The EIT InnoEnergy PhD School hosted its final Annual Conference November 25-27th – with an action-packed schedule of skill-building workshops, networking sessions and expert speakers. Due to COVID-19, the event was held online; however, that did not damper the participant’s enthusiasm or the quality of interactions – and it was a huge success! We spoke with co-organisers (and EIT InnoEnergy PhD School graduates) Dr. Madis Talmar and Dr. Ivan Andric – as well as a few of those in attendance – to hear the highlights of this amazing event.
Ivan shares their concept: “We used a blended approach by inviting senior industry leaders to be keynote speakers, as well as program alumni who’ve become successful entrepreneurs. This allowed candidates to learn from the vast experience of our speakers as well as expand their network. We create a ‘think-do-tank’ rather than a ‘think tank’, by incorporating advanced learning methods and workshops that provide immersive experiences – like Lego Serious Play and group case studies with real-life situations.” Other topics included applied design thinking, navigating corporate politics, commercial pitching and fundraising – as well as how to navigate the corporate innovation environment.
Third time speaker, Christopher Barrat had a very popular session on networking techniques, where he shared: “Networking is a skill – you can learn to do it well even if you aren’t a naturally sociable and charismatic person.” Another current topic, especially with the pandemic, mental health was addressed – making it was well-rounded coverage of all the things innovators face in today’s environment. Madis added “This year’s pitch competition was also impressive, with a high number of commercially-oriented participants bringing pitches to the table – several already have an incorporated business and a few had already raised significant capital for the next stage of development. The competition was fiercer than ever before!”
PhD candidate, Ibrahim Alasmi (ENS) shared, “The biggest value for me was realising the potential of joining such a community with all its knowledge and networking advantages – as well as learning how to progress my business plan efficiently. Networking properly and pitching a tech project to investors are essential skills I need for my start-up project.” Mathilde Fievez (CEA-Grenoble University) said, “It was an empowering and motivating event! I really enjoyed the sharing sessions. Learning from previous students and lecturers helps move our visions forward – and prepares us to take the next steps. Also, mastering ‘online networking’ is very important, especially building this EIT InnoEnergy circle – where we can support each other as we go forward.”
This final conference was brought to a close with a moving ceremony that reflected on the entire PhD School journey. Contributions from hallmark people such as former Programme Manager, Isabelle Schuster, and EIT InnoEnergy Education Director, Prof. dr. Frank Gielen – as well as previous coordinators and alumni who sent touching video testimonials made the evening very special. Ivan sums up the takeaway for participants after this thought-provoking event: “Brilliant science is not sufficient by itself to make game-changing impact. You have to nurture and develop skills related not only to cognitive intelligence. Sometimes emotional and social intelligence are even more important to unlock your full potential- to enable you to become a creative problem solver that successfully navigates through corporate politics and market pitfalls, reinventing whole business verticals, and potentially whole industries.” And EIT InnoEnergy has been committed to supporting entrepreneurial researchers to create this kind of impact, by helping them to develop their ideas into real services and products!
PhD candidates now have new ways to connect to EIT InnoEnergy’s ecosystem and to prepare for real business creation. EIT InnoEnergy announced last December that it would transition from their former PhD programme to a new support system for entrepreneurial PhD candidates and researchers, exploring new ways to bring innovations from PhD research to market. You can read about the latest offering by EIT InnoEnergy here. With the support of the EIT InnoEnergy ecosystem, there are no limits to what these future innovators will do!