Category Archives: MBA

MBA Strategic Consulting Program heads to Singapore

A team of Foster students recently traveled to Singapore for an MBA Strategic Consulting Project. The following is an account by Kyle Sullivan (MBA 2014) of his experiences there and observations of the city-state.

Foster MBA students in SingaporeIt’s cold and rainy in Seattle; typical winter conditions. It’s hard to imagine I was enjoying 85-degree weather just a few weeks ago in Singapore.

Despite having lived in Asia for an extended period, I had never visited Singapore before. My friends often described it as uneventful, that it had none of the dynamism of China or Hong Kong; “Asia lite,” they would call it. I could not disagree more.

From the moment we landed, I noticed a sense of significance about the place. Driving westward into town along Singapore’s East Coast Parkway (ECP), parallel to the waterfront, it is all but impossible to ignore the armada of container ships lingering in the Singapore Strait. A few miles down the road, the view of the ships becomes obscured by an army of quay cranes towering above the Port of Singapore, Asia’s second largest port. Adjacent to the port, gleaming skyscrapers bearing the names Standard Chartered, HSBC, and Microsoft press up against Singapore’s Marina Bay. Surrounded by so much commercial activity, it feels as if you are in the center of the world.

I traveled to Singapore with a team of three classmates—Noah, Shalini, and Lisa—to work on a project for a Washington-state manufacturing company. The company had been exploring the possibility of opening a warehouse in Singapore in order to be closer to its customers in Asia Pacific. Our task was three-fold: gather information about the local market for the company’s products, assess the local real estate market, and make connections with headhunters. The project’s intent was to inform the client company about the most appropriate way to set up an operation in Singapore.

SingaporeIt was a busy ten days for us, packed with meetings, dinners, and networking events. One of the key takeaways from our meetings with various business partners was that there are very clear trade-offs for conducting business in Singapore. For example, business registration is conducted online and takes a matter of hours (whereas in China it can take more than six months), laws and regulations are evenly enforced, and the corporate income tax rate is a flat 17 percent. The downside is that the average price for a warehouse is roughly triple the price in Seattle, and annual wage increases are some of the highest in Asia Pacific.

One of the most interesting meetings was with a company called Mapletree, which is one of Singapore’s largest industrial property management firms. We met with a man named James, who heads up marketing for Mapletree’s industrial property division, to hear his expertise on Singapore’s industrial property market and to understand his company’s portfolio of warehouse properties. As we were wrapping up the conversation, out of curiosity I asked James for his opinion about what country in Asia Pacific will be the next major driver of growth for industrial property sales. He paused for a moment, and grinned. Waiting in suspense, as if he was about to divulge a closely guarded secret, he simply replied, “Indonesia.”

Learn more about the MBA Strategic Consulting Program at the Foster School.

Study abroad photo contest winners for 2013

Over 300 University of Washington Foster School of Business undergraduate and MBA students studied or interned abroad last year.  These photos and short descriptions are a small taste of the transformative educational experiences these students have each year.  The UW Global Business Center held a competition for the best student photos in two categories:

  1. Foster Abroad: Photo that inspires others to study abroad or makes a statement about the student experience abroad
  2. My Global Lens: Views uniquely accessible to students living abroad – social issues, cultural interactions, landscapes, etc.

1st Place Foster Abroad: Kurt RiRicketts_India_FAcketts, Undergraduate; India Business Exploration Seminar

Namaste: What I didn’t expect was that by the end of my visit, India would have me in her grip, refuse to let go, and in exchange for my experience, instill a drive in me that would demand a call to action.

Experience abroad: What an experience. You expect to be challenged, but you don’t expect to be awakened.

 

 

bell_brazil_FA2nd Place Foster Abroad: Kainen Bell, Undergraduate; Brazil Business Exploration Seminar

A Dream Come True: This moment was surreal because ever since high school my dream was to travel to Brazil, but I didn’t think it was possible because no one in my family or community had ever done so. Despite my circumstances I heavily pursued my dream and was accepted in the Brazil program,  received scholarships to pay for it, and was the first in my family to study abroad and now I am a living proof that dreams really do come true, but you can’t be afraid to pursue them.

Experience abroad: My Study Abroad Experience in Brazil was life changing. During the trip my perspective was changed. I saw how essential it was for the Brazilian to learn other languages to and know about global news, while I just knew English and a little Spanish. It made me value different languages and cultures more.  Meeting with Brazilian students was a great experience and cultural exchange – even though we were from different parts of the world, we could still relate to each other and have fun. Overall, I was inspired by this trip and mind blown.

Marks_Argentina_GL1st Place My Global Lens: Kate Marks, Undergraduate; Buenos Aires, Argentina

Convergence: Argentina struggles to reconcile their “dirty” past of military dictatorship with the hopeful future the election of Pope Francisco brings to the country. Taken March 24, 2013, the day of national remembrance of the “disappeared persons”, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Experience abroad: Living and studying in Argentina gave me an unparalleled perspective of what it is like to live with an unstable government and economy. Populism is still alive and well in Argentina, well after the fall of many other Latin American military dictatorships. I spoke with and befriended many young people who see a different future for their country–which now seems possible with the election of the first ever South American (specifically, Argentine) pope. The convergence of Argentina’s violent and unstable recent history with the new movement towards democracy and change created a dynamic and complicated environment in which to live and observe.

Bozeman_Spain_MGL2nd Place My Global Lens: Ashley Bozeman, Undergraduate; Leon, Spain

Las Medulas: An unexpected gold mine in Northern Spain.

Experience abroad: I had a wonderful experience abroad with my 12 amigas from UW, our loving and caring host families, and awesome Spanish teachers at the UW Leon Center in Leon, Spain. These were some of the most rewarding and fun three months of my college career and I would encourage anyone and everyone to study abroad during their time at the UW.

See all photos submitted for the contest. Judges included over 40 faculty and staff members. Learn more about MBA and undergraduate study abroad opportunities at the Foster School.

On breaking the mould

Guest post by Robert Mercer-Nairne (MBA 1971 and PhD 1989)
Dr. Mercer-Nairne actively seeks “to define how human organization forms and evolves as an expression of evolution as a whole.” His work can be found in novels like The Letter Writer, set in Bellevue, WA, to more recently in regular contributions to the Huffington PostMercer-Nairne currently resides back home in Scotland where he continues to grow beyond his original focus on organization theory.

Dr. Robert Mercer-NairneProbably the greatest challenge facing the developed world is growth. This is not least because we are unclear what the word means. We have various statistical definitions, such as the augmentation of our gross domestic product—essentially the level of our economic interactions with one another—but our gut instincts tell us that such measures may not address the quality of growth. One example of that is our increasing awareness that the lifestyles we enjoy today may be adversely affecting what our environment will be tomorrow. The post-war notion that we can look forward to a better future for ourselves and our children has become decidedly tarnished.

Probably the greatest challenge facing the academic profession right now is how to escape from its own departmental rigidities so that the challenges facing the human world can be looked at afresh. Are these problems connected? I think so. The expression Breaking the Mould refers to doing something differently, after it has been done in the same way for a long time. In the scientific world, the physicist Thomas Kuhn called these mould-breakings ‘paradigm shifts’. Because of their fundamental nature, they inevitably upset a lot of careers laboriously built upon the old way of seeing things. Consequently their heralds, like the three kings, are invariably dismissed as being weirdoes, troublemakers or just plain delusional.

In most walks of life, the line between maverick and idiot is narrow. Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff is a buffoon whose comic utterances often embody a wisdom which would be unpalatable to the status quo without humor. In his short story The Emperor’s New Clothes, Hans Christian Anderson uses the innocence of a child to puncture the crowd’s acceptance of the emperor’s sartorial magnificence (two swindlers make him an ‘invisible suit’ that can be ‘seen’ only by the worthy and naturally his sycophantic subjects see it even though there is nothing there). Philosophers occasionally debate whether the sane are insane and the insane sane. And even the scientific quest for objective reality can be subverted by the context within which a scientific question is phrased.

My own area of interest – the nature of structure in the evolutionary process—spans every discipline imaginable qualifying me for the accolade insane idiot, although I would prefer maverick. What I am fairly certain of, however, is that while we need the mould—without structure we have nothing – we must pay far more attention than we do to the process whereby moulds are broken and new moulds are formed. And unless you believe in a deterministic universe (and I certainly don’t) space must be left for the creative impulse to work—in politics, in business, in academe.

In the twentieth century we allowed ourselves to be led seriously astray by the false assumption that there was such a thing as inevitable social progress which overrode any moral notion of individual right or wrong. Structure always and everywhere is a function of context. In the conscious, human world, that context is shaped by our values. Start there and growth suddenly becomes limitless and sacred cows (or sacred moulds) less sacred.

Perfect is the enemy of good

The Evening MBA Program recently hosted its first ever case competition for the second-year Evening MBA students. The competition served as an opportunity for students to apply what they learned in their first-year core classes toward a simulated business case. This year’s case was developed by Sadie Raney, a third-year Evening MBA student. The winning team, comprised of Garin Wedeking, Abhi Thinesh Rathinavelu, Michael Pamphlet, Brad Waidelich and Derek Zahajko, has shared what helped them succeed.

EveMBACaseCompWhat did you learn from the competition?
This felt like a round of “speed-dating” with our new group. It gave us an opportunity in a week’s time to identify team members’ strengths and quickly discover how to best work together. The best trait we share is that none of us needs to be in charge for any reason other than to get the project done. We have quickly learned how to let each other take the reins, as well as to give each other space and time at one’s discretion with the understanding that everyone is overbooked. It’s a fact of grad school.

What made your team successful?
We set early expectations of what we were going to do, and then each executed on our commitments. Those expectations were not equal in work load, but that didn’t matter. When you start keeping score you make room for excuses. To quote a teammate “All (five) of us should be pulling 25%.” The trick is actually doing that.

How could you apply what you learned in the competition to your job?
Since the case intentionally provided little detail, it forced our team to quickly and rationally make assumptions and move forward. We could have chosen to jump down rabbit holes in order to make real-world parallels, but we didn’t think that would create a better product in the end. This parallels the real-world in that sometimes time-sensitive situations or opportunities arise where rapid action is required and time is not available to acquire more data or more data may simply not exist.

Did it teach you to think about business issues in a different way?
Often times we have the inclination to think there is only one right answer. In this case, all three options could have been viable options for the company. It came down to the rationality behind the option and ultimately the ability to execute on the idea within the time frame. Parfait est l’ennemi du bon.

Learn more about the Evening MBA Program.

Get started early on career management

Guest post by Naomi Sanchez, EdD, CMC, Assistant Dean, MBA Career Management

MBA Career Day at StarbucksEmployers are meeting with incoming MBA students before classes start and internship recruiting has been pushed back into early fall. Year-round networking is required for students in today’s job market. Why? Competition for companies to find the best and brightest is fierce. MBA students are entering a competitive job market and preparation for the interview season starts early. At Foster, we offered several summer workshops on professional brand development, interviewing skills and resume preparation. We also held a special summer orientation for incoming international students to prepare them for recruiting. MBA students will need to have both hard and soft skills to be successful in today’s job market. They must be able to articulate who they are, what they have to offer and what they want to accomplish in their career. Though it may seem simple, considerable preparation for this conversation is required. We teach the three Cs to students: Competence, Confidence and Connections. They need to be strong in all three to find the next step in their career. And they must start building and developing themselves for this challenging job market as soon as they arrive. In light of this competitive landscape, here are my three pieces of advice for the MBA Class of 2015:

  1. Know your professional brand
  2. Have the drive to make things happen
  3. Write thank you notes regularly

Thank you to Starbucks for hosting Career Day for the MBA class of 2015 on Friday, September 13.

Rotary First Harvest: adapting to new bylaws

Guest post by Laura Peirano, 2012-2013 Board Fellow

The Consulting & Business Development Center’s Board Fellows Program places Foster MBA and Evans School MPA students as non-voting board members of local nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit agencies participating in the program reach diverse communities with different passions and interests.

At the annual Net Impact conference in Portland in fall of 2011, I met Benjamin Rasmus who works for the nonprofit Rotary First Harvest (RFH). RFH locates surplus produce, coordinates the harvesting, packaging, and distribution of it in order to solve two problems: leftover crops that go to waste and hungry Americans in need of nutrition. I’m very passionate about nutritious food and the food system in America, so I asked Benjamin if RFH would want to partner with the UW Board Fellows Program. We had a group meeting and decided it was a great fit and I became the Board Fellow.

As a Board Fellow for Rotary First Harvest, I attended RFH’s strategic planning meeting in September along with many RFH Board of Directors meetings from May 2012 to May 2013. As part of the UW Foster School of Business Board Fellows 2012-2013 Nonprofit Board Leadership Seminar, I also attended twelve hours of class sessions during which I learned about nonprofit strategic planning, structural analysis, effective Board governance, and changing Board structures.

In order to get to know the way RFH works first hand, I volunteered at several work parties to help pack produce at Northwest Harvest and volunteered at the local food bank. The Northwest Harvest facility is clean, with an abundance of volunteers wearing hairnets and gloves, working tirelessly while chatting, laughing and getting to know each other. I was impressed by how easy it seemed to package food for 100,000 meals in four hours.

The University Food Bank receives produce from Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline, so a portion of the fruits and vegetables there go through RFH on the way. When I volunteered at the University Food Bank, I was able to witness the supply chain in action, as well as the people who are benefitting from this nonprofit’s amazing work. After sorting donated produce and organizing it in the food bank store, I helped check out customers and bag their groceries. It was rewarding to see people who would not have access to this food without the Food Bank picking out their food for the week. Rotary First Harvest plays its part by making sure more of the food available comes from wholesome fruits and vegetables.

There are hundreds of nonprofits in Washington State, and only thirty-six of them were selected to participate in the UW Board Fellows Program. Of all of these strong nonprofits, Rotary First Harvest has one of the highest functioning and successful Boards in the program, which made it difficult to find a topic with problems to solve. Since RFH recently updated its bylaws, I decided to focus on the transition from the old bylaws to the new bylaws and on ways that the transition could be more successful. My recommendations include evaluating the level of Board involvement, using metrics to evaluate Board success, and engaging the Advisory Board.

Rotary First Harvest Board of Directors is a successful, strategic and nimble Board that has identified and taken steps to correct the problems that have arisen. The fact that the bylaws are frequently reviewed and updated shows that the Board is continually looking for ways to improve. I presented my findings and recommendations in May 2013 to the Board of Directors. My recommendations suggest ways that the Board can continue to be successful and even exceed expectations. It was a great experience working with the board, learning how a board functions and how their strategic objectives shape the success of the nonprofit.

Foster Idea Lab participants brainstorm sustainable solutions

Looking for a challenge? How about trying to cut total emissions from the global commercial aviation fleet in half—even as it doubles from 20,000 to a projected 40,000 planes—by 2050.

That tall order is the very real pledge of the world’s aviation industry.

And leading the quixotic charge is the Boeing Company, whose Bill Glover provided the keynote for the 2013 Foster Idea Lab, a kind of high-level sustainability brainstorming session hosted by Net Impact at the University of Washington Foster School of Business.

Glover, the vice president of global business development and policy at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, offered a portal into his firm’s efforts to produce more efficient, lower-emitting aircraft through innovative on-board technologies, smarter materials and an all-out push to develop a jet-worthy renewable fuel.

He recounted Boeing’s catalytic effort to drive the first successful biofuel-powered commercial airplane flight, and its legacy in thousands of subsequent test, demonstration and commercial biofueled flights in the past few years.

“Now we need to industrialize it,” Glover said. “Make this work on an industry-wide scale to drive down the carbon footprint of aviation. That’s one of the great opportunities that we have. We’re at the beginning, and we have a long way to go.”

High-level brainstorm

Facing the big challenges of sustainability was the theme of the Idea Lab. Some 40 senior sustainability officers from a wide range of companies huddled with each other and with Foster MBA students to cross-pollinate solutions to the challenges of their organizations to operate more sustainably. Among the organizations participating were Microsoft (the Idea Lab sponsor), Boeing, Starbucks, Amazon, T-Mobile, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many others.

The event was organized by the Foster School’s chapter of Net Impact, the international MBA organization devoted to inspiring a new generation to use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest social and environmental problems.

National Champs

Foster MBAs won the national Net Impact Case Competition in 2011 and 2013, and reached the finals in 2012. At the Idea Lab, Gabe Jones, Ryan Scott and Chris Walker of the winning team reported on the school’s most recent victory this past February at the University of Colorado.

The case challenged student teams to navigate Newmont Mining’s efforts to begin mining gold in a fictional African nation. The Foster team’s winning solution was centered on the creation of a Trusted Partners Program—a kind of independent escrow account managed by Newmont executives, stakeholders from local and national government, and NGO partners—that would manage profit sharing to benefit both company shareholders and local residents in the areas of environmental, social and educational.

The plan was simple, feasible and implementable. Said Scott: “The question we kept asking ourselves was, what will the board do next week? After we finish our presentation, can the board actually act on this? I think that’s what earned us the win.”

Water, plastics, and dirty data

Foster Net Impact’s faculty advisor Elizabeth Stearns closed the event with a bracing reminder of our rampant overuse of water, plastics and “dirty” data.

The senior lecturer pointed out the tens of gallons of water it takes to produce a cup of coffee or glass of wine, the hundreds of gallons to produce a t-shirt or can of beer, and the thousands to produce a pair of blue jeans or a bar of chocolate.

And she challenged anyone who produces packaging to consider the effect of plastics—300 million tons produced annually, 90 percent of which can be recycled but only 10 percent that is recycled.

Stearns called for a new paradigm. “It’s not enough to recycle,” she said. “We should be focusing on upcycling—the cradle-to-cradle creation of something for the expressed purpose of later being reused, perhaps as something else.”

As for dirty data, Stearns reported that the computing industry and the “cloud” are consuming 623 billion kilowatts of energy and 5.5 billion gallons of water annually, producing 50 million tons of toxic e-waste, and emitting 680 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions—2-3 percent of the world’s total emissions.

“We have to start rethinking our business processes in every industry,” she said. “If we don’t, we won’t have a business.”

But Stearns also pointed out that there are “lots of wonderful solutions out there.” As exemplars, she cited Singapore’s successful gray-water-to-drinking-water company NEWater, the collapsible, upcyclable container used by Japan’s I LOHAS, and the comprehensively sustainable Belgium-based cleaning products company Ecover.

“When you work in sustainability, it’s easy to feel that there isn’t a way out, that the situation is hopeless,” Stearns said. “But the people in the room are already convinced that we have to do things more sustainably. We just have to know that we can do things more sustainably.

Global change marketplace: how the GSEC Trade Show brings the world to UW

trade showOver its nine year history, the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition (GSEC) at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business has brought awareness of pressing global issues to thousands of people – student competitors; competition mentors, judges and coaches; university partners; student volunteers; friends, family and supporters. So far, the competition has engaged over 2000 students of diverse educational disciplines and levels from around the world in tackling complex global social problems with entrepreneurial spirit and innovative market-based solutions.

At the competition’s culmination, semi-finalist university student teams (30-60 students per year) from around the world travel to Seattle for a week to learn about social enterprise, receive professional guidance and connections, network with each other and compete for prizes.

GSEC’s cross-cultural exchange is highlighted at the Trade Show, where semi-finalist teams each give their “pitch” to sell their business ideas to Trade Show judges, who act as mock investors, as well as students and community members. They often have prototypes, photos, videos and stories to illustrate the challenges they are facing and the inspirational impacts of their solutions. As a result, these issues become real, even for those who have never experienced them firsthand. Judge Loretta Little explains: “I have always felt and try to teach my kids that we’re citizens of the world. You need to put yourself in other people’s shoes. What better way than to meet people from around the world who are willing to come forward and share problems with you and what they think might be solutions to those problems.”

Teams often use prize money and connections made during GSEC to help launch their business, which can create employment and have other positive social impacts back home. Archived and streaming video of competition events, media coverage locally and in the student competitors’ universities and communities, and even the competitors own blogs and social media extends the education still further – allowing even those who cannot take part in the competition to feel inspired by the innovations being proposed to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Trade Show judge David Parker summed up why he volunteers each year: “The new ideas that are emerging every year from young people – it’s just astounding – they’re already creating patents, engaging with partners for manufacturing new devices, they’ve been able to engage with experts in the geographies of high need that they hope to get their solutions to – I just love seeing that passion, energy and creativity and innovation emerge and I continue to be impressed year after year with the applicants, the competitors and their ideas.”

GSEC is open to currently enrolled degree-seeking students in any discipline, at any level of study, and at any higher education institution worldwide who submits a plan that uses business principles to create a sustainable solution to poverty, health and economic growth in the developing world. Applications for the 10th annual competition are due November 12, 2014. Learn more at http://www.foster.washington.edu/gsec/

Being contrarian and right

Guest post by Sean Murphy, Foster MBA 2014
He attended the Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was organized by Ken Denman, Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Leadership at the Foster School.

The Day of Innovation and Entrepreneurship promised to be an engaging and informative event that I thought might be a good use of a Friday. What it turned out to be was most likely the best day of my MBA experience. Ken Denman brought in an incredible line-up that focused on topics ranging from funding to team creation to the next big themes in business. The day started with a heavy hitter and just kept getting better. Charles Songhurst, Microsoft’s General Manager of Corporate Strategy, spoke about adjacencies and outlined several observations that could be acted upon. There were some common points such as surrounding oneself with those more intelligent/hardworking/ethical than you and the Gladwellian 10k hour metric, but there were also some great insights new to me. One such point was that diplomacy is virtually unknown in the tech industry. Songhurst recommended that practicing empathy, predicting how others will act/react, and adapting to cultural norms of your target will put you at a significant advantage in the tech space. He also drew several observations about founder-led companies and professional management-led companies, arguing that self-cannibalization requires the confidence and vision of a founder. Songhurst spoke of comparing the earnings of founder-led and non-founder-led tech companies and claimed a 15% difference favoring the founders. He suggested a simple investment strategy would be going long on founders and shorting all others. Very interesting way to kick off the day.

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipA series of panels followed. We heard from Ghia Griarte (Saints Capital), Michelle Goldberg (Ignition Partners), and Andrew Tweed (Thomvest Ventures) about how their VCs assess potential opportunities. A common theme from the panel was the delineation of feature, product, and company and how the market appetite is shifting to smaller, simpler bites. On figuring out what a product or service is or offers, Goldberg said, “Don’t make me think.” Another point repeatedly addressed was the growing demand of the enterprise experience to mimic the consumer experience in UX and hardware. Tweed mentioned using consumer trends to predict what might be happening in the enterprise space soon and investing in back-end mechanics that would enable this shift.

We then switched gears to the non-profit world and heard from Kushal Chakrabarti, Doug Plank, and James Gutierrez about changing the non-profit landscape creating sustainable, long-term success. As expected, they were very passionate about their work and got me seriously considering a non-profit path.

Nilofer Merchant spoke next about the evolution of social media and the importance of co-creation in the future. She emphasized the framework of openness of ideas as one of the key drivers of growth, citing TEDx and Google’s Android as examples.

After a lunch break we returned to a panel of Marc Barros, Zaw Thet, and Donna Wells on assembling nimble and functionally diverse teams. They all emphasized the importance of your network and their reliance on them for the vetting of potential employees. Curiously, it was mentioned that no matter how many interviews you’ve done or people you’ve hired, it’s still difficult to weed out people that end up not meshing. The fit and attitude of hires was especially highlighted when working with a small team, as one bad apple can wreck the atmosphere pretty quickly.

Day of Innovation and EntrepreneurshipKen Denman moderated the next panel which focused on the next big themes and featured Seth Neiman (Crosspoint Venture Partners), Tim Porter (Madrona Ventures), and Jason Stoffer (Maveron). They got pretty philosophical and were dropping gems left and right. They approached VCs as incubators to test strategic theories about the market. Getting the market direction is difficult enough, but timing was a big theme of this talk as well. The key to making money is being contrarian, and being right. The key to identifying these investments is in looking at adjacencies when the future isn’t immediately accessible. What must happen if the things that are in motion today were to take the next step? There are many supporting steps that must first happen, and these can be very lucrative investments. Neiman mentioned investing in supporting infrastructure during the internet ramp up in the last millennium and saw a $100M fund return $13B. Jaw-dropping, even by VC standards.

Ben Casnocha, co-author of The Start-Up of You, brought the day to a close with a riveting personal story and the idea of applying entrepreneurial business thinking to your life. Setting aside time to read and think, increasing your knowledge every day, earmarking funds for meeting with interesting people; these were all suggestions of how to approach your personal development as you would a business. He encouraged students to consider youth and the opinion of our cohort as our value-add in connecting with senior, experienced leaders. It was a great, inspirational capstone to the day.

The amount of knowledge that came out of this event was mind-blowing. I filled more pages in my notebook in eight hours than I do in an entire quarter of class. An amazing array of brilliant, successful, and humble people took the time to share their thoughts and experience with an eager audience and I couldn’t be more pleased to be in attendance. I don’t know how this could be topped next year, but I will certainly be there to find out. And you should too…

Watch videos of all the sessions.

The paradox of reduce-reuse-recycle

2011 EIC Grand Prize Winner Voltaic shows off their electric vehicle drive train
2011 EIC Grand Prize Winner Voltaic shows off its electric vehicle drive train

Guest post by Daniel Schwartz, Chair, UW Department of Chemical Engineering

When I think Cleantech, my mind goes straight to the triangular logo on my waste container at work: “reduce, reuse, recycle.”  These three words are central to most enduring cleantech innovations, though sometimes in paradoxical ways.  “Reduce” is the most prone to paradox, since reducing one thing generally happens by increasing another. Let’s explore this “reduce” paradox via two well-known examples in that space.

In recent years, Washington has done a good job of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the average American emits 41% more greenhouse gas than the average Washingtonian (2012 State Energy Strategy report). We reduced our emissions by increasing our reliance on hydropower. Here’s where the “reduce” paradox comes in. Increases in hydropower have led to fewer salmon in our waters. Thinking long term, if we want to grow our economy and further reduce our emissions while avoiding consequences like this, we’ll need major innovations in the cost and performance of solar energy and grid-scale batteries. And we’ll need to make sure those innovations don’t lead to a depleted Earth.

The same “increase-to-reduce” paradox holds in transportation. Hybrid and all-electric cars reduce emissions by increasing efficiency. The 787 Dreamliner reduces its fuel use, in part, by adopting the “more electric-aircraft” approach. Innovations in transportation electrification are largely tied to electrochemical energy storage and conversion (batteries, super-capacitors, and fuel cells) as well as control systems that enable vehicle-scale “grids” to operate reliably on their own and when plugged into a utility’s grid. Transportation electrification is currently going through painful growing pains. Have no doubt, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in transportation electrification, but as transportation electrification increases, we need to use foresight to adapt our current electrical infrastructure, or we’ll break it.

My colleagues at the UW Institute for Molecular Engineering and Science are among the leaders charting a sustainable energy pathway that balances technical innovation with the economic and social dimensions of scalable energy. Students, too, are looking at the paradoxes – the potential Achilles heels of cleantech – and finding potential for enduring innovations. I am looking forward to seeing how students at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge apply their understanding of cleantech and “reduce, reuse, recycle” – paradoxes and all—  to innovations that will improve our world.