European Innovation Academy challenges students from 90 countries to develop an innovative startup

October 11, 2019 | Business


Open your eyes. For the fifth year, MacEwan University students competed in the European Innovation Academy (EIA), an advanced entrepreneurship education program. Over 15 days, 500 students from 90 countries work in multidisciplinary teams to develop an innovative startup company. Each student brings a unique vision to their team.

That’s why the EIA’s mentors and keynote speakers reinforce the idea of “opening your eyes” — collaborating with people who have different perspectives and can help you develop better ideas that could lead to the next big startup.

Bachelor of Arts student Nooshin Walji was amazed by the quality and inventiveness of the ideas that were brought forward — sometimes on the spur of the moment. When two of her fellow MacEwan University students lost their luggage on route to the event in Cascais, Portugal, they came up with a pitch for luggage insurance.

“The idea emerged just like that because of that one experience,” she says.

While each student who had applied to participate had to submit their own pitch, Nooshin says the real work happened when everyone arrived in Portugal. Students scrambled to join teams and figure out their role (marketing, design, leadership, technology or business). Over the course of three weeks, the teams went from a fledgling idea to solution, marketing, prototyping, client surveying and finally a pitch competition.

Though MacEwan students have participated in previous years, it was the first time Dr. Monica Moreno, assistant professor in the School of Business, attended. “Afterward, I thought, ‘Wow, I would have loved to have been in something like this when I was in university.’”

Throughout the challenge, students had the opportunity to attend keynote presentations and learn from leaders in the areas of technology, personal finance, marketing, business and more.

Nooshin’s team worked on an idea for a video game that would allow students to study without having to disconnect from their game. While her team didn’t move beyond the semifinal stage of the pitch competition, she says the experience was life-changing, and she learned a lot about how people interact with each other and how to have more patience.

“If you don’t look after yourself, it only puts more pressure on you,” she says. “We tend to think very highly of other people, and it’s okay to do that, but don’t forget to give yourself that same level of importance.”

The next Academy Innovation event is in Calgary in July 2020.

 Photo supplied by Monica Moreno.



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