First Climate-KIC Master students graduate

The first group of graduates from Climate-KIC’s Master programme were awarded their degrees in October 2013. Their qualification took two years and immersed them in climate innovation and entrepreneurship.

The experience put them in touch with like-minded people who, by joining forces and combining different disciplines, will accelerate the development of climate innovation over the coming years.

“For me, it was to learn a about entrepreneurship,” said Olivier Membrive, a recent graduate who studied for the Climate-KIC EIT Ocean, Atmosphere, Climate and Spatial Observation Master at Climate-KIC partner Université Pierre et Marie Curie.

Graduates of the programme are certified by Climate-KIC, allowing future employers and collaborators to recognise that the graduate is aware of climate change issues, the European business environment, and has the team skills to successfully integrate in climate innovation companies and start-ups.

First graduates

“The first Climate-KIC graduates are a huge achievement for our community. It shows that top universities can collaborate with businesses, start-ups, governments as well as each other to develop highly networked change agents,” says Climate-KIC’s Eleanor Saunders, Deputy Director for Education, “These graduates will shape our green society.”

Membrive’s background has been in physical science and he admitted that before doing the Climate-KIC programme, he knew very little about business: “It has broadened what I can do and has opened opportunities that I wouldn’t have expected to have.”

The qualification was set up by Climate-KIC in 2010 and is embedded in a two-year Masters course. It requires the student to take part in a five week summer school, to attend a thought-provoking series of seminars, spend 30 study credits abroad, write their thesis on a topic related to climate change and entrepreneurship and take local courses in climate science, business and entrepreneurship.

Membrive feels the benefits are far-reaching. “When I heard about the summer school I was thrilled to get involved. With the international programme, I could meet students that study climate change from another point of view to mine.”

Awards ceremony

The first group of graduates received their degrees at the Innovation Festival 2013 in Wroclaw. The festival was held over three days and included corporate showcases, workshops, plenary sessions and the Climate-KIC Venture Competition 2013. There was also a gala dinner for Climate-KIC graduates like Olivier Membrive and Marvin Kant, a graduate who studied the Climate-KIC EIT Industrial Engineering Master at Climate-KIC partner Technische Universität Berlin.

“There were some new partners and new faces, and a lot of familiar faces, which was nice for us,” said Kant: “There was a gala dinner and other partners were around saying congratulations. The programme has developed over time and now I am happy and honoured to be one of the first graduates. I am convinced many will follow.”

Poland was an appropriate place for graduation ceremony. It not only hosted Climate-KIC’s Innovation Festival, but Warsaw was also the location of the recent UN Climate Talks. The agreements reached at the talks lay the groundwork for the UN’s 2015 Climate Conference in Paris and show that the world is continuing to work on a carbon-free future.

In light of this global business opportunity, a vibrant and versatile community of climate change start-up companies will give Europe a competitive edge in the market.

Climate experts and entrepreneurs

The development of this European community of experts and entrepreneurs is an important part of the Climate-KIC Master programme. Kant felt the programme was so beneficial that he stood for election to the Alumni Association Board and is now community representative for the association.

“We started at the beginning of 2012, but the first alumni are from 2010. Everyone who has taken part in the educational programmes are alumni of Climate-KIC. That’s why we already have over 700 members,” Kant explained.

“We want to give the community a step up with more co-development, more content, but also want to gain from the community in terms of expertise and reputation. We will become more well-known over the next couple of years as people see that we are the European experts on climate change innovation, mitigation and adaptation.”

Summer school

The summer school is one of the key parts of a student’s commitment to a Climate-KIC master’s degree. It takes five weeks over the summer break and involves attending workshops with innovation company representatives, scientists, engineers and politicians, as well as developing a business idea with other students – and pitching it to an expert jury.

Membrive’s favourite talk was given by the applied research institute Deltares, who discussed projects aimed at preserving life in delta regions. He explains why he benefitted from the talk: “This interaction showed that even they run into difficulties.”

“We were working on a start-up idea within the summer school, we had to develop an innovation project and work together as a team to present a business plan. Having this lecture and seeing a big company reflecting in the same way as we did over every project they do – made it more real,” Membrive said.

At the forefront of climate innovation

The Climate-KIC Master programme is a unique approach that is set to put Europe at the forefront of climate innovation as the industry grows and thrives in the years to come.

Marvin Kant is looking forward to this bright future for European businesses and feels the programme will have wide-ranging effects: “There is a really big potential in Europe already in terms of more efficiency, fewer emissions and behavioural change. I think there’s a high potential in Climate-KIC for making climate change innovation a role model in Europe, and then spreading it to countries where it could have even more impact.”