Circular Challenges


  • 1 or 2 day programs (8-16 hours workload)
  • extracurricular
  • 56 Master students
  • 4 academic partners (10 staff)
  • 5 business partners (10 staff)


Main Elements

  • student teams developed innovative & feasible ideas and presented these to expert juries
  • sustainable innovation process instead of supplying content
  • different backgrounds (acad. / national) interdisciplinary teams
  • companies & coaches assisted the teams on demand
  • discussion of results with jury of circular experts
  • use of Mentimeter (barriers, drivers)
  • certificates of participation / winning


What‘s new?

  • new educational format of Student / business collaboration in green venturing
  • digital or on campus
  • students organize, S4S-facilitate
  • businesses provided coaching during the sessions
  • “The counselors where helpful”


Assessment (scale 0-10)

•       overall rating 8.9

•       commitment 8.7

•       enough time 6.6


Main outcomes

  • 7 new business ideas
  • students with high entrepreneurial attitude
  • “Learning how to work with people from different backgrounds and solving real case studies is fun”
  • “Useful, enjoyable, helps you gain lots of experience and a deeper understanding of circular business”
  • “Circular challenges can be solved with out-of-the-box creativity”
  • “In a short time creating innovative and real solutions is possible”


Lessons learned & Future plans

  • “Well-establish companies struggle with implementing circularity”
  • although time pressure is part of the challenge, more time is appreciated - > more attention towards time management is needed
  • supply more content: add toolkit to structure ideas,
  • add more aspects: detailed company information, consumer viewpoint, possibility to network with companies
  • Challenge-for-Impact short-term programs (2022 – 2024)


More information: Dr. Frans Stel (



International Circular Challenge Twente


In July 2021 we could organize an on campus Circular Challenge. It was an initiative of the Green Hub Twente and organized at the Design Lab Incubation Space of the University Twente. Some twenty students and business representatives from India, Botswana, Kenia, Italy, USA and the Netherlands collaborated to develop new ideas to improve the circular business models of two start-up companies


Two companies (ECOR and IMPULSE ) presented their challenges. Teams developed new innovative & feasible solutions and presented these to an expert jury.

Copyright: F.G. Stel (c)


Every team consisted of members from a different academic and national background making it an interdisciplinary team: they benefited from each other’s different strengths, background, knowledge and skills. The international student teams could make use of the representatives of the companies. Ultimately, the companies commented on the proposals, and the expert jury selected the winning team.

ECOR (Enabling co-Creation co-Operation co-Responsibility) is an company active all around the globe with an unique technology to convert cellulose-intensive waste into sustainable products.

IMPULSE  is an awarded startup of UT students of the Creative Technology and Advanced Technology track. IMPULS is one of the most promising sustainability web startups of the University Twente. IMPULSE offers consumers the opportunity to offset the exact CO2 emissions of consumer goods upon purchase and to companies carbon compensation services. IMPULSE aims to make the supply chain at retailers more sustainable with at least one million tons of CO2 within five years.

The participants developed their solutions, using the UNIDO model of circular business. In their feedback the participants reported their main eye openers of the Circular Challenge: “It was interesting to learn about these types of start-ups and discussing with people from different (cultural) backgrounds”. The companies valued the new ideas in circular economy and even were excited about these. The one-day event was considered too short; several participants indicated to need more time to develop their plans or to involve customers in it. Overall opinions were: “ ... very interesting and great place to let the creativity flow!” and “…it was good practice …”


Circular Buckylab: Technical University Delft & ECOR

During the summer semester (April-June) 2020 at the University of Technology in Delft, the Netherlands, 20 students have designed and prototyped their circular concepts with ECOR and its materials in mind.

As an entire online course due to COVID-19, the academic and business partners have run a 10 weeks Architecture design studio bootcamp. The students have developed innovative circular concepts using ECOR material. For the first time in the history of the BuckyLab, students had to work from their home and turn their kitchen tables into a lab to test their circular prototypes.

Their prototypes were used in the design of the Circular Economy Materials Excellence Center (CEMEC) - an Hub placed in Venlo that will allow guests to experiment and validate their ideas on innovative circular materials such as ECOR, developed from cellulose-based residual streams.

A successful student-business collaboration to celebrate, setting the example for future S4S activities such as the S4S Circular Challenge in September 2020.

You can find a photo impression of Buckylab 2020 here.



Follow up and spin-off effects of the Circular Challenges for ECOR

S4S-partner ECOR benefitted from and contributed to knowledge exchange and cross-pollination of learnings. We describe some spin-off and follow up effects. ECOR’s knowledge has been increased how to implement sustainable business, and how to structure relationships with the academic world.

ECOR has supplied the following sustainable challenges in the S4S-project:

  • low availability of healthy, clean, transparent, simple materials
  • limited application of theoretical frameworks circularity/sustainability-innovation-route to market/business
  • supply chain and transportation disruptions


Added value of students for ECOR

Student teams and Individual students provided solutions towards:

  • understanding drivers and barriers to the above elements - involving a wide spectrum of stakeholders
  • tailoring applications of ECOR’s business models to local environments (e.g. India)
  • bringing in fresh ideas, while ECOR’s experts facilitate (co-creation).


Added value for ECOR

  • By developing and experimenting with new business models ECOR has increased its network of universities, research institutions, and other sustainable businesses


Contribution of ECOR to S4S:

  • S4S-project # 11: Increased focus on Sustainability in cross-disciplinary modules
  • S4S-project # 12: negotiation festival
  • S4S-project # 15: Ecosystem as enablers of upscaling business (ECOR supplied a case)


Lessons learned & Future plans

  • S4S as the launching platform and starting network that fosters students-business collaboration
  • Due to S4S, ECOR has more cross-pollination with more universities and partners
  • After S4S, ECOR aims to further develop guidelines and a toolbox to organize follow-up activities with stakeholders (incl. students, young professionals)
  • ECOR includes the S4S-findings in policy-making and sustainability & circularity standards development


More information: Giulia Viero (


Student/Business Exchange: S4S Circular Challenge 2020

Create your own sustainable solutions. ECOR (Enabling Cocreation Cooperation and Responsibility) is a young company that converts cellulose waste fibers into products, e.g. furniture. ECOR has a mission to promote circular business.

CEWE is a leading photo service company in Europe committed to sustainability that wants to improve the business case for sustainable products or services.  How to make core products more sustainable or to invent an additional line of more sustainable products? Students are asked to invent radical new ideas and reflect as well on the existing difficulties to implement sustainability. To increase their circularity, ECOR and CEWE need your help. Learn about circular strategies & business models, innovation and acting like an entrepreneur!  Your fresh new ideas combined with the business expertise can contribute to a better world – with less waste. You will face all of the key facets of the circular innovation and entrepreneurship.

 The challenge. Convert waste into valuable products. Co-creating with ECOR and CEWE you develop new circular business models. You will be coached to develop your ideas, and to build prototypes and new business models.

 Who participates? Students from academic and applied universities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Sweden.

Why participate? This is a unique opportunity to experience realistic circular challenges and test your own innovativeness while collaborating with circular companies and like-minded students from different countries in this two-day online event.

What are you going to do? You will discuss circular experiences of several companies (September 11). In the S4S Circular Challenge, you will develop your own circular strategies related to business models and pitch these to an expert jury (September 12). All activities will be organized digitally.

More info: ECOR or CEWE

Questions? Mail Giulia Viero:

Here you can find the program



Co-creation experiences during Spin-up Innovation Summit 2020.

May 2020 – The Netherlands. On 20 May, Giulia Viero, manager of S4S-business partner ECOR conducted a webinar speech at the online spin-up innovation summit 2020.

Watch  her presentation here.