See ECIU University

For learners

A student agora to co-create eciu university 

Initiate discussion among the thousands of students and learners and co-create ECIU University of which University Twente is a member. That is exactly what the recently established ECIU University Student Agora is trying to accomplish. Benjamin Beton (23) is taking the lead in this effort and is he is looking for you!

(text continues below picture)


The next session will take place on Thursday May 27, 14:00-16:00 CET online, and there are still some open spots. Join us to reflect and share your ideas about ECIU University and co-create this new universities with us.

Register here

And read about Benjamin Beton and his mission here.

  • First challenge-based learning experience:


    Within ECIU University, students work on real, existing challenges. They contribute to solving urgent social problems. Since this spring, they have been working in international teams and with fellow students from various educational backgrounds. Four students and a teacher preceded them and talk about their experiences.

    ‘I mastered new skills and I learned new things both through online classes and group-work exercises’, says Federica Tagliavini, Master student European and International Studies at the University of Trento. ‘What I got the most out of it? To learn to work in a group. We must divide tasks, present as a fully-fledge group to other individuals, meet the deadline on time, and try to find a collective solution to our challenge.’

    Agnė Paulauskaitė-Tarasevičinė, associate professor at Kaunas University of Technology (KTU), and  coordinator of ECIU challenge-based learning (CBL) module: ‘It was a new experience to engage the students into the decision making through CBL. Initially, the methodology itself was not very comfortable for the students, but later students were actively involved in the discussions, suggested a lot of possible solutions to the challenge and after all we have approved five ideas. Three of these had the potential to be developed as real solutions in Kaunas city. So, I am really satisfied with results bearing in mind that the duration was 3 months only.’

    “‘I cannot speak highly enough about this way of working with society’”

    - Elisabeth Stene University of stavanger -

    This is also true for Elisabeth Stene (Economics at University of Stavanger). She took part in the ECIU Creathon at Twente University in 2018. ‘That experience inspired me to challenge my mind-set. So when a new challenge project came up, I naturally wanted to be part of it. I cannot speak highly enough about this way of working with society’, she says.  Her fellow student, Arne Kragseth, also values having had the opportunity to work on a real case. ‘Academic studies can be quite far removed from the practical world, so this was very valuable,’ he says.

    Elisabeth Stene and Arne Kragseth came up with a triple solution for a better mobility in the Stavanger region.

    Working in an international and multidisciplinary team was a valuable addition to his studies, says Robin Ross. The student of University of Twente participated in the Autumn challenge. ‘It was a good learning opportunity. You work hands-on and learn in practice.’  That all the activities contributed to the solution of a real, existing issue was a big plus for Ross. ‘It was not made up. We have worked in an existing environment with experts. That is a big difference compared with fictitious cases. This was much more awesome.  In these few weeks, I have got to know many people, worldwide, developed new skills, and met the real work field.’

    Please read the whole story in the new edition of the ECIU University magazine here

    Coming soon

    Would you like to work on challenges and meet and work with students from all over Europe? You can! Currently, a few early-bird autumn challenges are open for application. After the summer break, ECIU University will offer the rest of new challenges. Keep an eye on the website.

  • Spring semester challenges officially launched

    Last week, more than a hundred participants met together for the very first time at the online kick-off event for ECIU University spring semester challenges. Students will work together in international and multidisciplinary teams to tackle regional problems. The UT provided five challenges, and organizes from March 1 a local kick-off week.

    ‘Right now, we are in different parts of Europe, online for now, and we will act together to solve challenges. This diversity is our power.’  With these words, Màrius Martinez, Vice-Rector for International Relations at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and member of the ECIU University board opened the event. ‘ECIU University is a new, interactive way of learning, working and researching, and the students are its core. In this sense, students are truly the front-runners of innovation at the ECIU University.’

    The new way of working is challenge-based. Andrea Brose, from the centre for teaching and learning at Hamburg University of Technology and ECIU University leader for challenge-based learning, explains: ‘Challenge-based learning is a pedagogical approach that actively engages students in a situation that is real, relevant, and related to their environment. The learning experience involves different stakeholder perspectives and aims to find a collaboratively developed solution.’

    The last speakers in the event stood out from the rest, they were the ones who have already experienced the challenge-based learning first-hand. Robin Ross and Ivona Glišić, Autumn Challenge participants from the University of Twente, shared their insights. ‘During our learning process, we had an opportunity to work on real-life pressing issues. We had an opportunity to meet the challenge providers and various experts in our challenge field, from researchers to practitioners. For us, it was a great learning experience.

    ECIU University Spring Challenges at a glance

    • Around 300 students have applied to take part in the challenges for spring semester 2021; more than 100 of them have already started their work together in teams with teachers and challenge providers.
    • Around 30 so called teamchers have joined the challenges – these teachers will guide and facilitate teams.
    • More than 30 ECIU University challenges were provided by the partners of 12 ECIU University members.
    • The challenge providers come from city or region municipalities, non-profit and business organisations.
    • The ECIU University spring semester challenges are diverse in their theme and scope but they are united by addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 Sustainable cities and communities.
    • The international and multidisciplinary teams will incorporate a challenge-based approach while trying to answer a wide range of questions, for example, how to extract value from data and improve the quality of life of urban inhabitants? What strategies can amplify bottom-up urban planning? How to add new functionalities to these solar fields and increase biodiversity, recreational possibilities, educational options, and citizen engagement?
    • The next round of ECIU University challenges for the autumn semester 2021 will be opened in a few following months.
    • All challenges can be explored here.


The core of the ECIU University is the challenge-based approach – a model where learners, teachers and researchers cooperate with business and society to solve real-life challenges. The challenge is provided by a city, region or business stakeholder in cooperation with the partner universities. The University of Twente presented the following challenges in colaboration with business and society.

  • Developing a both ecological and business wise sustainable mounting frame for solar panels


    Solar energy plays a key role in the transition towards a fully sustainable energy society. One of the options is to develop fields with solar panels. The Natuur en Milieufederaties (the Dutch NGO Federation for Nature and Environmental Protection) supports the energy transition but also acts as the guardian of the ecological value in cases of solar fields. 

    One of the ideas are the Energy Gardens where we explore adding new functionalities to these solar fields. Think of, but not limited to, increasing biodiversity, recreational possibilities, educational options, innovative fieldlabs and citizen engagement in the energy transition. To do so, they launched a project to develop “Energy Gardens” ( This requires solutions where sustainability, ecology and business models coexist.

    Our challenge 

    The solar panels are mounted on frames. These frames are made of Zinc coated steel. Our assumption is that this is not the best solution in terms of ecology, sustainability and businesswise. But we are not sure. 

    What is the ecological impact of these steel frames, both during production and use? Can you develop more sustainable alternatives? What are the benefits of reengineering the panels with recycled materials or biobased materials? What is the impact of these solutions during the realization of solar fields? And during lifetime? Are they cost effective and how much does the new solution contribute to the sustainability goals of the Energy Gardens?

    We challenge you to develop more sustainable solutions compared to the existing frame.

    Expected impact

    The work of the students will lead to better understanding of the sustainability impact of the current frame and the potential (both from technical, sustainable and economic point of view) of alternative solutions. This stimulates solar park developers to consider these alternatives, especially the partners in the Energy Gardens.

    Target group 

    The target group consists of professional solar park developers and local governments who set rules and regulations for solar parks.

    Student Groups  

    The challenge might be attractive for students in engineering, design, business and sustainability studies.

    Deadline for applications : 2021-02-14

  • New value propositions for future proof housing

    Current situation 

    We are a continuously developing building company with a strong focus on the needs of our businesses and customer groups, now and in the future. To be futureproof, we need to constantly develop our customer value and user quality in a fast-changing world. We are facing a lot of questions in which we appreciate the creative and scientific input of students.

    The challenge 

    We face many questions. The central and most challenging question is: 

    How can we design, produce, market and maintain future proof housing buildings?

    Issues to be considered are among others:

    • What does literature say on user quality? Is it similar to user value? Or do we need to adjust our definitions?
    • How should we develop our USP’s? 
    • What is the impact of demographic trend on the demand of housing?
    • What is the government outlook on these trends and what will change in legislation and requirements?
    • How does this relate to the needs of future building contact partners and users and are they willing and able to pay extra?
    • How will this impact our ambition to future proof building(s)? 

    We are looking forward to working on these challenges. We do realise that the challenge formulation is very broad. We encourage you to define with us your own challenge and solution space. 

    Expected impact

    We expect to increase the user experience of our buildings and reduce the sustainability impact of our buildings, not only now but also in the future.

    Target groups

    Our own company and our clients, citizens, cities, architects

    Deadline for applications : 2021-02-14

    Contact person
    Marike Boertien

  • New concepts for mobility hubs including train stations in city centres

    Current situation 

    Enschede, as other cities, changes constantly. This demands a constant flow of new ideas and concepts. One of the physical areas that needs transition is the Railway Station Quadrant. We envision a whole new quadrant where multi modal mobility still has a central place but also is a vibrant area for meeting, working, recreating and living.

    The challenge 

    Railway station and their surroundings transform in more than ‘just’ the physical place you to a train. They are growing into multimodal, innovative hubs where mobility, meetings, work and life are facilitated. The Railway Station Quadrant calls for concepts that fit Enschede’s ambition to be an innovative, attractive and green city.

    We encourage students to think along with us. The challenge is too big to solve in just a few months and leaves a lot of freedom for the students to experiment. So, we hope to start with brainstorming concepts that fit the vision requirements (combination of mobility, meeting, work and life) 

    Then, in cooperation, select the focus areas for further elaborated. 

    Considering that the background information is written in Dutch it might be useful to have one student on board who can read Dutch.

    Expected impact

    We hope to be inspired with a lot of new and vibrant concepts that help us to build a new, sustainable and future proof Railway Station Quadrant

    Target groups

    City and citizens

    Deadline for applications : 2021-02-14

    Contact person
    Marike Boertien

  • Creative solutions for building rainwater management

    Current situation 

    Using today's waste to prevent global waste forever: that is our mission. Our product range consists of several types of flashing (lead replacement) and flat roofing. The raw material of our products is recycled polyvinyl butyral (PVB), which was formerly used in safety glass, such as car windows. At the end of our products' lifecycle they can be recycled and reused as Leadax again. In short, we are closing the loop.

    Leadax Flashing replaces toxic lead on roofs, which is unfortunately still being used in construction. Leadax Flashing Original even has the look and feel of traditional lead. Therefor we refer to our product as ‘the new lead’. Next to that, our second product is called Leadax Flashing Easy SA. Easy SA has two self-adhesive strips and is thinner than Leadax Flashing Original. The applications include chimneys, cavity walls and valleys, among others.

    The challenge 

    However, even when all the lead in the world would be replaced by Leadax Flashing, there still would be 95% of the PVB waste pile left, each year, in Europe alone. For this reason, we introduced Leadax PVB Roofing, a circular flat roofing product. Leadax PVB Roofing is the world’s most sustainable flat roofing and the next standard in roofing products, next to bitumen, TPO, PVC and EPDM. Our goal is to become the world’s standard in roofing products.

    With our circular and sustainable waterproofing building materials we are on a mission to change the world for the better. We use waste as raw material, create affordable and scalable products, which can be recycled and reused as Leadax again at the end of their lifecycles.

    Polyvinyl butyral (PVB) is the plastic foil between safety glass which could not be reused, until now. There is an abundance of PVB waste available worldwide. In Europe alone, this pile of waste weighs in at more than 1.5 billion kilograms (each year!). For comparison: This is the weight of 150 Eiffel towers.

    We are looking for creative new ideas for innovative roofing systems solutions in cities. 

    Expected impact

    Reduction of environmental impact of specific building materials by the phasing out of toxic lead in buildings and the reduction of use of virgin PVB.

    Target groups

    Building companies, architects

    Deadline for applications : 2021-02-14

    Contact person
    Marike Boertien

  • Sustainable substitute for plastic cups for large scale events

    Current situation 

    During festivals and events, visitors enjoy drinking beverages. Most of the time, plastic cups are used. These one-way cups are hygienic, lightweight and safe. But it also causes a huge amount of plastic waste. For example, during Military Boekelo, more than 60.000 visitors use about 150.000 cups within four days. 

    The challenge 

    Within a few years, these one-way cups are going to be phased out by law. The big challenge is to generate an alternative. We don’t expect that a ‘one size fits all’ solution will be possible, especially when you consider the different visitor behaviour and streams. 

    Issues that need to be considered are for instance:

    • Event type and scale
    • Sustainability
    • Logistics of visitors and cups
    • Speed of use during event
    • Hygiene 
    • Materials 
    • Visitor behaviour and acceptance of solution
    • Business case
    • Cooperation with stakeholders

    As Alliance we are open for cooperation, inside and outside the alliance, in the development of solutions. This is a joint effort of us and the students. 


    We hope to reduce plastic waste enormously and thus have a big impact on the sustainability of these large-scale events. 

    Target groups

    Event organizations, visitors, cup producing companies

    Group composition 

    This challenge has many aspects students can work on. It may include, but is not limited to, technical, material, logistics, IT, business and communication science and is also depending on the concept development of the student team.  

    Number of groups 

    At least two groups. More is possible when colleague event organisations within the Alliance also join in coaching groups.

    Deadline for applications : 2021-02-14

    Marike Boertien


  • Creating societal business models for new energy gardens


    Solar energy plays a key role in the transition towards a fullysustainable energy society. One of the options is to develop fields with solarpanels. These solar fields tend to be monotonous and focused on only onefunction: delivering solar energy, but have the potential to provide a lotmore.

    The Natuur en Milieufederaties (the DutchNGO Federation for Nature and Environmental Protection) wants to explore addingnew functionalities to these solar fields. Think of, but not limited to,increasing biodiversity, recreational possibilities, educational options, innovativefieldlabs and citizen engagement in the energy transition. To do so, theylaunched a project to develop “Energy Gardens” ( These nature inclusive solar parks provide both economic value(through energy production) and societal value (through multiplefunctionalities).  This requires a societal business case where sustainability, ecologyand business models coexist.

    Expected impact

    The work of the students will lead to an overview of new societalbusiness models that can be used to financially support societalfunctionalities in Energy Gardens. This stimulates solar park developers toconsider multiple functionalities in their solar parks, increasing biodiversity,enhancing citizen support for these solar parks in particular, and for theenergy transition in general.

    Target group

    The target group consists of professional solar park developers, localgovernments who set rules and regulations for solar parks, local citizen groupswho benefit from the social functions, energy cooperatives who take part insolar park development. 

    Our challenge

    However, when these functionalities are added, more ground surface is needed. This means less energy production per square meter. Yet, the (commercial) solar park developer generally aims for maximal return on investment. However, the Natuur en Milieufederaties is convinced of the societal added value of multiple use of these areas. This calls for creative ideas to generate additional financial value for societal benefits. The federation challenges you to develop innovative ideas which contribute to a sustainable societal business case. This calls for creative minds. The pilot projects are going to be realized, so you will work on real projects. If in the end you prove our existing concepts for energy gardens are not societal profitable, we challenge you to develop better concepts.

    Target group

    The target group consists of professional solar park developers, localgovernments who set rules and regulations for solar parks, local citizen groupswho benefit from the social functions, energy cooperatives who take part insolar park development. 

    Interested? Apply at the challenge platform of ECIU University.

  • Big data in care


    Data streams are increasing tremendously. This is also valid in Care. Think of data from the regular ICT systems (financial, use of care, personal care files, analysis of care results), but also location and sensor data of employees and patients, external websites and numerous open data sources.

    Decision makers are not able to keep up with the increase of data. This results in a loss of helicopter view and suboptimal decision making. Also, big data and artificial intelligence technology are developing rapidly. 

    The challenge

    How can these technologies provide an important role in pattern recognition and may inform the human decision maker? What data sources are most promising in which use cases? Can we use for forecasting and predictive analysis?

    Expected Impact

    Together we will investigate interesting use cases, explore challenges and solutions and experiment with results. We expect that the use of Big data in care will decrease the costs and increase the quality of care. 

    We foresee a growing demand of these kinds of services and want to use the results of the challenge in setting up new commercial activities. 

    Target groups

    Health care stakeholders, citizens, government

    Contact person
    Marike Boertien

'A valuable addition to your study'

ATLAS student Robin Ross and Federica Tagliavini, Master student European and International Studies at the Universityof Trento, take part in the Autumn Challenge, an extracurricular education programme powered by ECIU University. They have been working on a challenge for more than two months now and are sharing their experience and findings so far.

  • ‘A valuable addition to my studies’

    Robin Ross (19) is a second-year undergraduate at ATLAS and his participation is based on personal interest. ‘It is a nice addition to my academic work.’

    What he is looking forward to most, is writing strategic policies and working out scenarios. ‘Work that I have never done before. A good learning opportunity. We work hands-on and learn in practice.’

    Together with four other students, Robin is working on a challenge from the municipality of Enschede that needs a strategic policy for the transformation to a circular economy and the role the government plays in this. It is up to the students to do research, carry out analyses, collect best practices and conduct interviews with entrepreneurs and to talk to other, relevant stakeholders from the field.

    Real contribution

    That all these activities contribute to the solution of a real, existing issue is a big plus for Robin. ‘It was not made up. We work in an existing environment with experts. That is a big difference compared with fictitious cases. This is much more awesome. The municipal employees will be using our results in their work later on. In this way, we really do our bit for the circular city of Enschede.’ He works with two other UT students and a student from Finland (Tampere University) and one from France (INSA). ‘We get along quite well, have fun together, and learn from each other.’


    In addition to the challenge, the programme offers workshops, meetings on current topics, and cultural activities. ‘The format stands. It looks attractive and well-structured. I really felt like getting started. In these few weeks, I have got to know many people, worldwide, developed new skills, and met the real work field. At first I did not know much about the theme smart resilient and happy communities, but it fits in with my interests. A programme like this is a good opportunity to go more in-depth and a valuable addition to my studies.’

  • 'I have matured a lot'

    Can you tell me about your findings and experience so far?

    “I am very much enjoying the Autumn Challenge program so far. I am mastering new skills and I am learning new things both through online classes and group-work exercises. The program is well structure; classes are scheduled almost every weekend. However, as students we are free to manage our challenge on our own: decide the outcome, what steps to take to reach our ultimate goal. It has been two and an half months of work, and I think I have matured a lot.”

    Why did you decide to take part in the challenge?

    “I am studying international relations; therefore, I was looking for something that could enable me to work on real-life issue. I chose to work on a challenge provided by the Enschede municipality which aims to empower the community participation in the city life. Moreover, the international characteristic of this experience intrigued me: I was interested to work with people coming from different backgrounds and cultures.”

    Through which channels did you hear about it?

    “The University of Trento is part of the ECIU Consortium (European Consortium of Innovative Universities) as Twente is. I received an offical email from the University promoting this winter school and I decided to submit my application because I was very interested.”

    What do you get out of it?

    “First of all, I am learning to work in a group: we must divide tasks, present as a fully-fledge group to other individuals, meet the deadline on time, and try to find a collective solution to our challenge. I am also learning different method of teaching and learning: the Dutch method is more practical and visual (a lot of virtual mind-map creation through the Mural platform). Generally speaking I am a shy person, but I am learning to step up and ask question in a big, multicultural environment, even online.”

    Picture: Students from the  Autumn Challenge and some PhD students of the doctoral course 2020 “The city ans the futures perspectives and experiences for resilent communities", University of Trento

    Were you familiar with challenge-based learning beforehand?

    “No, I have never heard of it before. I do not think there are any similar activities in Italy. It is very different from all the learning method I have undergone during my student career.”

    “What do you think of this way of learning?

    “It is a challenge, especially if you are not used to it. Usually you study or work with a specific target or goal in mind. In this challenge you firstly need to identify clearly the problem, and then work on deciding what could be a solution and final goal. I like it because it leaves space to be creative and to try out different options; it also teaches to appreciate failure as a step in the overall process.”

    How did you learn?

    “How I have learn it is peculiar, because for the first time I am the one deciding which path to take and what things to explore.”

    If you recommend this to another student, what would you say?

    “Through this program you have the chance to work on a real-life issue and the research will be valued and used to improve the current situation. I would also add that he will be followed throughout the program by capable coaches and experts that will guide him through the process, without imposing a specific path. I would also say that he will have the chance to learn about many different things coming both from humanitarian and scientific departments.”

  • About the Autumn Challenge
    Get inspired and enroll

    The Autumn Challenge is an education programme that is attended by students in addition to their regular lectures and projects. The programme was kicked off early October and runs until mid-January. The real-world challenges are at the heart of the programme. Participants spend three to four hours per week working on them, which stands for the six ECTS credits they obtain with the programme.

    Students come from different countries and have various backgrounds. This is essential, as multidisciplinary teams are formed for every challenge. Only student groups with a broad range of educational backgrounds are able to contribute to the solution of challenges.

    In the second semester of this academic year, ECIU University once again offers students the opportunity to get to work on real-life challenges. Take a look on the platform, get inspired, and enrol.

Interested to work on a real-life challenge in an international and multidisciplinary team? Check out the ECIU University challenge platform and make a real impact.


Besides regular exchange, ECIU offers preconfigured programmes Twin Programmes, Exchange Packages, Joint Master Programmes and Summer and Winter Schools. Students from the ECIU partner universities can make the most of their studies by choosing one of the two available joint masters: Cities & Sustainability or Global Technology and Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship. You study at different universities of your choice. 

  • Make the most of your study

    Malte David Krohn of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) finished the Global Innovation Management (GIM) master’s programme last year and is now a PhD researcher in Hamburg.

    Why did you choose this master?

    ‘I have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and I wanted to do something different for my master. In the end, I chose this programme. I do not regret my decision, although it was not an obvious choice per se. Tuition fees in Germany are very low, which was not the case for the GIM master’s programme. The fact that I still chose this programme proves how motivated I was. It was clear that my fellow students shared this intrinsic motivation.’

    What did you do?

    ‘Half my lectures were in Hamburg. During my second year, I attended the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. The international aspect made this a remarkable learning experience. This programme is not only unique because of the contact you have with other international students, but also because of the broader perspective on innovation management that it instils.’

    Would you recommend this programme?

    ‘Yes. As a PhD, I am now working on the follow-up to this master’s programme, together with five partner universities. This will make the programme even better and more comprehensive.’

  • Pioneers on new exchange programme

    Alonso, Guillermo and Saul came all the way from Mexico to Stavanger to study mechanical engineering. They are pioneers in a new, tailor-made exchange programme for ECIU students.

    The study programmes are pre-approved and there is no approval process standing between the student and his exciting opportunity to go abroad.

    ‘The way of teaching is different’, says Guillermo Mortera. ‘Here, you are more independent. You need to decide for yourself whether you go to class or not.’

    Saul Rivera enjoyed the close ties between theory and practice. ‘I like that the laboratory work is complementary to theory. I was a bit lost in one course, but when we did the lab exercises, it all made sense and I understood everything.’