Just before the summer break Tom Jaring was chosen as winner of the BK Launch Studio, an elective course of the MSc Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences at TU Delft. The course aims to teach architecture students entrepreneurial skills by combining these with design activities. According to the jury, Tom Jaring had worked out his business plan and design for an eco-sound wall the best. He received a start-up voucher worth 3,000 euros from external partners to take his plan further.
Steel slag becomes green oasis
Jaring's idea is innovative, offers a solution for steel slag waste and can be well developed from idea to actual product, according to the jury consisting of representatives from engineering firm ABT and De Brink Group. In an earlier design course called ‘Making’, he and fellow students thought of something to do with one of the largest industrial waste streams in the Netherlands: steel slag. This waste product is created at Tata Steel in the production of steel. ‘Steel slag absorbs CO2 and nitrogen and could therefore serve perfectly as a sound barrier,' says Jaring. But it would also have to be a functional and attractive wall that contributes to the landscape and to flora and fauna. Jaring grew up in France in the midst of nature and this has left a deep impact. With the sound wall, he therefore also wants to contribute to a green environment and bring nature closer to people. ‘This is how the idea came about to make the sound wall suitable for plant growth and for bees and birds that have such a hard time anyway,' says Jaring. He chose ‘Meraki’ as brand name, which is modern Greek for ‘putting your soul into what you are doing, without expecting something back.’ In the BK-Launch Studio, he took his idea further through talks with Tata Steel, potential producers and customers, among others.
Jaring learned a lot during the nine weeks in which he wrote the business plan. ‘There is a big gap between the theoretical world of the university and the real-life world. This already became apparent to some extent in the Making course I took prior to the BK Launch Studio, but it was during this course that it really became clear that there are so many different things involved in developing an idea into a product. That opened my eyes and I learned to think in a multidisciplinary way’. It has also made him more secure. ‘Now that I have the entrepreneurial skills to put the idea into practice, I really want to realise the product myself. Before BK-Launch studio I was thinking of giving the concept away.'
Great enthusiasm among students
BK-Launch studio leader Hans Wamelink indicates that entrepreneurship is becoming increasingly important at TU Delft. In 2019, the Faculty of Architecture started with the elective course 'entrepreneurship in architecture and the built environment’. On the one hand, this responds to the need of students who would like to know how to realise an idea as an entrepreneur. There is no room for this in the regular curriculum. On the other hand, students are given the opportunity to give free rein to their creativity and to demonstrate their innovative power. That the enthusiasm among students for this course is enormous became clear as the 30 available spots in 2019 were full within five minutes and in 2020 the 50 spots were also gone in no time.
BK Launch studio
The BK Launch studio is the continuation of the aforementioned elective, in which 15 students could participate this year. Wamelink: ‘I was very impressed by the plans of the students who participated in the BK Launch studio. It's great to see them getting started with their ideas. Of course, they encounter obstacles along the way; that is part of the learning process. The teachers support them in this. We have various fields of expertise on board to assist them in the field of design as well as entrepreneurship.'
At the same time, the teachers are also learning. The BK-Launch studio ran for the first time in the spring of 2021 and then also in coronation time. ‘A lot went right’, says Wamelink. ‘We look back on a successful first run. Improvements for next year are mainly in the more structured approach to the business plan, with more room for theory and exercises, so that students know better what is expected. Students will also have to hand in their business plan at mid-term, so that we as tutors can make adjustments more quickly. In addition, we want to create tutor pairs in which one tutor has expertise in design and the other in entrepreneurship, so that students get input from both expertise’s throughout the entire programme'. Next year, there will be room for 20 students in the BK Launch studio. It is expected that the number of applications will greatly exceed the available places. ‘This shows once again that we are responding to a growing need. That is why, as of next academic year, we want to go one step further in facilitating students, in addition to BK Launch. With BK Launch Ventures, business plans made in the BK Launch studio, such as Tom's, will be further developed into start-ups,' says Wamelink.
The entrepreneurship track at Delft University of Technology
Jaring looks back fondly on BK Launch studio. There was a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm among everyone involved. He also had lots of contact with his fellow students despite the corona situation. They exchanged tips and tricks by video calling. And he is still in touch with a number of them who are also working on turning their plan into reality. ‘My fellow students are also working on very cool concepts. I feel honoured that my eco-sound wall has emerged as the winner.' Jaring is now busy applying for a patent for his concept. ‘My dream is to see a wall along the motorway in a year's time that is becoming increasingly overgrown. I think it would be great to contribute to a greener world with Meraki.'
Check the BK Launch website for more information.
Entrepreneurial learning is one of five topics in the new 4TU.CEE strategic plan 2022-2025.