Celebrating a decade of international case competition excellence.

Student-led study association, RSM STAR, recently hosted 16 elite schools from around the world at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), for its annual STAR Case Club Competition. Under the theme ‘Uniting Ambition’, this year's case competition, held from 17-23 April, not only celebrated the tenth anniversary of the event, but it also served as a qualifying round for the prestigious global Champions Trophy Case Competition in New Zealand, which RSM proudly won in 2023. Support for the event was provided by the RSM International Relations team and the RSM Case Development Centre (CDC), which has helped to write the two cases in this competition each year. 

For the 2024 competition, STAR’s organising committee challenged the participating teams to address real-life business dilemmas and to develop impactful proposals that address significant global sustainability issues, benefitting both business and society at large. Teams were given a 12-hour and a 24-hour business case to solve for case partner companies in the IT, manufacturing and horticulture sectors. The overall competition winner was Maastricht University from the Netherlands, with HEC Montréal in second place and National University of Singapore placing third. The overall winners for the 12- and 24-hour cases were Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and Maastricht University, respectively.

“The RSM STAR Case Competition is the most important event of the year for the RSM STAR Case Club. Since it was the tenth edition of our very own case competition this year, we tried to take the competition to the next level and build upon the prestige we achieved through the successful editions of previous years,” noted Laurenz Gelbmann, chairman RSM STAR Case Club.

“For the RSM STAR Case Club, this competition is an opportunity to further enhance our relationships with RSM’s partner universities all around the world as well as their case teams. It’s also an excellent opportunity to combine the insights we gather at other case competitions and to shape our own event to be one of the most prestigious and important tournaments of the year. Our hope is to enable participating students and faculty advisors to hone their problem-solving skills, meet like-minded and ambitious students, and make lasting memories.”

A practice ground for learning and excellence

The event was kicked off with a welcome address from Jasperina de Vries, associate partner at McKinsey & Company and a former board member of STAR. De Vries highlighted the founding of the competition, noting that it originated from a desire to connect students with the wider business world and to provide them with international exposure.

"We started out with around four or five teams, and it was a marvellous success. This was later used across the association as a great example of entrepreneurialism for our students." 

A seasoned consultant, de Vries emphasised the invaluable skills developed during the competition noting, "So, whether it's about presenting, debating or fast-paced excel modelling. I really see this as a practice ground for learning, or even making mistakes. I can’t emphasise enough how valuable the skills you gain will be – whether it is in consulting or other career opportunities down the road.”

12-hour case: Bridging technology and sustainability

The 12-hour case co-sponsored by Microsoft and Tata Steel Nederland, centred around leveraging Microsoft’s technology and innovations to support and drive Tata’s efforts to transition to more sustainable green steel manufacturing. Four finalist teams presented proposals aimed at helping the companies to address Tata’s environmental impact, which included recommendations for using Microsoft’s data science and technology within Tata’s operations to: reduce CO2 and other emissions, improve supply chain transparency, proactively address a shrinking global supply of scrap metal, and decrease operational costs while also upskilling employees. 

This partnership was seen by the teams as a significant step towards creating impactful case studies for the steel and metal industries, emphasising technology's role in helping these industries to achieve broader Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals.

The winners of the 12-hour case were Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in first place, Ateneo de Manila University in second place and HEC Montréal in third place.

Emma McKay, Director IT Enterprise Architecture at Tata Steel Nederland, served as one of the judges for the 12-hour final and noted, “I was blown away by how the teams dived into some really complex topics in just 12 hours. The students were able to identify numerous creative ways, in which Microsoft’s technology innovation can support and accelerate Tata Steel’s efforts to transition to sustainable steel manufacturing. It was super impressive!

“We have such big challenges to overcome to create this new green future, and my big takeaway from this event is that this generation, with its innovative approaches and inspiring thinking, actually makes this type of transformation even more possible.”

Amrutha Sivaraman, Microsoft account executive and finalist judge agreed, “This case was not a walk in the park, and we recognise that. I saw eight cases and each and every one had an element that I learned from and that I could take away [for possible solutions]. We need to collaborate and come together to drive a sustainable transformation across organisations and in our society.”

The judges for the 12-hour case held a wide range of business leaders, representing a variety of sectors from consultancy to travel to technology and manufacturing. A special thank you to Matthijs Minnaar, Marga Matthijsen, Cilia Keser, Edith Bevers, Vlad Duricu, Cato Bui, Floris van der Poel, Marjan Olthof, Rutger de Roo van Alderwerelt, Ellen Decker, Arno Boersma, Dennis van Herk, Pritha Nath, Adeep Singh Mann, Erik Hiep, Arjanne Hoogstad, John Traas, Hans van Bochove, Emma McKay, Marije Pronk and Amrutha Sivaraman.

24-hour case: Helping partnerships to bloom

The 24-hour case was sponsored by Greenport West-Holland, focusing on how a collective of growers and residents from the Westland region of the Netherlands (the largest greenhouse horticultural areas in the world) can overcome technical, political, psychological and financial factors to further their commitments to using sustainable energy sources to meet the government’s goal for halving C02 emissions and to become climate neutral by 2040.

Each team had 24 hours to develop a proposal with solutions, with the top four teams being selected for the finals. An additional fifth team, RSM, was also selected through the challenger round. While the teams’ solutions varied, the most impactful recommendations for the growers and residents included: developing innovative models to engage stakeholders of differing sizes around shared sustainability goals, such as through community-led organisations or app-based voting. Other solutions included proposals for sustainable heating methods from harvesting of data centre waste and storage in underground aquifers as well as directly investing in renewable energy generation in the Broekpolder region.

The winners of the 24-hour case were Maastricht University in first place, HEC Montréal in second place and American University of Beirut in third place.

“The students in the STAR case competition have indeed helped us with smart and clever ideas for our case and for the energy transition of the Horticulture Sector”, noted Erik Persoon, executive board member, Greenport West-Holland. “These very professional presentations are real ‘eye openers’ for our industry!"

Judges for the 24-hour case included:

Erik Persoon, Octavio Mota, Gaby Bartelse, Ronald Naninga, Vera De Jong, Martijn Samson, Abhishek Arekapudi, Kaushik Jadhao, Bart van Meurs, Maksym Semenyuk, Lilly Burggraaf, Patrick Veldhuis, Frank Hollar, Terry Afram, Martijn Rademakers, Wilbert Bekendam, Ruben Brave, Ruben van den Goorbergh, Floor Crispijn, Rob de Groot, Frank Hofs, Christoph Häusler, Laurence Prinz, Elmer, Rob Rijnders, Conre Oostrom, and Alba Tiley.

Global Participation and Future Leaders

In an ever-increasingly volatile and uncertain world, both RSM and STAR are committed to fostering international understanding among future business leaders – wherever they are in the world. This is why case competitions serve a purpose far beyond competing. 

“I see these events as natural extensions of learning and as a formidable way to challenge ways of thinking and to build real competencies that will take these students far in life,” explained RSM team advisor and dean of education Michel Lander.

“Competitions like this prepare these students for the very real analytical, strategic and leadership challenges they will inevitably face in their chosen professions. The solutions that they have presented in these 12- and 24-hour cases aren’t just theoretical; they may actually change lives or set the course for a new way of thinking in business.”

The competition included RSM’s own team, represented by Baptiste Mazuel, Fiona Munzinger, Lucilla di Benedetto and Paul Scheible.

The 2024 visiting teams included (in alphabetical order):

•    Aarhus University

•    American University of Beirut, Suliman S. Olayan School of Business 

•    Ateneo de Manila University

•    Chulalongkorn University Business School

•    HEC Montréal

•    Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

•    Ivey Business School, Western University

•    Korea University Business School

•    Maastricht University

•    National University of Singapore

•    Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business

•    The University of British Columbia, Sauder School of Business

•    University of Hong Kong

•    University of Manitoba, Asper School of Business

•    Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Information on the 2025 competition and teams will be announced in the coming months.

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