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Business School team wins global CEMS competition

29 Jun 2012

University of Sydney Business School student Boyd Whalan has led a multidisciplinary group of social entrepreneurs in the development of a business project that won first place in the inaugural global CEMS Social Business Case Competition.

Whilst volunteering for a not-for-profit organisation in Ghana, Master of Management (CEMS) student, Boyd Whalan (pictured), learned of the devastation caused by poor quality, dangerous and expensive fuels. Dedicated to alleviating energy poverty, Boyd teamed up with four other University of Sydney students, Dan Wilson, Jack Dostine, Edward Dostine and Annabelle Kennett, who each brought diverse knowledge to the team, ranging from science to international studies to engineering.

After winning first place in the University of Sydney Social Business Plan Competition, the team then went on to seek advice from industry experts, liaise with a business mentor and present their plan to a board of business entrepreneurs. Equipped with confidence and a compelling business plan, the team entered the CEMS Social Business Plan Competition and were announced as the winners last week by a judging panel that included Dr Robert Glasser, Secretary General of CARE International, Nicole Michelbach, Organizational Development Manager at Fairtrade International and Professor Kai Hockerts from Copenhagen Business School.

A unique collaboration between CEMS, online social media platform SENStation, CARE and Fairtrade International, the CEMS Social Business Case Competition aimed to harness the power of a sustainable social business model and the expertise of students to empower a global community. After receiving online feedback from over 60 professionals and students, the projects were evaluated by representatives from CEMS member schools worldwide and more than 7000 votes were cast in a poll that reached some 250,000 people via social media.

The University of Sydney team, HESSEX, developed an innovative plan to provide pay-as-you-go solar power to rural communities across Africa. The technology-enabled system strives to reinvent the way that clean energy products reach the world's poorest consumers, through allowing consumers to pay for solar products by purchasing pre-paid energy. The system minimises the cost of loan servicing, utilising existing sales and distribution channels to reach an expansive and reliable customer base.

Awarded first place, the University of Sydney team contended with students from top-tier Business Schools worldwide and were adjudged the most innovative project with the largest potential social impact. Emphasising that the competition was highly facilitative of networking opportunities, Boyd commented that the guidance the team received through communication with academics, established social entrepreneurs, associations and investors, allowed HESSEX to fine-tune their plan and tackle the challenging and complex social problem more effectively.

"It feels fantastic to have won in a competition involving teams from around the world. We put in an incredible amount of effort over the last few months and are thrilled that it paid off," Boyd said. "The experience we have gained from developing the business plan and receiving feedback and criticisms from industry experts has been invaluable. We hope to use the funds and connections we have made towards a pilot in Africa."

John Shields, Associate Dean of Postgraduate Coursework at the Business School, praised the students for the success of their project, highlighting that their win was particularly outstanding given that the prestigious global CEMS Alliance and its Master of International Management programs comprise an exceptionally high calibre group of students.

"On behalf of everyone at the University of Sydney Business School, our warmest congratulations go to the Sydney team for putting together the winning project and we look forward to seeing the HESSEX Project become a reality," said Professor Shields. "We are immensely proud of our team's success and we are delighted to be part of this fabulous student-inspired initiative by the CEMS community. What a superb way to affirm the CEMS principles of global experience, business embeddedness, thought leadership and corporate social responsibility."

The University of Sydney Business School is Australia's only CEMS academic member and was the first non-European institution to be admitted to the alliance. The Business School's Master of Management (CEMS) degree requires students to be bilingual, hold a bachelor's degree in business and have outstanding prior academic achievement.