News - March 23, 2017

WUR wants a green challenge for students

Anne van der Heijden

Wageningen University & Research wants to set up its own green student competition. A working group is now making plans for an innovation-oriented green challenge. One of the ideas is to get student teams designing urban greenhouses which make smart use of energy.

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Universities around the world stimulate teams of students to do things like designing cars that run on solar energy (Solar Challenge), or solving problems with the help of synthetic biology (iGEM). WUR is coming up for its centenary and wants an annual or biennial student challenge of its own as an anniversary present.

Students from all disciplines, including the social sciences, could play a role in the student teams. The working group has a sweeping vision: ‘Interdisciplinary dreamteams of passionate students who tackle an ambitious project together, working on it fulltime for a year.’

Two groups of Wageningen honours students are currently both working on a potential assignment for the competition. The two provisional ideas are urban greenhouses linked to a smart energy grid, and the automatized harvesting and processing of several crops on one field (mixed cropping). The working group hopes the Wageningen competition can be launched in 2018 with the first idea.

According to Gert Spaargaren, who chairs the working group, the results of a life sciences challenge can speed up developments and lead to social innovation. ‘It would also be enriching for our teaching: a creative, out-of-the-box and hands-on project.’

There is plenty of enthusiasm for the initiative, says Spaargaren and the other working group members. They are now studying the feasibility and costs of the competition. There will need to be a location where students can work on their projects. This ‘innovation space’ should not just be a workplace, says the working group, but a meeting place as well.

The working group will present a proposal to the executive board soon. The expectation is that the board will take a decision in April.

Interested students can get in touch with Rio Pals, secretary of the working group. (