Written by David Ziegler (EIT InnoEnergy) and Robin Maxton (EIT)
On Friday the 5th of October, over 140 EIT alumni, students, and friends came together once again in Budapest for the 5th edition of EIT Alumni CONNECT.
For the first time since its creation in 2013, EIT CONNECT was decoupled from the EIT’s INNOVEIT, allowing the EIT Alumni Community to venture out and forge their own path in history.
And this EIT Alumni CONNECT was certainly a memorable one! Taking place at the wonderfully unique Brody Studios, this 15 hour event brought together the five current communities of the EIT Alumni to display just what makes our EIT Alumni Community so unique - its diversity, its cross-sectoral nature, and its collaborative spirit.
The event, hosting three fantastic keynote speakers, an array of captivating workshops, and topped off with a fun evening full of networking opportunities, was organised by a volunteer team of alumni from each of the communities, designed by alumni, for alumni.
In the morning session, the participants had the chance to listen to and engage with amazing success-stories of some of our EIT Alumni members. It was a motivational chance to gain first-hand experience from entrepreneurs such as Swati, Ádám and Mesbah on stage.
Swati Pandey, an EIT Climate KIC Alumni, shared her impressive story of founding and becoming the CEO of Arboreal Innovations, a sustainable food-tech business, and explained how the EIT played, and will continue to play, an important role in her entrepreneurial journey.
Ádám Szücs, an EIT Digital Alumni and CTO of Zenovision, talked about his path towards founding Zenovision, a computer vision company for medical applications. His keynote highlighted the struggles of an early stage entrepreneur, the need for fast pivoting and the importance of persistence on the entrepreneurial journey.
Mesbah Sabur, an EIT Raw Materials Alumni and the co-founder and CEO of Circularise then described what one needs in his eyes to kick start a business. An idea, a business plan, funding and a network. And with this and his experience he built the smart protocol for the circular economy.
Following the exciting chance to learn some fun facts about the EIT and its Innovation Communities through a competitive Kahoot Quiz, we then had the opportunity to catch up on the impressive developments of the individual Alumni organisation, as presented by their respective leaders.
Francesco Bonadiman, the president of EIT Digital Alumni, showed the impressive growth their community has seen in the past year and invited all to get more involved in the EIT Digital Alumni Community
Esmee Kooijman, the president of the Climate KIC Alumni Association (CKAA) highlighted their aim to facilitate individuals to work together on climate action.
Jagadeesh Gandla, cross-KIC Manager at EIT Health Alumni, defined their mission to promote active aging and healthy living and that they, as an alumni organization, are growing and always looking for new ideas and input.
Denis Gontcharov, the president of EIT Raw Materials Alumni Board, explained how their field has a rich history, but is in desperate need for innovation, and that their alumni network is young but thriving.
Claudio Geyken, the founder and director of the CommUnity by InnoEnergy, revealed how they are opening up to a broader audience by pivoting into the Energy Transition Community and how important cross-KIC collaboration, for example with Climate KIC, is.
The afternoon engagement session offered participants the chance to take part in parallel workshops designed to allow Alumni to present their ideas, stories or challenges to the wider community. The goal was for the Alumni to dive into the other Innovation Communities and foster collaboration between sectors.
This cross-community engagement happened bottom-up and in various ways. One such way was the quiz-style workshop “Keep it RAW!” through which the attendees discovered new aspects of a sector that is often misunderstood, in a fun and exciting way.
Another was the co-creation session by the EIT InnoEnergy Start-up Smartivate on how their technology enables users to bring together utilities and the growing Smart Home market.
In a refreshingly different style, Yoga for Entrepreneurs was a great way to loosen up the conference tension and regain some energy for the rest of the day while learning about Dora’s entrepreneurial journey. One participant described it as ‘a truly uniting 30 minute experience, setting a profound base to continue networking in a family environment’.
The social session was a fun opportunity to network in a relaxed environment at the end of the event, This was boosted by the fact that the venue offered so many delightful nooks and crannies for alumni to settle down in and bond with fellow Community members.
The evening started with a delicious networking dinner and continued with gatherings all around the amazing Brody Studios. Personal and business stories were shared, common interest were found, contacts exchanged and even some plans forged together. The later hours have shown unforeseen jam sessions on pianos, guitars, drums and vocal cords as well as an amazingly popular and heartwarming Karaoke showdown in the beautiful basement of the location.
Perhaps an EIT Alumni band could be an innovation for next year!
We all agreed we will see each other again soon and hopefully not only next year at EIT Alumni CONNECT 2019
Thank you to the volunteers who put in so much time to make this event possible, the EIT itself for all its support, and of course thank you to you, the alumni who make events like this possible by uniting with fellow alumni and strengthening this wonderful cross-sectoral community of ours.