Our MSc Sustainable Energy Systems student Kassandra Byaruhanga along with team mates from the School of Geosciences and the Business School recently came runner-up (second) of around 120 teams worldwide in the prestigious Kellogg-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge.
The win was a joint success for Kassandra, Lauren Chin (MSc Energy, School of GeoSciences) and Marcell Bozsik (MSc Climate Change Finance and Investment, Business School) who made up the ‘Fund for E-Buses’ (FEB) team.
The Sustainable Investing Challenge is a global competition which challenges graduate students to come up with creative, investment-based solutions to a range of environmental issues. Structured as a pitch competition, the Challenge focuses on developing investment vehicles which drive positive environmental or social change while yielding competitive financial returns.
Kassandra, Lauren and Marcell were among 414 students representing 87 different educational institutions and 50 countries who entered the competition this year, beating off strong competition to win the $5,000 runner-up prize.
The team’s proposal sought to accelerate the adoption of electric buses (e-buses) in The Netherlands by creating a solution for the second-life application of expensive e-bus batteries, using a leveraged fund financed by private equity and asset investors.
Geosciences student Lauren Chin explained: “Our team focused on a problem that we see key in today’s climate crisis: public transit pollution. We decided to focus on this topic after brainstorming and realising that we all faced the same problem no matter which country we were from or where we were based, something that was made more evident by the fact that we never actually met up in person due to COVID!
“Although e-buses are three times less polluting than normal petrol buses, large-scale e-bus adoption has yet to fully occur due to high upfront costs, particularly around the battery.
“Through FEB’s leasing strategy, we provide bus operators a leasing solution that both overcomes battery hurdles for e-bus adoption in addition to creating a second life value in the form of battery reuse for stationary energy storage. The second life aspect of our proposal is really important to us as it creates a more sustainable value chain leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.”
“Driver for sustainable development”
Commenting on her competition experience, Kassandra said: “Whether it was working within a dynamic team with Lauren and Marcell, interacting with the other competitors and Kellogg-Morgan Stanley organisers, or networking with experts from across the world, participating in the Challenge was a surprisingly humbling experience full of unique learning opportunities.
“I was privileged to represent Uganda and the University of Edinburgh at that level and being recognised as runner’s up reminded me of the important position I now hold as a graduate to be a driver for sustainable development globally.”
The team is currently discussing among themselves and with mentors formed throughout this competition what the next steps will be.