Two Vlerick student teams are making progress in the Henkel Innovation Challenge 2014

Four students who are currently participating in our Masters in Marketing Management programme have been selected for the semi-finals of the annual international Henkel Innovation Challenge. They are two of the ten top teams of the Benelux. The regional semi-final will take place on February, 28 at the MAS Museum in Antwerp. The winning teams of all semi-finals will compete at the international final at the Henkel global headquarters in Düsseldorf (Germany) for a chance to meet the Henkel CEO personally and finally the possibility to win a ticket around the world worth € 10,000.

In their role as Business Development Manager the student pairs have to create an innovative and sustainable product or technology for an existing Henkel brand in 2050. Lotte Bongaerts who teams up with Nicolas Anspach shares her experiences up until now: “We started out by submitting our idea and positioning it on Henkel's sustainability matrix, since all ideas have to contribute to reducing the ecological footprint. The idea itself does not have to be feasible. It can be a completely crazy idea, as long as it tackles some of the issues that the world will be facing by 2050. So it really inspires us to get creative and think out-of-the-box.” Sharankumar Shah and teammate Maxime Pudzeis agree: “It is an extremely challenging assignment to predict a future product for 2050 and actually develop a strategic plan to launch and market this product. We usually base our planning on the current market, but doing the same for 35 years from now is a challenge in itself.

In view of their busy schedule including multiple group assignments and lectures at Vlerick the students have learned one big lesson so far: it’s all about time management! Lotte: “It's been very difficult to schedule time for the preparation of the competition so I think it's really teaching us to prioritize.” Sharankumar adds that luckily they have a mentor from Henkel assisting them with finalising their innovation concept in the weeks before the semi-final.

So how do they assess their chances in the Benelux finals? Both Lotte and Sharankumar suspect that the competition will be pretty tough. “We will really have to try to ‘wow’ the judges in order to get a spot at Düsseldorf. But we're ready to give it our best shot!”, says Lotte. According to Sharankumar the Vlerick teams have one big advantage: “This assignment is very similar to what we do at Vlerick. We feel rather comfortable in tackling this challenge en we are positive to take this to the next level.

UPDATE – 03/03/2014: Sharankumar Shah and teammate Maxime Pudzeis are the winners of the Benelux final and will proceed to the international final at Henkel headquarters in Düsseldorf. The team of Lotte Bongaerts and Nicolas Anspach became third in the regional semi-final. So both Vlerick teams made it to the top 3.


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