On a sunny morning on Thursday 1 June, the Auditorium at Eindhoven University of Technology was a hive of activity. It was the day of the final event of the TU/e Contest! Although now in its third year, the organizers were determined to take the Contest to the next level and to make it a stand-out event. It was an objective that was right in tune with mentality of the contestants!
Individuals, small groups, and entire student teams took part in this innovative contest. However, there was not much competitive spirit in evidence. In fact, the finalists even described teamwork and helping each other to the next level as valuable aspects of the Contest.
'It’s nice to practice, right?'
At 2 PM it was time for the dress rehearsal – the final opportunity for the contestants to practice their pitch and get a feel for the stage, timing, and technique. In addition, every finalist received useful tips on how to perfect their pitch; this feedback gave them just the boost they needed to perform at their best during the final.
'We are searching for students who dream and dare!'
By 5 PM., the auditorium was full, the clock ticked down, and we were ready to go! Simone van Trier – who hosted the event – stepped onto the stage to loud applause. After her welcome address, the infectious beat of Avicii resounded through the hall. The finalists climbed the steps to the stage from both sides – an impressive moment that set your pulse racing.
Once everyone was seated, there were encouraging and inspiring words from Lex Lemmens (Dean of Bachelor College), the founding father of the TU/e Contest, and other speakers. He then passed on the microphone, and also the TU/e Contest, to Isabelle Reymen (Scientific Director of the TU/e Innovation Space). In fact, the Contest will now be part of this innovative branch of the university.
Round 1 | 'A minute is a minute'
During this first round of the final, the finalists had one minute to pitch their idea or prototype. And the clock was unforgiving. It started ticking as soon as the finalists began to speak, and the last words had to be said before the beep.
You could almost feel the ambition in the air. It was as if the entire audience was being granted a sneak peek into the future. The options of the present day were not enough for the finalists, who were already preoccupied with tomorrow's opportunities – seeing, thinking, and creating. Each of them was a source of inspiration.
After the three categories of idea, prototype, and student team had been dealt with, it was time for the jury's first consultation. Fortunately, the jury members already had sufficient background information about every pitch, so that they could ultimately arrive at a well-considered selection. The break was heralded started with the words 'I feel sorry for the jury. Who are you going to choose?', and the jury members withdrew to consult.
During the break, the innovation market was held in an adjoining room, attended by a large number of pioneering companies. During the market, students had the opportunity to speak with partners of the TU/e Contest, such as ASML, ThermoFisher, TBI, Océ, SAP, and Nuon in an informal atmosphere. There was a great buzz, and it was clear that some promising connections were established.
Round 2 | 'In the end, it’s not about the idea, but to really create something.'
When we re-entered the auditorium, the stage had been transformed into a chic lounge with elegant armchairs and Persian rugs.
Little time was wasted, and we wasted no time announcing the public award. The award was presented by Eline van den Haak (winner of the TU/e Contest 2015). In the idea and prototype category, the award was won by Jakx. The public award for the best student team went to T.E.S.T. 2107. Both groups accepted their public awards to loud applause.
It was then the turn of jury chairman Jan Mengelers (President of Eindhoven University of Technology) to speak. In judging the idea category and the prototype and student team categories, Jan was assisted by representatives from technology companies. The jury frequently admitted that it had been a difficult task to select the finalists that would go through to the deciding round. In fact, it was such a tough decision that finally not two but three finalists could make their final pitch in the idea category. These were Reflex, One-Flow, and E-minds. The finalists in the prototype category were Jakx and Ares Analytics.
T.E.S.T. 2017 and Team Fast would then battle it out in the students team category.
'If the idea works, I can send my whole chemical staff home'
This time all the finalists had two minutes to elaborate on their pitch in the first round and convince the jury that they deserved to win. Each of the finalists was strong and stood up well under intense questioning from the jury. After the last pitch and round of questions were over, the jury withdrew to deliberate. In the meantime, Eline van den Haak took to the stage again, this time accompanied by her twin sister Fréderique. The sisters shared an inspiring story about their prototype, development and ambitions. Their inspirational words were sprinkled with humorous anecdotes, and Eline and Fréderique was a natural at grabbing the attention of the audience.
The Award Ceremony took place before the names of the winners were revealed. In this, special awards were presented for ideas/prototypes that matched the company concerned. These valuable awards are a tangible part of something that once started as only a dream. For example, Bit of Energy received the Océ Award, Guidementia won the Brightlands Award, and Ares Analytics carried of both the ThermoFisher Scientific Award and the ASML Makers Award.
'It proves that what we do really matters.'
And then the big moment arrived: the names of the winners of the TU/e Contest 2017 were announced from the stage in De Blauwe Zaal.
The winner in the students team category: Team Fast
The winner in the prototype category: Jakx
The winner in the idea category: E-minds
While confetti floated through the air and the cheques were handed over, the audience's applause was testament to its appreciation of all the ideas and prototypes that had been presented that afternoon. The winner E-minds had made their ambitions known earlier in the day: 'During the event, we hope to meet some interesting companies that would like to work with us and bring our ideas to life.' We think that's the TU/e Contest in a nutshell – an innovative process in which ideas come to life!