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During Semester 2, 2021, 32 undergraduate students from The Australian National University (ANU) took part in the Special Industry Project (SIP), a work-integrated learning course offered by the ANU College of Business and Economics (CBE). They assisted SolarShare, a Canberra-based member-owned solar farm for those who want to be part of the shift to a renewable-energy economy, by developing investment pitches for their next venture.
The final stages of the course fittingly coincided with the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.
Supporting SolarShare aligns with the University’s overall efforts to address climate change and relates to the ANU Below Zero Initiative, which works to reduce ANU greenhouse gas emissions to below zero.
“The young generation of world leaders that the University aims to grow, start to form their action-based approach through practically focused projects such as SIP. They not only learn theory about the industry, but also get involved in shaping an investment strategy, designing approaches and working alongside real-world businesses in renewables, technology and battery innovation. The ANU Below Zero initiative will depend on projects such as the investment pitches by the SIP students, to come true,” shares SIP course convenor Dr Katerina Kormusheva.
Focusing on clean-energy and efficiency improvements, SIP students worked remotely in small groups to devise the best solution for the task at hand and be determined the winning team.
They considered various options, including adding a battery to the existing operation, installing solar panels to an ANU residential hall or commercial building, exploring partnerships to create a behind-the-meter solution for an apartment building or housing development, and finding a new regional site for building a replica of the aforementioned solar farm.
On Tuesday 2 November 2021, Australia’s Melbourne Cup Day, participants competed in a race of their own as they presented their investment pitches to the distinguished judging panel. This represented a culmination of 13 weeks of hard work, research and financial calculations, under the guidance of consultants from Strategy&, who continue to mentor SIP students throughout the course.
The esteemed judges included Professor Mark Howden, Director of the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at ANU; May Ngui, Regional General Manager at GHD; Anne-Marie Perret, an advisor to high growth companies and experienced board member; and Nick Fejer, Chair of SolarShare Board of Directors.
The feedback they provided is immensely positive and demonstrates the high calibre of talent amongst ANU students.
“I really enjoyed the experience, and it’s always very uplifting to see how our future generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators are shaping out. The student presentations were very professionally presented, some even on par with the quality produced by consulting firms,” shares May.
The winning team, “Solation”, whose members include Matthew De Bortoli, Logan Lee, Luis Burns, Tzai Seng Saylan and Rui (April) Yan, were awarded $A3,000 worth of bursaries and presented their successful pitch to the SolarShare Board. Team leader, Matthew de Bortoli, credits the experience for the opportunities and lessons it incorporated.
“The team and I are absolutely thrilled with the result. I think we are still in a state of shock,” he says.
All SIP teams also receive naming rights for any successful investments that SolarShare make based on their work.
The organisation has found its involvement with the course to be very rewarding.
“The more that we put in, the more that the company got out of it. All of the student teams were eager to learn and engage. Their presentations and reports were very valuable, demonstrating significant progress throughout the course,” explains David Maywald, a Non-Executive Director at SolarShare.
SIP was shortlisted for a 2021 Wharton-QS Reimagine Education Award, under Presence Learning category. The Awards celebrate innovative approaches that enhance student learning outcomes and employability.
Applications for SIP in Semester 1, 2022 are open until Wednesday 16 February 2022. The business client is CSIRO.
CBE will continue to offer SIP each semester and looks forward to seeing future solutions to business problems encountered by other organisations.
The ANU College of Business and Economics offers an extensive range of specialised programs. Click here for more details.