Studenthuset. With just a few days left until the end of term and start of Christmas, the students presented the innovative solutions they had come up with on the interdisciplinary, 8-credit course InGenious. Now it was time for the Graduation Event – the final part of the course. The students who could not take part physically presented their pitches online.

CompACt.CompACt.The students have worked together with local actors and companies in the Östergötland region to provide solutions to the challenges they face. At the Graduation Event, the students presented their products, services and ideas. One such actor is Pantamera, owned by Returpack AB. Pantamera works with “pant”, the Swedish system whereby those who recycle plastic bottles and tin cans receive small change in return. Pantamera’s problem was that the recycling bins they had placed on ski resorts and campsites were being targeted by thieves.

It was this problem that the five students behind the project “CompAct” took on.

“Our solution was to remove the incentive for stealing. That’s to say, we made it so that the bottles and cans the users put in the machine couldn’t be taken out and inserted again”, says Business and Economics student Oskar Johansson, 25.

Thief-proof container

Returpack AB has a sustainability project together with several ski resorts. The project involves creating environmentally friendly recycling alternatives at the same time as allowing the money from the “pant” system to go to charitable ends. The ski resort visitors put their bottles and cans in the bins, and the resorts donate the resulting “pant” money to charity. However, millions of Swedish kronor end up in someone else’s pockets every year, according to Oskar Johansson.

“Our solution is to encourage the visitors to crush the bottles and cans in a thief-proof container”, he says, pointing to a blue prototype of an igloo-shaped recycling bin that rotates on his computer screen.

De vann bästa pitchen för projektet Jute Planet som tagit fram en specialplast: Ana Hassiel Rios Chavez, 32, Kristoffer Haglund, 25, Fatama Sornaly, 24, och Usain Daneshvar, 40.Ana Hassiel Rios Chavez, 32, Kristoffer Haglund, 25, Fatama Sornaly, 24, and Usain Daneshvar, 40.Some of the other students had worked on a project with the tissue paper company Sofidel Sweden AB. The company wants to reduce – or even eliminate completely – plastic in their secondary packaging – packaging used to wrap pallets before transportation.

The students’ solution, which lay folded on the table in front of the audience, was a special kind of plastic made from natural products. It is made from material that has been extracted from the plant jute, which is grown in places such as Bangladesh, China and Thailand. The project group even took their name – Jute Planet – from the plant.

“Jute can replace conventional plastic, and is a very flexible product with many uses. It is compostable and recyclable, and is one and a half times as strong as plastic. It’s also safe for animals, should they accidentally consume it”, says Usain Daneshvar, 40, one of the four students behind Jute Planet.

Best pitch

The project The Mush Have Company. The project The Mush Have Company. Their presentation was well-received by the jury, who chose Jute Planet’s presentation as the event’s “best pitch”. The jury praised the presentation and packaging of the product in particular. The jury consisted of Norrköping Science Park, Linköping Science Park and Lead.

“It was a lot of fun”, says Fatama Sornaly, 24, who explained that the group’s product can also be manufactured with a specific lifetime, and can be used to replace plastic in bags, spoons and so on.

The interdisciplinary aspect of the course is particularly important, as is being able to communicate with others, both orally and in writing. The students work on this in project groups consisting of students from different faculties and programmes. They also get the opportunity to sharpen their communication skills during the presentations, when they pitch their solutions to participating companies and actors.

Other important parts of the course included forming the groups, as well as thinking in sustainable and responsible ways when developing ideas and solutions. The project has a clear connection to the climate goals of Agenda 2030. By bearing in mind the environmental, economic and social consequences impact that our decisions and choices of material can have, we can make sustainable choices that have less of a negative impact on the world.

The course uses a pedagogical method known as challenge-based learning. The course convener Charlotte Norrman hopes that more teachers and programme conveners will use it.

Owned by students

Cia Lundvall.Cia Lundvall.Also in attendance was Cia A Lundvall, one of the course facilitators. She says that the course is unique.

“The solutions that the students present are entirely their own. We’re preparing them for the future by encouraging them to work in teams and in areas they haven’t worked in before. There are few courses, and even fewer programmes and higher education institutions, that do this kind of thing.”

She explains that after almost every round of the InGenious course, the companies involved want to buy the solutions that the students have presented. The prices can range from SEK 5000 to SEK 50,000.

“We’ve also seen companies encouraging students to start companies and develop their solutions, to continue collaboration on the products. One company even said they would start a subsidiary, and offer the students half of the shares. But in that instance, the students chose to continue their studies”, said Cia A Lundvall.

Practise English

The course also gives the students the opportunity to practise their English. There are exchange students on the course every term.

InGenious is owned by Almi in Östergötland, and has had a long collaboration with LiU. They have also worked with helping small and medium-sized businesses to be more innovative, come into contact with LiU and show the students the exciting job market that the region has to offer.

The InGenious course is primarily offered to LiU students, but also to students from ECIU, in which LiU is included. ECIU, the European Consortium of Innovative Universities, is a network consisting of 13 research-focussed European universities that are well-known for their entrepreneurship, education and their combination of both technology and the social sciences.

The official name of the course is “InGenious – interdisciplinary development project, 8 credits”. The admission requirement for the course is 90 credits.

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