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How Scots students are helping make business greener

Published in The National by Multimedia Journalist Emer O’Toole

A group of students from a Scottish university are in the process of creating an app that will allow businesses to share resources to be more eco-friendly.

Six students from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh won the Data Lab’s global Innovation Week competition in June which tasked 150 students from across Europe with re-imagining Glasgow as a world-leading “circular city”.

The MSc students from 12 Scottish universities formed virtual teams for one last project before graduating, applying the data science and AI skills they developed during their studies to solve a problem being faced by businesses today.

The winning team’s app, called Share My Resources, promotes education in the form of how-to guides and YouTube videos, as well as the sharing and re-use of resources or waste.

Team member Andrew Russell said:

We interviewed business owners in Glasgow and one guy who was an architect suggested a piece of technology for the circular economy, he was concerned with construction waste.

The solution was a web or mobile app that was a resource sharing community and platform. For example, if you had an oil drum you could upload it to the app and it could tell you what to make and how to reuse it. It will also include YouTube videos and other people’s projects who are looking for the material you have.

 

The team call themselves Clockwork Orange and also include Emma Wood, Alexandros Mitrousis, Cameron Deacon, Janine Djeundje and Odhran McHugh.

Russell continued:

There’s an opportunity with the Chamber of Commerce to develop it further. We would be keen to take it forward. I think it could be a real thing in the future. The technology isn’t too challenging and we could get it out for testing pretty quickly.

Coronavirus has made people more aware of how fragile supply chains are. People are definitely becoming more aware that it is easier to run a business if you are working together as a community. What we are proposing isn’t just leftover things to sell. It’s more of an exchange. Construction businesses would normally have to pay to get rid of leftover materials but someone might want them.

Students came up with a variety of innovative ideas including reuse of household waste like food and furniture, B2B waste swapping and reuse and reusing batteries. The event was run online for the first time in its four-year history, allowing students from countries including Iceland, Finland, France and Greece to come together.

Using a combination of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Mural, the groups worked through a blend of design thinking workshops, webinars and coaching sessions to creatively develop their ideas and solutions, before presenting them to their fellow students and the judging panel.

Heather Thomson, who headed up the Data Lab’s Innovation Week, said:

We run this because industry figures say these are the skills missing from graduates. We teach them how to prevent a problem and present the results to those who aren’t data scientists.

 

Alison McRae, senior director at Glasgow Chamber of Commerce which hosts Circular Glasgow, said:

The team were really impressed by the winning solution by Clockwork Orange and how they delivered on the brief at every stage. The Share My Resources idea cleverly took a real-life problem faced by many of us and demonstrated how we can improve these systems to benefit its users and the environment.

 

Here’s a video recap of the amazing Innovation Week 2020:

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