Innovation Race for Sustainability

Accelerating the most promising student entrepreneurs for impact around the world

It was a beautiful Friday evening in Frankfurt, and students were gathering on the banks of the River Main to wind down after a long week of studies.

For some students, however, the excitement was about to begin. 

At the Finance in Motion headquarters, student teams from five different countries were joined by more than 70 audience and jury members for the “Innovation Race for Sustainability.” This joint initiative was organized by Finance in Motion and Enactus, a worldwide network supporting impactful student entrepreneurship; the aim of the project was to identify and coach new business ideas for sustainable agriculture and green technology. That Friday marked the final round in an international tournament that had already identified winning teams from five countries: Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Germany. The countries and focus areas were largely selected for their alignment with the organizations sponsoring the competition: the Green Academy of the Green for Growth Fund; the Entrepreneurship Academy of the SANAD Fund for MSME; and the Entrepreneurship Academy of the European Fund for Southeast Europe.

For each national competition, the business solutions presented by the student teams were assessed for their ability to enhance farming practices, expand new nutrition sources, or push clean, resource-efficient production – all while achieving positive social outcomes such as financial inclusion or improved health. 

The five finalists were now gathered at Finance in Motion’s Frankfurt headquarters to pitch their ideas for a chance to win cash prizes to scale up their business models.

These were:

Egypt: Blossom aims to improve jasmine production in the country by introducing eco-friendly alternative fertilizers through vermi-composting, and by training farmers in local villages on the extraction and sales of jasmine oil.

Germany: Save the Grain addresses massive crop loss for sub-Saharan farms by providing smallholder farmers with efficient crop drying and storage processes and reducing their reliance on big crop-storing merchants.

Morocco: Ecodome offers affordable, stable, ecological housing infrastructure in rural communities made of local raw materials. The quick-to-build structures improve quality of life and residents’ environmental footprint, as well as creating bases for tourism to provide income and employment for rural families.

Tunisia: Ecoyes seeks to turn the problem of olive mill wastewater in Tunisia into an asset, by using the by-product as a raw material in constructing high-quality roads. The solution not only provides an efficient solution for recycling waste, it also opens transportation lines for those in rural areas where roads are often poorly maintained. 

Ukraine: Flaz has certified innovative equipment for improving the extraction of medicinal substances from plant seeds that have a low oil content. Existing processes often destroy valuable nutrients while extracting from low-oil seeds; the new technology aims to increase efficiency and substance quality while increasing the income and capacity of local farms.

In the end, Blossom pulled ahead as the first-place winner of EUR 15,000 to accelerate their business. Ecoyes took the second-place prize for EUR 10,000, and Save the Grain won EUR 5,000 in third place.

“We have had some impressive entries over the course of this competition,” remarked Finance in Motion Managing Director Florian Meister. “It is inspiring to see the innovation and professionalism of this next generation of impactful entrepreneurs. I would like to offer my congratulations to all of the teams who participated in this demanding competition. We are looking forward to seeing the fruits of their continued endeavors.”

More stories