What’s it all about with sustainability & a study tour to Singapore?

Commission work alongside your study programme

During a study, students often form part of a committee within their study association. You can, of course, choose to organize a smaller event such as a games evening or something bigger like a study tour. You cannot organize such a study tour on your own, for this a group of students is arranged to take on this task. This does require a lot of effort and  time because: planning a destination, looking which Minor suites you and for which you can earn credits, approaching the right people for visits and workshops abroad. And, of course, it would be fun to visit an alumnus as well. Ömer Avci, bachelor student International Business Administration, also chose this option within his study association STRESS.

Let’s get started

Ömer: ‘The study tour is one of the minors offered by the University of Twente, and is one of the educational activities provided by study association Stress. Together with fellow students Ruben Zwiers, Jedidja Visser , Lisa van Disseldorp and Lena Hülscher, we organized a study tour to Singapore (4th of January up until the 21st of January). We, 28 participants, who have backgrounds in International Business Administration or Industrial Engineering Management, conducted research together with four professors in the field of sustainability and technological innovation. Within these two topics, we worked on the following question: ‘How do companies in Singapore stimulate innovation toward sustainability?’ We investigated the content of the topics and the differences & similarities of these topics between businesses from Singapore and the Netherlands. To see how sustainability & innovation really works in practice, we visited eighteen companies and performed several cases. The five research sectors were government, education, waste & food management, energy & water management and finance.’

One of the companies the students have visited was Positive Energy Ltd. The Co-founder & Chief Financial Officer is Vincent Bakker, an alumnus of the University of Twente. The main business of Positive Energy Ltd is simplifying renewable energy finance by using digital technology. The committee and participants visited Positive Energy Ltd. and worked together on several cases.

Who is Vincent Bakker?

From 2002 to 2009 Vincent studied Industrial Engineering & Management at University Twente. Vincent: ‘The Master Financial Engineering & Management was a great track; balancing deep and complex from great professors with real life practice and case studies from industry leaders. I recall complex game theory on mafia practices with Prof. Joosten; developing doomsday financial investment products and lecture from the CEO of Rabobank. I have had a busy and varied student life; I did a full-time board year for ASV Taste and was active in Ius Sanctus and my house Asgard. That was, of course, a great amount of crazy fun as well as great development opportunities. These activities are the first thing many companies ask on your CV, whilst I have never had a single question about my education. Like everyone at graduation I wanted to work in big corporate life and joined Shell. I worked there for 9 years in the investments/divestments/negotiations; I lived in Kazakshtan and then in Singapore. I came into contact with Nicolas who always worked in the power sector innovation. Looking for something different, we now run a company simplifying renewable energy investments.’

 

How do you move from finance in Twente, to oil in Kazakhstan, to solar panels in Asia?

‘With little planning but by a lot of opportunity taking! It’s great to be an entrepreneur – I just got back from meetings with Laos government, we kicked off software design in Ukraine and we’re invited to a lot of industry partners, investors, developers. We have the liberty to take the company in any direction, at the same time the challenge is to cover every single item, from the mundane ordering of flyers to the more challenging fundraising or strategy. Twente University is a great foundation for my career; The study helped me very well in the content of my work, both theory and the real-life cases. In Asia, most studying is theoretical rote learning without any extra activities. I see graduates here finding it difficult to adapt to corporate life as they never hosted a meeting, led a project, et cetera. My success has been greatly propelled by the theory-practice balance of the study and my extracurricular work.’ Vincent explains.

Being part of a study tour program

Vincent: ‘Ömer and Ruben contacted me for support for his study tour. I know how hard it is to find the right business contacts and I love to support personal learning and development. I benefited a lot from meeting different people and learn about their work, their industries and their experiences. Together with some industry partners I still organize an event in The Hague in which we exchange themed professional experiences in a social setting (The Hague Young Professional Circle). That is why I was happy to support him and all the enthusiastic students to make their tour a success.’

The study tour participants were invited to the Engie Factory of Positive Energy Ltd. This startup was founded by Vincent and his colleague Nicolas eighteen months ago. Omer and his fellow students learned how Engie is dealing with sustainability and how they want to follow their mission – give energy to the 1.2 billion people that do not have access to energy. The Engie factory, including a lot of different work spaces that definitely stimulate your creativity, is set up to help startups that could add value to achieving this mission. The participants had the pleasure to learn more about Engie and use their factory during the morning.

Ömer: ‘The presentation about the startup was really interesting. They have found a solution to the problem that many sustainable project owners face: it is really difficult to find investors for a renewable energy project, mainly if it is a solar energy project. If they have found an investor, it still takes a lot of time to finish all the paper work, which could take weeks. Positive Energy Ltd. developed a platform where investors could see all the projects they could invest in, get all information about the project and also use the platform for the paper work. After this presentation, the business students had the chance to do a case for Positive Energy Ltd. They thought about their ideal strategic partners, their marketing, their next market and so on. At the end of the session, they presented their solutions and had a fruitful discussion about them.’


The students did not only learn a lot, Engie got also some good advice. Vincent: ‘It was great to host the study tour for one day! The focus on sustainability shows the attitude in the Netherlands towards sustainability is shifting which I find very positive. The students analyzed our company and came with good observations; we definitely received a few great suggestions and advice!

Besides the visit to his own startup, Vincent arranged a visit to one of the most famous buildings in the world, the Marina Bay Sands hotel, as well.  The group had the opportunity to look into the basement of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. A department of Singapore Power Group, the energy agency of Singapore, gave to them a presentation about District Cooling. Ömer: ‘We were introduced to the sustainable system of District Cooling, where they are constantly calculating the energy prices and look for the perfect optimum to charge and discharge special ice chillers. During our stay, we already experienced that all the air conditioning takes a lot of energy, since it is almost cold inside the buildings, so we were glad to hear that regulate this at least in a sustainable way. The participants had a wonderful day.’

This was just one aspect of the study tour programme. If you like to know more about this study tour, visit their facebookpage https://www.facebook.com/studytourstress2018/#

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