Four students of the MSc Industrial Ecology have recently been selected to participate in the accelerator programme of the EIT Climate-KIC, which helps sustainable start-ups. The four students use coconut husks to develop sustainable boards, which can be used to make furniture.
The four committed students (from left to right on the picture above) are Anurag Bhambani (BSc Civil Engineering), Mel Valies (BSc Aeronautical Engineering), Sachithanandha Sundaram Shanmugasundaram (BSc Mechanical Engineering) and Simon Begeer (BSc Public Administration), who all followed the MSc Industrial Ecology. During their master’s they all participated in the five-week summer course called ‘The Journey’ from EIT Climate-KIC. This European knowledge and innovation community works towards a climate-resilient society by among others stimulating sustainable entrepreneurship. Students that followed the summer course can subsequently apply for the accelerator programme which helps sustainable start-ups to get on their feet.
What makes your start-up so great?
‘We have developed the so called CoirWood board, made from coconut husk only. The idea is that these boards are sold to designers, furniture makers and DIY stores to make furniture, floorboards or cabinets. It can replace other types of boards as a 100% natural alternative. What sets it apart is the absence of any chemical binder, which prevents toxic emissions when processing the board or when it’s in use. Furthermore, it can be shredded into powder at end of its use and used as pot soil.’
Why did you needed help from the EIT Climate-KIC accelerator programme?
‘We have been working on our idea for a while now. For instance, we were able to use the course Interdisciplinary Project Groups to further develop our ideas. The main reason to apply for the accelerator programme is that it offers the financial and practical support to develop our idea into a worthy start-up. We know that there is a demand for our product and ideas, but that there are also many slips between the cup and the lips. It is natural to make a lot of (costly) mistakes in the process of becoming a big business. So, we need financial means and guidance from people who have seen and probably also made some of these mistakes in the past and can help us avoid those!’
How do you see your start-up develop within the next 10 years?
‘Over the next two to seven years, we plan to set up our factory in India (where one of our team members is from) and establish sales channels and our own sales office in the Benelux region. We also aim to expand our market to the rest of Europe and North America, as well as target the local market in India and South Asia. Further, we would like to expand to other natural materials and finished products.’
How did the master Industrial Ecology help you in this process?
‘Our common reason for choosing Industrial Ecology was its broad view on environmental problems. Compare it to a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which can attack not one but a whole range of strains of bacteria. Environmental problems require the same approach since the problem is not well-defined and single-pointed. Industrial Ecology helps you to develop so-called “systems thinking” and equips you with the tools and methods to deal with environmental problems. Furthermore, it’s rather crucial that our way of living today changes to a more sustainable one. Changing our way of living can also provide us with additional possibilities.’