Jordanian university breathes life into eco-friendly graduation projects

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The two most common options for people after they graduate from university are to either join the general workforce or pursue an academic path, says Jamil Khatib.

Rarely is the possibility of starting a personal business presented as an option.

That was not the case for Abdulrahman Asfour.

Asfour first pitched his eccentric idea of transforming car parts into furniture at his university campus. He had studied design at the German Jordan University (GJU) and was required to submit a graduation project. And unlike most graduation projects that fall into the abyss after the diploma, his idea became his own startup Autoart.

In an attempt to encourage the likes of Asfour, the GJU founded a Program Innovation & Entrepreneurship (PIE) office, managed by Khatib, office three years ago.

The initiative, a part of the university's Office for Industrial Links (OIL), intends to widen the students’ career possibilities after graduation.

Catering setup by The Telier. (Images via Tala Elissa)

Green ideathon

PIE offers students the chance to participate in hackathons and startup competitions. On Saturday, they also organized an ideathon at Umniah’s innovation center, The Tank.

The event catered to 20 students, all of whom were asked to pitch solutions to environmental challenges such as reducing the harm of industrial waste, or connecting ICT with renewable energy.

“We are focusing on the environment, because we [stand for] responsible innovation… there are many challenges as well as opportunities in the region’s green fields such as energy and waste,” Khatib said.

The event is part of a series that aims to prepare students for their graduation projects that they hope can turn into startups. Winning teams will be selected to participate in prototype sessions, and will be later advised on how to create successful business models.

Yousef Wadi, cofounder of Arabia Weather, is a computer science graduate from GJU and wishes he'd been able to benefit from something like PIE when he was a student.

GJU students discussing solutions to environmental challenges.

Wadi believes that integrating entrepreneurship guidance within universities is important because it allows potential entrepreneurs accept failure from a young age.

“As an entrepreneur when you start playing and working at the beginning, you are going to fail a couple of times. You’re going to fall on your face, but by the time you are done with it, you are going to be a veteran [of the ecosystem],” he said.

Many partners were involved in the event including innovation center Ibtecar, Oasis 500, and environmental association Edama.

"We see that often there is a disconnect betweeen where the research is going and what the private sector needs" elaborated Lualwa Saffarinin, director of projects at Edama. "Our role is to jump start and continue the growth of Jordan's green economy through in part helping bridge this gap between academia and the private sector" she continued.

Edama belives that green startups do not only create jobs, but help promote Jordan's hopeful shift towards a green economy.

The GJU is not the only Jordanian university to encourage the importance of entrepreneurship. The Jordan University Entrepreneurship Center exemplifies the same drive as well.

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