CommUnity Post

The CommUnity Benelux Participates in the Climathon Brussels

Blog Post created by CommUnity Post Partner on 18-Dec-2017

CommUnity Benelux participates in the Climate-KIC Climathon Brussels 2017, “Improving energy performance in Brussels’ buildings through an active involvement of its citizens." David Duque Lozano with the CommUnity Post gives insight into the event and from others who attended. Contact the writer or attendees for questions about the event and how to attend the next one.



The Climathon is a 24-hour hackathon focused on mitigation and adaptation strategies to tackle climate change, which takes place simultaneously in over 100 major cities around the world. This event, organized by the Climate-KIC, brings together the challenges of the world’s cities with the people who have the passion and ability to solve them. People like the members of the CommUnity by InnoEnergy.


The 26th of October, several members of the CommUnity Benelux were ready to depart from Eindhoven and Leuven to Brussels, one of the major cities where the Climathon would take place. These innovators, professionals, students and entrepreneurs were ready for the Brussel’s challenge: How to improve the energy performance of the city’s buildings through an active involvement of citizens?


By 8:00 AM on Friday morning, approximately 40 participants started to arrive to the event, people from all backgrounds and different ages, all with the same passion to use the best of their knowledge to fight climate change. The global opening of the event was preceded live by Siim Kiisler, the Minister of Environment of Estonia, welcoming and encouraging hundreds of people in the parallel venues around the world. After the grand global opening, Julia Panny, the EIT Regional Innovation Scheme Officer, and Joan Marc Joval, Project Manager from InnoEnergy, greeted the attendees before officially opening the Brussels Climathon of 2017. The challenge was formally introduced by Oliver Rapf, the Executive Director of BPIE (Building Performance Institute – Europe) and Philippe Moseley, Project Advisor of the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) of the European Commission. The whole challenge was organized to follow a 24-hour Ideation process.


Teams working in their Challenge


The participants formed five-member teams to start the co-creation session, where a workshop took place to give the participants hands-on tools to ideate concepts with a clear added value. Workshops ranging from end-user architecture and interaction to the “Pentagonal Visioning Diagram” were held, which Sergio Costa, MSc. SELECT Alumnus, described as one of the greatest experiences of the whole venue saying, “pentagonal visioning was really helpful in narrowing the focus and allowing us to present an idea with clear value”.


Each of the ideation phases were organized to take place in a specific timespan, ensuring that the solutions would be organized within the 24-hour limit. At 2:00 PM, the prototyping phase was introduced with an inspirational speech by Fiona Hall, former MEP and Senior Policy Advisor of Rockwool International. Her speech on “Administrative and technical barriers” was further complemented with some guiding words on how to create “Value proposition for the customer and the suppliers” in the already designed concepts. At 6:00 PM, the Business Planning phase was introduced, giving the participants a grasp on the business model canvas. After 12 hours of intense brainstorming, debates and developing the existing ideas, and a very nice dinner greatly praised by all the participants, it was time to rest. The session was closed for Friday at 11:00 PM.


The challenge was resumed at 9:30 AM the following Saturday morning. The participants  were welcomed with a nice and warm coffee and a yoga class. As Mihirani Kethumalika, CommUnity Representative and MSc. SELECT student said, “this short yoga session helped us to calm and energize our mind and body during the challenge”. The Business Planning session went on until lunchtime, having the teams making the best out of their limited time, polishing their ideas and deciding what to highlight in their presentations, which would take place at 2:30 PM.


Hard working Saturday morning


Saturday’s lunch was very well welcomed by the attendees after a hard-working morning, having a taste of environmentally friendly options including salads, vegan sandwiches and plates. At 2:30 PM, the time had come to present the ideas. The jury was composed by Oliver Rapf, Stephanie Brochard, Senior Policy Adviser at AmCham EU, and Serdar Türkeli, Post-Doctoral Researcher at Maastricht University. The ideas were varied and tackled different gaps in the energy performance of buildings. The 'Energy Doctor' team, for instance, proposed consultancy service for building owner associations where they would be made aware of their energy use and proposing specific strategies on how to improve their efficiency. Another team proposed creating a new label, 'Eko', which would reflect how sustainable a product or service was in an energy perspective. Colorful ideas came with the 'Power Flower' team, who proposed creating a flower shaped speaking and automated device which would tell building users how to reduce their energy consumption. 'TurnMeOn' proposed a platform to simplify the refurbishments of households, which currently depends on contacting different suppliers whose value chain may not be sustainable at all.


After several rounds of applause for the great presentations held, the jury congratulated all the participants for the effort and the great ideas formulated in such a short amount of time. It was incredible to think that if these many ideas could be formulated in 24 hours, how many of them would be formulated in the future of these enthusiastic people. The jury had to deliberate which team would get the first place, and the grand prize: access to exclusive courses from the Institute of Sustainable Energy (iSE), one day of coaching sessions the fully develop the proposed idea and the chance to pitch it to become part of an incubator programme. After a long deliberation session, the 'Energy Doctor' and the 'Power Flower' teams were granted the first place as a tie.


Winning Team: Energy Doctor (From the CommUnity: Mihirani Kethumalika, Sachini Wimalasiri, Sergio Costa


Winning Team: Power Flower


The event was closed quickly after announcing the winning teams. New contacts had been made, new ideas had been created, and the inspiration installed by the Climathon challenge on the participant’s would remain to continue pursuing a climate change resilient future. After 6:00 PM, the attendees left the venue, but for some members in the CommUnity, it was time to explore some of Brussel’s wonders.


Below, some of the CommUnity members share their experiences:


Santiago Ángel Nieto – MSc. SELECT Student

“The Climathon was a great experience, I felt challenged and thrilled for the opportunity to address such an important issue. Thanks to the CommUnity, the whole experience was improved through attending with a group of friends and facilitating the logistics of the event. The CommUnity was not only the way I found out about the event in the first place but it also made my attendance a reality. Furthermore, InnoEnergy was actively involved in this event and its participation was clear in the quality and focus of which it took place. The knowledge gained in my InnoEnergy Master's programme, SELECT, was key to tackle the challenge with a deep understanding of climate change and its connection to energy and building performance. Finally, my favourite part of the Climathon was learning from my team which included people from all ages and from Pakistan, through Egypt and even Belgian locals. These experiences are the way to build practical skills to solve the issues we have at hand. On the more personal side of things, the friends, the food, the beautiful city center and yoga made it an overall great experience”.


Mihirani Kethumalika – MSc. SELECT Student

“The Climathon 2017 held in Brussels was an exciting experience for me. I believe it has been the greatest short trip in my master studies journal so far. It was an inspiring challenge to work with an adorable team, where friendship was built up with Smart Cities master students. In this short trip I could also visit some important attractions in Brussels filled with colorful Belgium sweets and food (especially Belgium fries) along with my SELECT colleagues.


The Climathon challenge was about “improving energy performance in buildings through active involvement of citizens”. Having an interactive engagement with my team for 24 hours gave me a very positive opinion about the Climathon and exceeded my expectations. I liked the different personalities within the group and the way we worked together in every step to develop the idea piece by piece. Every small suggestion and friendly argument that arose in our work together became one of my favorite experiences, as it finally gave us a precise and refined version of our business and further led us to win the first place. Moreover, all the speakers were experts in their relevant fields like building energy systems, energy policies and building refurbishment funding, which gave us great insights that helped us gaining new knowledge while figuring out solutions. The event was very well organized, we even had a nice and short yoga session to calm and energize our mind and body during the challenge.


After the challenge was over, and after living such an awesome experience, we had the chance to visit the Grand Place (the most beautiful square in Brussels), the European Parlamentarium and the Royal Palace of Laeken. The European Parlamentarium has these great collections of photos, digital films and videos of important decision-making occasions by the European Parliament and significant historic moments of EU-member countries over their history. All these memories were gathered within just two-and-a-half days! Therefore, I would say it is a must to experience a Climathon during your master studies journey”.


Sachini Wimalasiri - MSc. SELECT Student

“Despite of having only been living in Eindhoven for two months during my MSc. SELECT program, I got the opportunity to participate in the Climathon 2017 in Brussels. Because of being a student from the InnoEnergy Master School, I got to know about this event. It was a great opportunity to visit another country for a short period of time, as the day before the grand challenge, I visited Brussels and went roaming around the main landmarks of the city, and one of my dreams of tasting a bit of sweet from Belgium became a reality.


On the day of the event, I came to know a diverse group of people from all around the world. I worked with a group of five people to achieve one goal of making the people of Brussels more engaged in the efficient use of buildings to contribute to saving the world from the effects of climate change. The knowledge obtained through the courses during my first year of studies and the Crash Courses SELECT students get from the ESADE Business School on entrepreneurship enormously aided me and my team to develop a successful business model. The concept of working for 24 hours on a problem was a novel experience for me. This was a great experience of working with people from different backgrounds while paving the way to the winning idea in this Climathon.


In my point of view, engaging in the activities organized by the CommUnity helps to prepare any career path in a successful way and improve many soft skills of one’s life without much effort. And this can be reflected on the many things I learned during this event”.


Sergio Costa – SELECT Alumni

“While energy was the focus, our particular Climathon was heavily about making a startup that could have a real impact. For this, the way the Climathon was structured really helped with refining and implementing ideas. As part of the CommUnity and Alumni from the InnoEnergy Master School, I know that our combination of engineering expertise and experience with business development tools allowed us to develop ideas that were both feasible and implementable, therefore adding great value to events like this. Plus, many of the participants were students from the Master School, showing how passionate and willing the CommUnity is to tackle the challenges of sustainable energy. During the whole ideation process, I participated in a team where most of our members had first-hand experience from engineering jobs or outreach campaigns relating to energy efficiency, all of which really helped with refining the idea. We knew what potential solutions were out there, what markets were underserved, and we could identify the scale that we needed to implement the project.


The team I worked in was called the Energy Doctor. I really enjoyed working with them, we were late to quite a few breaks with intense discussions on what exactly our role could be and what resources we would need. Navigating this push and pull made our final idea much better in the end. I also got to meet with people from outside of the InnoEnergy CommUnity, work with their perspectives and understand how our experience can give value to people outside InnoEnergy. In the end, I think the whole Climathon event was a great experience, and I would definitely recommend anyone to participate in next one in the closest Climathon city they have”.


By David Duque Lozano

 The CommUnity Post

In collaboration with the CommUnity Benelux




CommUnity Post Review Team: Irena Dukovska and Jacopo Sala