Through the eyes of Giulio D’Ambrosio and Elias De Keyser

The “Through the eyes of…” column gives the Voice to CommUnity members with an entrepreneurial spirit or strong passion on energy-related topics through direct interviews.   

Giulio D’ambrosio and Elias De Keyser are students in the InnoEnergy Energy of Smart Cities Master’s program. They come from Italy and Belgium, respectively. They have just started the second year of the Master’s programme at UPC Barcelona, in Spain, after spending their first year at KU Leuven, in Belgium. 


 You are both second-year students in the Energy for Smart Cities Master. Why did you choose this Master’s programme?

Giulio: “When you are in the process of choosing a Master’s programme, it is like booking an organised trip with a travel agency. You know the location and you have a lot of expectations, but in the end you don’t really know what is going to happen. If you have chosen InnoEnergy as your travel agency for a two year Master’s programme in one of the dominant energy fields, you opted for an adventurous trip – whether you were aware of it or not.

To use another metaphor: during these two years you should act as a sponge, sucking up knowledge and experiences; but don’t stop there. Why not push yourself and create something on your own? And pushing is not enough, “wring yourself out”, give your 200%. Being ambitious doesn’t hurt – at least, that’s how we see it

The beauty of entrepreneurship projects is that sometimes you can transform it into something more. How was your entrepreneurial adventure?

Elias: “Starting our Master’s in ‘Energy for Smart Cities’ in Leuven, we grabbed the opportunity to work for one year on a business idea I had played around with for some months already. Looking for a team, I found in Giulio the perfect fellow engineer to develop the technical aspects of a wave energy converter that aims to create a synergy between offshore wind and wave energy production. After getting Renske and Chloe on board, who study Biology and International Business Management respectively, team Neptune was ready to embark on a thrilling ride.

Under the umbrella of the course ‘Entrepreneurship and New Business Development’, Neptune developed a business plan with the guidance and feedback of tutors and fellow students. We completed a first version by the end of May 2016. After a thorough industry and market analysis of the offshore business, analysis of the value chain and a lot of number crunching, we proposed a well-developed value proposition. We won the pitching competition organised between the different ideas participating in the course, which made it a rewarding experience”.

What gave you the next push to spin off your project?

Giulio: “The four of us were not the only ones excited. Receiving a lot of positive feedback from people in the field of clean technologies, we challenged ourselves to participate in the Cleantech challenge. It is an ambitious international business plan competition, with a head prize of a check for 10’000 GBP (Ed. 12’670€ conversion at 21/04/16) to invest in your business idea. Of course we were stoked. After passing two pre-selection rounds, we made it to the Belgian finals where we pitched for a professional jury. We ended up as second runner-up and it was a very nice experience to go through as a team (and if you ask us, the jury didn’t dare to dream big and favoured the low risk proposals!)

Were you also able to get in contact with important people in the field

Elias: “Yes, we were. Along the way we met people from marine engineering company like DEME, the largest Flemish governmental research institute VITO, iCleanTech Flanders, substation manufacturer CG and so on. By now, also the university of Ghent – building on years of expertise in marine innovation – is involved 

What’s going to be your future now that you took different paths?

Giulio: “Yes, the second year of the Master’s takes the members of team Neptune on their own path, with Chloe going back to her home university in Scotland, Renske finishing her degree in Leuven and Elias and Giulio fulfilling the second year of the Energy for Smart Cities Master’s in Barcelona.

Is this the end of Neptune? Of course not! Why would it be? As we said, we believe being ambitious doesn’t hurt. This year we want to develop and enrich ourselves and get prepared for the real world. Gaining experience in a real company during an internship is never a bad idea.

We are looking into how we can turn some of our most stringent issues into a thesis topic, so we can clear them out. It is our dream to finalise a first design and build a small prototype by the end of the academic year. We are currently reaching out to other InnoEnergy students to join the team to make this happen (if you are interested, drop us a line!) 

Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?

Elias: “If you do the statistics, you would find that the odds of failure of our business idea are very high (Giulio likes statistics; the rest of the team thinks he is crazy). But in the end we believe you should look at it from the other side: you just have to work hard to end up with the 10% that do succeed.

Everything seems impossible until it is done. What holds YOU back to take your ideas to the next level? Just do it! We can assure you: it is very exciting!


Jacopo Sala

In collaboration with The CommUnity Post

14 October 2016

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