Finnish and Dutch students work together on sustainability challenges in 'Biobased Battle': 'Fuelling entrepreneurial spirit'

Let students from minors such as Circular Economy, Biobased Innovations and Agronomy come up with solutions to sustainability challenges together and see what happens. That is the idea of the 'Biobased Battle'. Last week, 142 students from Dutch and Finnish universities of applied sciences worked on three interesting challenges. "Even better than recycling, is prevention."

3ddf49b0-eb62-11ee-ab54-f67be46ccb2d HAN BioCentre-manager Carlien Verberne reikt een prijs uit aan de winnaar van een van de drie challenges van de Biobased Battle, Dirk-Jaap Willemsen.

Make a plan to combat rubber glove consumption in hospitals. Think of applications for the bio-based glue being developed by HAN BioCentre. And how can we optimise the production and use of biochar?

These were the challenges that a total of 142 students from HAN, Avans University of Applied Sciences Breda, HZ University of Applied Sciences and four Finnish colleges tackled last week. In mixed, multidisciplinary groups, they worked on one of the three challenges of the Biobased Battle. In the groups, students met digitally to brainstorm, devise a plan and work on their final presentation.

Multidisciplinary and international

The Biobased Battle was conceived during a working visit by the National Biobased Knowledge Network to colleagues in Finland. Among them was Karin Struijs (Biobased Innovations lectorate), who also attended the second edition of the study event. "The great thing about the project is that students cooperate in a multidisciplinary and international way," she says. "From the HAN, students from different courses are participating who are following the minor Biobased Innovations or Circular Economy. And from Finland, for example, many agronomy students are taking part."

The final presentations were streamed at all participating colleges. The HAN students were seated in three rooms at HAN's beautiful new location at Connectr, where developments in sustainability and renewable energy are in full swing. And the results of the total of 20 groups were magnificent! Under enthusiastic drumbeats from the students, programme manager Carlien Verberne of HAN BioCentre announced the winners.

Winner Challenge 1: Conservation and reuse of nutrients with biochar

Bio charcoal, or biochar, can be produced from green waste. The winning group proposed using biochar to cover manure piles, allowing it to capture releases and odours. "The combination of those substances with the biochar can then be used directly by farmers again as fertiliser for that same soil," explained HAN student Yoran Heebink on receiving the award. Several solutions in one, in other words.

Winner Challenge 2: Preventing hospital waste is better than recycling

'Hands on, hands off' is the catchy title of the presentation by the winning group of the hospital waste challenge. For tackling the consumption of rubber gloves in hospitals, they were the only group thinking of prevention. After all, even better than innovative recycling methods, is to use fewer gloves in the first place. The group argued strongly that there is still much to be gained in this, as for many tasks proper hand washing is sufficient.

Again, it was a HAN student who took the prize. "We came up with the idea because two Finnish students in the group and myself work in a hospital," says chemistry student Dirk-Jaap Willemsen. "I perform tasks there such as bringing food to patients, transporting beds and restocking cupboards. I see that gloves are often mistakenly used for such things."

Winner Challenge 3: Using biobased glue in batteries

The big question in the third challenge was: if the bio-based glue from the Connecting Fibers project turns out not to be strong enough for construction, what could we use it for? Many good ideas passed the revue, most of them in the direction of furniture and interior design. The winner was the group with the most creative idea, namely using the glue to fix batteries.

"A surprising application that could work extremely well," commented one of the judges. "The group also developed the idea very clearly. The presentation looked great."

Entrepreneurial spirit

Carlien also expressed satisfaction with the students' efforts. "I myself was at the presentations of the hospital waste challenge and I was very impressed," she told the participants. "I especially hope that this week has sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in you. Because these are ideas that could well be put to real use in the future!"

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On the photo Carlien Verberne and Dirk-Jaap Willemsen

Photo David van Haren