TU Circular Innovation Challenge ‘งานประกวดนวัตกรรมเศรษฐกิจหมุนเวียน’

Fostering the circular economy through youth empowerment and a collaborative partnership is a vital mission that brought success to TU Circular Innovation Challenge, an online design sprint event series delivered by Indorama Ventures, SEAMEO SEPS, School of Global Studies, Thammasat University, SDG Lab, UNDP, and UNICEF during April and May, 2021. Sharing common goals and missions to contribute works that align with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the partners took great efforts and worked collaboratively to ideate strategic plans and share valuable resources, i.e. experts, facilitators, and practitioners, to organize the program.  

The program brought together over 174 youth teams or 700+ young innovators aged between 16 to 30 from all regions in Thailand to develop solutions for one of the most challenging but radical concepts and movements in Thailand and the Asia Pacific: 1) circular economy and 2) clean water and sanitation. These two concepts were used as overarching themes that deliver many of the SDGs, including Good Health and Well Being (SDG 3), Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG 6), Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG 7), Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 11), Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG 12), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life Below Water (SDG 14), Life on Land (SDG 15), and Partnership for the Goals (SDG 17). Furthermore, the concepts also highlight the importance of more serious efforts that the program seeks to garner for a better waste management system in Thailand, particularly in the Covid-19 pandemic when plastic waste became a growing threat affecting human livelihood and natural resources.   

Throughout the programs, the teams actively participated in a panel discussion, workshops, and a mentorship session designed to cultivate a social mindset as a heart of innovation and practical skills to develop potential and sustainable solutions. In particular, the program started with a panel discussion where the teams engaged in a constructive conversation and listened to different perspectives and inspirational stories from real-world innovation leaders as part of the opening ceremony on the 24th of April.  Following the panel discussion, workshops led by Youth Co: Lab, UNDP were organized to help the teams understand a holistic view of the circular economy by learning from valuable theories and case studies. They also learned to develop ideas and prototypes through practical tools and practice, such as creating a customer journey and value map during the workshops from 24th to 25th of April. Then, the program selected ten teams out of 108 whose ideas most complied with the judges’ assessment criteria: impact, feasibility, and innovativeness, to join the next round workshop on how to pitch an idea and a mentorship session. With the support of 10 professional mentors, the selected teams had an opportunity to practise presentation skills, receive insightful feedback, and successfully deliver their innovative ideas on the final pitch day, the 8th of May. 

The two teams who are winners of the program are from the northeastern region, where they originally developed inspiration and solutions to tackle problems in their community. Team Recyso from Khon Kaen University, whose innovation is a working model to recycle waste from expired solar panels into nano-silicon batteries, has won the Circular Innovation category. Team จากขยะสู่ขยะ (From-Waste-to-Waste), a group of high school students who came up with prototyped nursery planting pots wholly made from electronics waste and parts, won the Water and Sanitation category. Both Recyso and From-Waste-to-Waste each received the winner’s prize of 100,000THB, sponsored by Indorama Ventures and UNICEF, to continue developing and making their innovation viable to the market and public. 

TU Circular Innovation Challenge continually adopted SDGs as a framework to design and implement the workshops and activities throughout the program. The program received good feedback from the participants that they could build awareness and a better understanding of the circular economy. Moreover, they could develop practical skills for innovation creation and extend a broader network of young entrepreneurs from different fields and backgrounds. 

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