Venture demo day connects entrepreneurship and engineering students

August 23, 2022 - 07:44
The business savvy demonstrated by the students exemplified how engineers can use market forces to scale their innovative projects into in demand products.
Participants take a group photo at the Venture Demo Day. – Photo courtesy of the ASU

HCM CITY – Young engineers from 14 teams across the country gathered at a Venture Demo Day held recently in HCM City to compete for a total of US$1,000 in start-up funding.

The students demonstrated business savvy and exemplified how engineers can use market forces to scale their innovative projects into in-demand products.

The 4th annual investor-style pitch competition, Maker to Entrepreneur (MEP): Venture Demo Day, was held by the USAID BUILD-IT programme and Dow Vietnam under the framework of the USAID BUILD-IT and Dow Vietnam STEM programme.

The 14 student teams from top engineering technology universities in Việt Nam developed innovative projects during the EPICS program to provide engineering solutions for real-world problems, including supporting the vulnerable, sustainability, agricultural productivity and social welfare improvement.

EPICS is an internationally recognised engineering-based service learning and social innovation applied project programme that inspires students to use engineering and human-centred design to build solutions for social challenges.

Carrying their innovations onto the Maker to Entrepreneur programme, the teams advanced their EPICS projects into viable products and shared their early market traction at Venture Demo Day.

The programme allowed students to improve independence, creativity, determination, business savvy, and communication skills to take their idea from inception to complete the pitch deck and present them to the judging panel.

During Venture Demo Day, a panel of industry judges from Dow Vietnam, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Business Startup Support Center (BSSC), Lead the Change, and Heramo scored the students on their product’s market demand.

The students demonstrated how engineers could learn to use market forces to prove that their early-stage products have market demand.

The judges were impressed by the customer feedback, evidence of demand, and students’ capacities and commitment to scale-up innovative solutions to make the world more inclusive and sustainable.

A group of students from the HCM University of Technology won the top prize with their Relief Tea Assamica product.

Assamica was nurtured and developed from the aspiring to create new stress-relieving tea products that not only reduce stress and superior anti-insomnia but also help customers “return to natural sleep” without causing side effects.

The product is derived from the precious medicinal plant Crotalaria Assamica - a medicinal species with outstanding advantages that has not received much attention. Assamica can be a daily drink with high natural antioxidant activity, preventing ageing and cancer, and improving health.

In addition to the completely green production process managed by advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, it has thrived into various product lines suitable for customer needs, such as tea bags, instant tea, and convenient teacups.

Assamica is also being integrated with NFC tags for a traceability system to allow customers better understand how to use it.

The second prize went to HCM City University of Technology and Education students with the heart rate monitor product that warns heart patients about stroke problems.

Students from the Đà Nẵng University of Technology won third prize for developing a project on jackets for autistic children.

For the fourth year in a row, the USAID Building University-Industry Learning and Development through Innovation and Technology Alliance, implemented by Arizona State University, partnered with the Dow Vietnam STEM programme has joined forces to bring industry-linked applied projects in innovation, entrepreneurship, and research to undergraduates across Việt Nam.

Nguyễn Hoài Sơn, Dow Vietnam’s Vice President, said: “At Dow, our approach to innovation starts with collaboration and the spirit of doing better to enhance sustainability, performance and productivity."

"With that in mind, we are delighted to partner with USAID BUILD-IT and related stakeholders to implement a STEM programme to inspire students with innovation and entrepreneurship by utilising technical skills and innovative ideas to design, build and develop prototypes to address the community challenges. More importantly, the programme also helps them gain the confidence and capacity to lead engineering and to commercialise their solutions to the potential customers.”

The USAID BUILD-IT Alliance is a public-private partnership to support world-class engineering programmes for work-ready graduates in Việt Nam. The alliance has over 16 industry partners and 11 Vietnamese university partners implemented by Arizona State University.

BUILD-IT has leveraged more than $7.6 million in industry contributions to support its university partners in revamping their curricula, adopting new learning technologies and projects, developing their teaching and leadership capacity, and achieving international accreditation. These transformations assure that Vietnamese graduates develop the technical and soft skills needed to drive Việt Nam’s growth for decades. – VNS