AU students qualify for the final of the Circle U Challenge

A team of three AU students has won the semifinal of the Circle U case competition. They will now present their winning concept – which will help the people of Aarhus eat in a more climate-friendly way – at the final in Belgrade in 2023.

[Translate to English:] Screenshot fra finalen med juryen og det vindende hold

When the residents of Gotham need help, they light up the night sky with Batman’s winged logo.

It’s not clear whether Aarhus Municipality has ever projected the Circle U logo onto the heavens. But it was certainly happy to ask for help earlier this year when the university alliance announced it was looking for challenges that students could engage with as part of the international case competition Circle U Challenge.

The assignment from the municipality was to develop a model to encourage Aarhus residents to eat in a more climate-friendly way and thus to contribute to its ambition of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.

Participants from around the world on Zoom

“We ended up with a broad field of 26 students from six of the alliance’s universities. They were divided into seven teams, and they completely embraced their assignments. Over a period of a month, they developed some really good concepts, which they pitched with great energy”, explains project manager Merethe Kruse, who also acted as a moderator when the teams presented their ideas to the jury.

This officially took place at an event at AU’s entrepreneurial hub, The Kitchen. But, in reality, most of it happened online, since the participants were located in various different places across the globe.

“In some ways it was a challenge that most of the process took place digitally. But it also gave the students direct experience of working online and completing a creative process across different subject areas and national borders. It’s easy to see how this could be useful for their future careers”, says Merethe Kruse.

Psychology, agrobiology and finance are setting a green example

The three winners also highlight the cross-disciplinary aspect of the process as one of the most rewarding parts of the assignment:

“It has been really exciting to apply my knowledge of psychology to a practical problem related to changing people’s behaviour. And it’s been incredibly valuable to work across different subject areas. In general, there should be much more of this on the programme”, explains Sanne Gudmundsen. Sanne is studying psychology and has been in the USA for the duration of the Circle U Challenge, where she is currently taking a course at Roanoke College in Virginia.

In their winning project, Sanne, Andreas Riisborg (Economics and Business Administration) and Marie-Louise Bengtsson (Agrobiology) developed a concept that will initially run as a pilot project for employees of Aarhus Municipality. In this project, a combination of gamification, recipes and food trucks will get more people to eat in a more climate-friendly and sustainable way. Later, the most effective initiatives will be rolled out to the entire municipality.

Belgrade – and the final – awaits in 2023

The three students didn’t know each other before the competition, but this didn’t present any problems for their online collaboration:

“It has definitely been a different experience, but I am pretty impressed with how well the team worked together. We have different academic backgrounds, and we’re also quite different as people, but I really feel that we all have important competencies to offer,” says Marie-Louise Bengtsson.

The team will now enter into a dialogue with Aarhus Municipality to discuss how the concept can best be rolled out in practice. They will also look into how they can further develop the model in time for the final, which will take place in Belgrade in May. Here the three AU students will compete against the winners of the other five case competitions, whose assignments include developing car-free zones in Oslo and improving the mental health of the residents of the London Borough of Lambeth.