Everything we humans do contributes to climate change in one way or another – and that makes climate change a hugely complex problem that just doesn’t have a simple, single solution. While recycling, reducing consumption, banning single-use plastic straws, bags and plates is a solid start, in the grand scheme of things these actions just do not make enough of a difference.
Climate change can only be tackled from the bottom up, by reinventing existing businesses in every industry and creating new ones, climate-positive from the very beginning.
It will take thousands of individual solutions addressing thousands of different causes of climate change, across every field of human activity. It will take all of our creativity, technology and entrepreneurial spirit to solve the climate problem, and it will take the collective work of millions of people like you to do so.
So, if you are ready to do more than sign petitions, if you want to go beyond marching for climate, Hack Belgium gives you a unique opportunity to find your own way to contribute to stopping and reversing climate change.
It brings together all the inspiration, knowledge, technology, and resources you will need to get started.
How do you find your own way to contribute to stopping climate change?
A good idea
You will need a new project for yourself or for the company where you work – a new business, a non-profit, or even a public information campaign.
To help you figure out what impact has your project on the climate, you can count on this team of climate change experts:
Johan Vangrunderbeek (VITO): expert on innovation management and on intellectual property
- Antoine Geerinckx (CO2Logic, Airscan, etc.): serial entrepreneurs with a focus on carbon footprint assessment
Joeri Thijs (Greenpeace): spokesperson and expert on climate and mobility
Emily Taylor (Climact): expert on environmental management with an academic background in energy engineering
Xavier Pouria (EcoRes): expert on carbon footprint and territorial strategies regarding climate action
Mathieu Depoorter (EcoRes): expert on climate change mitigation, adaptation and circular economy
Pablo Ortiz (VITO):expert on bio-based and circular economy with an academic background in organic chemistry
Sacha Breyer (Climact): expert on with an academic background in bio- and chemical engineering
Johan Geysen (VITO): lifesciences, healthtech and sustainability professional
Bart Dooms (VITO): sustainability and circular economy professional
Yes, you really do need one – no matter if you’re starting alone or you can count on resources of a large, mature company.
Idea Economically feasible
You need to find a way to make your idea economically feasible – and how to make the difference you make even bigger.
Tell your story
You need to learn how to tell the story of your idea effectively – to potential partners, customers or investors.
You need a network, much broader than the one you have today.
All of the above sounds like a lot of work… and it will be. To help you get all of that done in just three days we’ve created a rather complicated, intense process. But we did make sure you’ll have lots of help along the way – and hey, if it were easy to make a real difference, events like Hack Belgium wouldn’t be needed. So exactly how could you use Hack Belgium to do your part for fighting climate change?
Get a great idea
There are so many factors contributing to climate change – pretty much every industry contributes to climate change. So how do you find the idea that’s right for you, and how do you make sure it’s great? Well, let’s first agree on what makes an idea great.
It has to meet a real need
A need that is clearly recognized and genuinely felt by a large number of people and organizations. For example, a new packaging material to replace plastic for the food industry would be welcome with open arms.
Rooted in a growing market
Incoming tide floats all boats. Yep, new packaging material would fit here too – considering the recent bans on single-use plastic (bags, straws and dishes) around the world odds are plastic packaging’s days are also numbered.
Connected to your own expertise and passion
Even if you don’t know anything about packaging materials but have a lot of experience in the retail business and are passionate about ridding the world of plastic, you’ll be able to do great things.
To help you find the great idea, we’ve made sure eight out of 12 societal themes we’re hacking at Hack Belgium offer opportunities to develop projects linked to climate change.
LIFE SUSTAINING OCEANS
FAST, CLEAN MOBILITY
FABULOUS FOOD FOREVER
CLEAN WATER & SANITATION
ACCESSIBLE, CLEAN ENERGY
OPEN, SAFE FINANCE
INCLUSIVE, SUSTAINABLE CITIES
Each Theme will offer you three ideation workshops. In each you’ll find out – with the help of carefully selected experts from academia and industry – what opportunities there are within each of the Themes. Yes, even within theme Finance – there’s a workshop (coming soon!) on funding sustainable businesses.
Beyond the ideation workshops, an additional team of climate change experts in the Climate Impact Booth inside of our Technology Experience Zone will be at your disposal for one-on-one sessions during Day 2 and Day 3 of the event. They will listen to your ideas and offer concrete feedback that is specific to your project. They will help you understand the impact your idea can have on climate change, and to maximize that impact.
Build a team
As you’re working on your great idea, you’ll also meet potential team members. People driven by the same passion as you – be that ocean, food or clean energy – will be joining the same ideation workshops as you on Day 1 of the event (March 28).
We have specifically designed the ideation workshops to make sure you get to meet them – and your best ideas will come from working together with them. In case you don’t immediately “click” with your potential teammates, there are other ideation sessions throughout the day (we advise you to join at least two of those, each for a different Theme), and round-up workshops at the end of Day 1.
And if your team is short on people with specific expertise, you can find them through our event app.
Once your team comes together, you’ll work closely with your new teammates throughout the three days of Hack Belgium, get to know their strengths and discover how they complement your own.
Go from planting one tree to planting a million
Every project that helps fight climate change is worthwhile. But as a friend of mine once said, “it takes as much time to run a friterie around the corner as a global corporation”. So if you want to make a bigger splash, you’ve got to scale up your idea.
So how do you plant millions of trees in the space of a few years?
Well, New York City Restoration Project did it through raising money from philanthropists and from the city’s treasury, and made sure hundreds of thousands of trees were planted by residents who received trees for free (and the rest were planted by city employees).
So yes, technology offers many ways to drastically increase the impact of any one idea – especially if several technologies are combined in a new, clever way. Just like BioCarbon Engineering combines automation, drones, data science, and bioengineering.
To help you find the right technology to make your climate change project vastly more effective, we’re building the Technology Experience Zone in the middle of Hack Belgium.
There you’ll find 10 emerging technologies – mature enough to use right away yet novel enough to offer competitive advantage:
INTERNET OF THINGS
BIO AS TECHNOLOGY
AI & ANALYTICS
AUGMENTED & VIRTUAL REALITY
These technologies will be presented by research institutes (IMEC and VITO), world-class companies, specialist consultancies, startups and university spin-offs. You will get a crash-course introduction to each of the technologies in short, hands-on workshops. And, you will be able to use (or at least to touch) all of the exhibits. More importantly, you’ll be able to bounce ideas with over 70 technology experts and see exactly how various technologies can supersize the impact of your project.
But technology is only one side of the equation – the other one is the business model.
BioCarbon Engineering can do what they do because they found a massive market (mining companies) with a clearly recognized and growing need (ecosystem restoration).
To help you find or fine-tune the business model for your project, we’ve attracted dozens of business experts.
There are outstanding entrepreneurs with huge experience in building digital businesses – Davy Kestens and Toon Vanagt. There are entrepreneurs with specific experience in social businesses – Yanni Garcia and Bruno Delepierre. There are corporate executives with experience of running huge businesses and investors specializing in different industries.
All of them are at your service, all of them ready to share their knowledge in workshops and in one-on-one conversations, to advise you and your teammates on your specific project.
Tell your story
Your idea is going to be new and exciting, it will be far out there, ahead of the “state of the art”.
So, you will have to explain it, time and time again, to everyone you come across: to convince people to join your team, to support you, to use your product or service. You will need to be able to tell a story that people can understand quickly, through which they will feel your passion and find their own. Which is why we’ve dedicated the third day of Hack Belgium to storytelling – or, in the startup parlance – to pitching.
You’ll actually pitch your story twice at Hack Belgium: first, in the morning of Saturday March 30 to experienced entrepreneurs and investors, and they will give you immediate, in-depth feedback on your presentation.
Entrepreneurs like Alain Heureux or investors like Diane Lejeune have heard hundreds – if not thousands – of pitches in their professional careers. They will quickly and efficiently help you find the right story, improve your presentations, and make your project stronger.
Then, in the afternoon you’ll pitch your project again, this time to a small crowd of 40 to 50 of your fellow Hack Belgium participants. This will give you a better feeling for how people react to the new-and-improved version of your story, give you an opportunity to recruit your first supporters and to enlarge your network.
Create your network
Speaking of network: if you’re launching a new project in a new (to you) industry, odds are your current network is not going to be very helpful. Building a new network from scratch will take months – if not years – of hard work.
At Hack Belgium an entire new network is at your fingertips. Over 50 organizations from universities to nonprofits to industry associations to local, city or regional governments will be ready to share their knowledge and contacts with you.
Last but not least: there’s the 1000 participants whom you’ll encounter throughout the three days of the event, each of them bringing years of professional and personal experience, as well as their own networks entirely different from yours.
And then we take it one step further.
For each of the Themes around which the Hack Belgium program is built we’ve found specialised organisations who can offer real support to you if are serious about your project.
From IMEC iStart incubation program to KBC Start-It to GreenBridge Incubator, dozens of organizations are part of Life After Hack Belgium.
Life After Hack Belgium support varies from organisation to organisation, but it always is something tangible and concrete, going beyond a bit of advice and connections.
It could be free or discounted access to services you’ll need. It could be a team of mentors or or free office space. It could be a first step toward a place in an incubation programme or even startup funding. It could even be a step towards your first real customer!
Not convinced yet? Got questions? Let’s talk.
We’re easy to find online or “in real life”.
Online, there’s our Facebook group with over 700 members who’ve taken part in the two past editions of Hack Belgium or who’re planning to come to the third one. Just post a question there!
There’s our Twitter – we’re posting all the news there. Follow us to see if there’s a workshop or an expert that you’ve been waiting for.
And, come and meet our team at one of our upcoming meetups.
Tickets are right here.