Vito Volpe, CEO of Santander Germany, took the opportunity to say a few words of greeting to the student initiatives and RWTH representatives.
Collective Incubator / Heike Lachmann

Innovative Solutions for Urgent Social and Ecological Problems

Student Founders Want to Create Social Impact

Earlier this year, the two board members of Santander Germany, Vito Volpe and Fernander Silva, visited RWTH Aachen University to agree on close cooperation between the two organizations. During the tour of the Collective Incubator on the Jahrhunderthalle campus on Jülicher Straße, they signed a cooperation agreement together with the rector of RWTH Aachen University, Professor Ulrich Rüdiger. This agreement aims to promote research and teaching as well as scientific activities through cooperation in the areas of education, technology as well as in areas of an institutional nature. Part of the visit to the Collective Incubator was also a project showcase where projects that are already being funded presented their progress. As early as 2020, the conception of the Social Entrepreneurship Program had begun to consider how Santander Universities could support RWTH and its students in a non-profit way.

Supporting Social Entrepreneurship With Project Grants

The Social Entrepreneurship Program at RWTH Aachen University started in 2021 and it is an initiative to promote technology-oriented social entrepreneurship. The program is funded by Santander Universities with 100,000 euros annually and it provides students with the resources that they need to develop innovative solutions to pressing social and environmental problems. To date, 24 projects with very different subjects have been supported by project grants that are worth almost 200,000 euros.

Social entrepreneurship is an increasingly important area that has the potential to drive forward positive change in society. By supporting relevant programs, universities can help students apply the skills and knowledge that they acquire during their studies. The Social Entrepreneurship Program at RWTH Aachen University plays an important role in this respect, as it enables students to tackle social problems and implement their ideas independently. At the same time, it can create jobs and promote economic growth.

By providing support through project scholarships, the Social Entrepreneurship Program helps students focus entirely on developing and implementing their vision.  

From Innovative Housing to Sustainable Energy Supply and IT Education

The program has already funded more than 20 projects in a wide range of areas. Among them is Ohemaa Green Housing, which won the bid in the summer semester of 2021. The goal of this project is to address the lack of affordable and sustainable housing in Ghana. For this purpose, housing units are manufactured from recycled plastics using a modular construction method. In this way, the project also contributes to solving the rampant waste problem.

The Enevra project of Enactus Aachen won in the winter semester of 2021. This team develops prostheses for people who are missing limbs. Many people in Uganda do not have access to medical prostheses due to the lack of health care and are therefore at risk of discrimination, exclusion and unemployment. The project aims to solve the problem of disability in low-income social classes by providing affordable prostheses.

The winner in the 2022 summer semester was Team Recycoal from Enactus Aachen, a project that aims to develop low-tech solutions to produce coal from biomass waste. By doing this, they produce fuel for a sustainable energy supply.

Last semester, IT4Kids won the Social Entrepreneurship Program. The project aims to give children the opportunity to learn programming as early as in elementary school. For this purpose, it provides specially developed learning software and it trains teachers by using train-the-trainer concepts.

Innovative and Entrepreneurial Work at all Levels

The Social Entrepreneurship Program was brought about by the team of the Collective Incubator, the joint innovation platform for students, researchers, as well as companies at RWTH Aachen University and it is implemented in close cooperation with the Central University Administration and the Chair of Entrepreneurship. In the Collective Incubator, founders will find a co-working and maker space on almost 4,000 square meters of space and they can also benefit from versatile support for their start-up. This is a student initiative that has been supporting social engagement and entrepreneurship at Aachen universities since 2019.

Thanks to the special commitment of Santander Universities, numerous projects can be promoted that not only offer concrete social and entrepreneurial added value, but which also allow students to gain many important experiences.

RWTH Rector Professor Ulrich Rüdiger (left) and Vito Volpe sign the cooperation agreement.
Collective Incubator / Heike Lachmann
After signing the contract, the representatives of RWTH and Santander Germany pose for a final group photo.
Collective Incubator / Heike Lachmann

– Authors: David Beumers