The Chimney Sheet: KIC InnoEnergy Students are Making a Difference

KIC InnoEnergy Master School student Muhammad Rizwan Awan, together with Hans Erik Täpp (MSc Industrial Engineering and Management student at KTH) and Johan Lääs (MSc Integrated Product Design student at KTH) have recently won the best business plan award at the 2013 Excitera Innovation Challenge. The jury described their project, “Chimney Sheet,” as “a fantastic idea for solving a very important problem in an incredibly simple way. Intuitively presented and beautifully executed, it will have everyone asking “why didn’t I think of that?”

It always fills us with pride when our students are recognised and awarded for their leadership and innovation skills. That’s just what happened recently, when KIC InnoEnergy Master School student Muhammad Rizwan Awan, together with Hans Erik Täpp (MSc Industrial Engineering and Management student at KTH) and Johan Lääs (MSc Integrated Product Design student at KTH) won the best business plan award at the 2013 Excitera Innovation Challenge.

The jury described their project, “Chimney Sheet,” as “a fantastic idea for solving a very important problem in an incredibly simple way. Intuitively presented and beautifully executed, it will have everyone asking “why didn’t I think of that?”

The solution: a chimney stove

The team created a chimney stove -one that can be mass-produced at an affordable price – in order to reduce the generation of black carbon, which is directly connected to climate change. KIC InnoEnergy Master School student Muhammad Rizwan Awan spoke to us about the details of the project and his plans for the future.

How did you come up with this idea?

A third of the world’s population cooks over an open fire, a process that emits black carbon. Respiratory diseases caused by solid fuel use in households are responsible for 2 million premature deaths every year. Black carbon is responsible for half of these, and fourty years from now it is expected to kill over 3.6 million people per year. Moreover, black carbon is extremely harmful to the environment: it is the most powerful climate pollutant next to carbon dioxide.

Because I grew up in a village in Pakistan where my mother used to cook over an open fire, I was personally familiar with many of the problems black carbon causes, including:

  • Environmental pollution
  • The incomplete combustion of open fire cooking consumes more fuel, so women and children spend most of their time collecting wood
  • Smoky and unhealthy indoor environments
  • The difficulty of lighting open fires outdoors in windy conditions

We were excited to have the opportunity to design a product that could solve these problems and generate profit at the same time.

What support did you receive from KIC InnoEnergy?

KIC InnoEnergy provided me with a great platform to learn and develop my skills in research, innovation and entrepreneurship. Completing their Master School programme at two universities, KTH (Sweden) and UPC (Spain), helped me to understand the various technologies available for the renewable generation and consumption of electricity. It enabled me to understand the key challenges of the transition to a low carbon economy.

Finally, KIC InnoEnergy’s training at ESADE Business School (Spain) mobilised my entrepreneurial spirit and pushed me to turn the problems in the renewable energy field into business opportunities. Inspired by my training, I participated in the Excitera Innovation Challenge with two other students, and we won!

What is the overall impact of your project?

This project will improve the living conditions of millions of people around the world. When fuel is used in our product complete combustion is achieved, so less raw fuel will be required. This in turn will help reduce the time that women and children in third world countries spend collecting wood. The Chimney Sheet will be available for a low price, will be easily accessible, and will contribute to limiting black carbon emissions, which in turn will help mitigate climate change.

Do you have any future plans to build on your results?

We are planning to launch the product onto the market, and in order to do this we have been developing a prototype that has already been tested successfully. We have plans to set up a company that will provide the best value for our customers at the lowest price. Considering your own experience, what would you tell other students who wish to develop their own ideas?

If you have a great idea, make a suitable business model and don’t keep it a secret. Discuss it with successful entrepreneurs in that field; it will give you an idea of how realistic your business model is. Discussing it with other people will save you time, because if an idea is not realistic, but you keep it secret and start working on it, in the end you will have wasted your time and efforts for nothing.

On the other hand, if your idea and business model are strong and realistic, then fellow entrepreneurs can tell you the best way to invest your efforts to make it a successful product to launch on the market. Also, participate in networking events; they will help you make contacts in your target market, and maybe you can even find your key partners there. It’s also a good way to help advertise your product. Taking initiative

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