Innovative recycled coconut waste idea wins CleanTech Challenge

Around 35 students from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) and Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) teamed up to compete in the final of the Dutch CleanTech Challenge on 3 April 2018. The student teams developed sustainable business ideas and analysed its feasibility in this 10-week business competition. CleanTech Challenge winner Ecoplanks had developed an innovative way of producing ‘wooden’ planks out of coconut waste material.

The business competition Dutch CleanTech Challenge was organised by Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship and the events were organised by students from YES!Delft and the Erasmus Centre for Entrepreneurship (ECE), and was linked to a course given by Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship. Around half of the group participants were RSM students, and some of the lectures were led by RSM lecturers.

Sustainable business ideas

The teams combined students from both universities, and executed feasibility and validation studies on their continuously and pivoted sustainable business ideas guided by the lectures given, and coaching by lecturers and external experts. After the semi-finals at ECE in Rotterdam, the final of the competition took place at the TU Delft incubator YES!Delft on 3 April 2018.

The five finalist teams presented their business ideas in front of a jury consisting of chairman Leon Pulles from Energy Investment, Caspar van Mook from ECE, and Viki Pavlic and Kas Hemmes from TU Delft.

Impact and feasibility

Ultimately, the jury chose Ecoplanks as the winner based on the sustainability impact, feasibility, scalability and an impressive presentation of the business idea. The Ecoplanks team, which consisted of TU Delft student Sachithanandha Sundaram Shanmugasundaram and students of RSM’s MSc Global Business & Sustainability programme Zsófia Sáry, Victoria Brood, Pim Carp, and Jonathan Mostert, had come up with an innovative way of producing ‘wooden’ planks out of coconut waste material.

“The CleanTech Challenge has been such an amazing experience,” says Zsófia Sáry: ''You have to work with people that come from such a variety of different disciplines and, together with them, you have to come up with a prototype of a service or product in less than two months. You really get taken out of your comfort zone and have to show of your competence.”

Victoria Brood shares this sentiment. “You learn so much in such a short time period and have to grow up very quickly business-wise,” she said, adding the team really tried to find out each team member’s strengths and tap into those strengths to maximise efficiency and creativity.

Sachithanandha S Shanmugasundaram adds: “The course is like an engine and your idea is the gasoline. Once it goes in, it comes out ‘booom’ as energy.”

“This feels unreal”

The team won tickets to the international CleanTech Challenge competition in London, further coaching from Leon Pulles from Energy Investment Management BV, and a €1,500 cash prize to further develop their idea.

“It feels unreal that we get to represent RSM and TU Delft at the finals in London,” says RSM student Jonathan Mostert. “Of course we hope that we can improve our idea in London and win there as well. We think that all the students, mentors and judges in London can only help us to improve our idea to strive for a sustainable wood industry worldwide.”

Smart energy solutions

The second prize went to AlgAir (Shanice van der Sloot, Marijn Pronker, Julien Estourgie, Yannic de Jong, Erwin Oosterhuis), for their business idea to provide clean, oxygen-rich air in office buildings involving the growth of algae in an installation on the rooftop.

The third prize went to Energy4All (David den Uyl, Theo Meslin, Sanne Bitter, Julian Markus, Jorge Arturo Dulché Ríos), for a business idea to bring smart energy solutions to rural areas in Indonesia.

All finalists are entitled to coaching sessions by Leon Pulles from Energy Investment Management BV to help transfer their business idea into a successful business.

CleanTech Challenge

The Dutch CleanTech Challenge competition for entrepreneurial students was supported by Energy Investment Management BV, Brunel, RoyalHasKoning, KWS Infra, Delft Energy Club and the Delft Energy Initiative. It provides entrepreneurial students the chance to work out their innovative ideas from the concept stage to a final business plan, with the help of professionals throughout the process.

More information

Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship (TU Delft) is part of the Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management. Delft University of Technology is known for its major scientific breakthroughs and smart technology inventions. Entrepreneurship is key in transferring the breakthroughs into valuable contributions for society. The Delft Centre for Entrepreneurship has developed education programs that aim at increasing the entrepreneurial skills and knowledge of faculty, students and alumni to familiarise them with entrepreneurial activities. The programs are evidence-based and theory-driven and focus on practising the learnings in real-life entrepreneurial ventures.

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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