ESSEC Asia-Pacific Goes for the Stars – with a cause

ESSEC Business School, Asia-Pacific teams up with the Singapore Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) to put the young stars of tomorrow in the innovation limelight – with a cause.

By Tom Gamble

ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific campus
The ESSEC Business School Asia-Pacific campus

The A*STAR-ESSEC Business School Innovation Pitch Day, an initiative that runs through mid-May to mid-September 2019, kicked off in the one-north tech, education and research district in Singapore, south-east Asia’s brightest economic star.

Part of the one-north Festival (ONF) organised by A*STAR, JTC Corporation and Science Centre Singapore, the festival – created in 2016 – has been held yearly for members of the public to immerse themselves in science and tech through fun and interactive displays, science performances, as well as inspiring talks by scientists and media creators.

For the second year running, the ESSEC Asia-Pacific (ESSEC APAC) campus at one-north has committed its expertise and engagement with the local community as a prime educational partner to the initiative. This year, the leading international business school, present on three continents, is co-hosting the Innovation Pitch Day with A*STAR under the theme of “Innovating for a sustainable planet”.

Innovation – with a cause

innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability
The innovation and entrepreneurship bootcamp: Prof. Kevyn Yong

Open to 17-19 year-olds from Singapore’s high schools, ESSEC APAC and A*STAR set a challenge that puts the youngsters truly to the test – use innovative science and technology, as well as a viable and scalable business model, to propose an innovation to help solve one or more social or environmental issues. Over 20 teams from Singapore’s local and international high schools – aspiring to become innovators and future technopreneurs – signed up for the contest with a prize of S$3,000 awaiting the winners and a further S$7,000 awarded to the runners-up and most feasible ideas in business, technology, innovation and financials.

Thomas Thomas, ASEAN-CSR, CSR, leadership, social enterprise, management, philanthropy, diversity, gender equity, healthcare, sustainability, ethics, industrial relations, healthcare, employee wellbeing, Council on Business & Society, Global Voice magazine, ESSEC Business School, ESSEC Asia-Pacific, FGV-EAESP, Trinity College Dublin Business School, Keio Business School, Warwick Business School, School of Management Fudan University, Tom Gamble, Aarti Ramaswami ,
Guest speaker Thomas Thomas, CEO of ASEAN CSR Network

But the young hopefuls from schools such as NUS High, Dunman High, Raffles Institution, German European School and Singapore American School – an interesting insight into the multicultural dimension of the Asia-Pacific city-state – were not thrown into the arena unarmed. ESSEC APAC provided one of the key highlights of the competition, a one-day boot camp held on campus on 24th August for participants to stack up relevant knowledge and skills on innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability. The heats on 25th August saw 39 participants from 16 teams pitting their ideas against each other.

one-north Festival, ESSEC, J*STAR
Students in their ideation session

Why the sustainability angle? Singapore, along with other industrialized countries in Asia, faces challenges both socially and environmentally. While economic growth has been exponential in the last 50 years, social and environmental issues continue to surface. These issues include both region-specific needs such as energy conservation, waste management, and wider issues that address both global and regional levels: climate change, wild-life extinction, a greying population, land, sea and air pollution. As such, it was seen essential to blend in this dimension to raise awareness among the school participants from scientific backgrounds, and at the same time offer a reflection of ESSEC’s recognised educational model of responsible leadership and business practice – a signature of the institution and its humanist DNA since its creation in 1907.

Brains that have brawn

From initial selection through a one-page summary, a 20-slide presentation and a 5-minute YouTube pitch, to the boot camp hosted by ESSEC APAC that saw the students coached on creativity and ideation, entrepreneurship and start-up fundamentals, 6 teams were chosen to go on to the finals. The students then had to hone their proposals and submit their pitch decks on 4th September.

1st-round pitching before the jury

The top 3 finalist teams are due to compete at the one-north Festival grand finale event on 13th September with a pitch of their winning idea before a panel of industry and academic judges. To truly stretch the teams and bring out the very best in them, the young brains keep to a rigorous framework for the day, their pitches having to include:

  1. The innovation
  2. The science/technology behind the idea
  3. Societal/environmental impact
  4. Customer segment and scalability
  5. Go-to-market-strategy (implementation)
  6. Financials and investment(s) required
  7. Future growth strategy.
Aarti Ramaswami, sustainability, ESSEC Asia-Pacific, responsible leadership, ethics
Prof. and Deputy Dean Aarti Ramaswami

‘The one-north Festival is a telling and tangible example of how communities, schools, government bodies and leading educational institutions such as ESSEC can join together for the common good,’ states Prof. Aarti Ramaswami, Deputy Dean of ESSEC APAC. ‘It’s a great opportunity for us to offer our expertise and our campus for the benefit of helping the young stars of tomorrow to combine business and science for innovative solutions driven by a vision of sustainability and responsible leadership.’

With a campus nestled on the crest of Nepal Hill in the Singapore district of One-North, ESSEC Asia-Pacific is firmly anchored in the local and regional landscape of high-calibre, research-driven educational establishments. With the A*STAR-ESSEC Business School Sustainable Innovation initiative that brings together the brightest of Singaporean students to innovate the future, the institution has not only contented itself with aiming for the moon – to paraphrase Norman Vincent Peale, the brain behind the theory of positive thinking. It has landed among the stars.

Video: Watch the students in action!

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