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Industry Project 2023/2024: Expanding Sustainable Foam Across New Markets

The IDBM Industry Project Course involves seven exciting months of multidisciplinary collaboration, exploration, and innovation, in addressing real-life challenges provided by industry partners. This year, we want to take you along with us on this journey by meeting our 12 project teams at different points in their process – from research to prototyping and final concept development!

Snippets from the student team's research trip to Stuttgart, Germany

For this interview, we met up with the student team working with the startup, Woamy. Woamy is a spinout from Aalto University, producing 100% recyclable, exceptionally strong, and lightweight foam. The student team, consisting of Tilda (TECH), Anitha (TECH), Chu (ARTS), Jere (BIZ), and Nguyen (BIZ), has been presented with the challenge of expanding Woamy’s offerings across new markets.

This industry project is one of two startup collaborations as part of our EIT-HEI Initiative project INCREDIT, focusing on interdisciplinary entrepreneurial education in Deep Tech.

The team's project status at the time of the interview

You are currently in the exploration phase of your project. Can you share insights into the progress and activities you've undertaken so far?

Team Woamy: As the first step of our research, we attended a foam expo in Stuttgart, Germany. Even though part of our team has a chemical engineering background, no one of us specializes in foam. So first, we needed to know exactly what goes on in the industry. And, despite doing preliminary research, we were stunned by the number of exhibitors and use cases.  While one might spontaneously associate foam with packaging, we realized that it is literally everywhere. There are so many applications of foam, from cars and helmets to floors!

During the expo, we mainly conducted interviews, approaching people to tell us about what is current in the foam industry. We specifically looked out for players and information on sustainability in the industry since most foam is made of different types of plastics and polymers that often do not recycle well.

Since we came back, we have been shifting our focus from studying the product to gathering data on different types of marketing within the foam industry. Right now, we are slowly digging deeper into some topics around marketing in the foam industry and connecting them to each other.

So, as for our process, we are diverging. We have not put a pin on anything. We are going through all possibilities so that, later, we can concentrate on certain topics and diverge within those, again.

Team Woamy outside of the Foam Expo Europe in Stuttgart

What were the most significant project highlights and lessons up to this point?

Team Woamy: Traveling as a team, we learned a lot about each other and our personal interests. Now, when we have meetings, we can connect to that.

Also, it was a highlight to see a startup working. When we went to the first Woamy meeting unlike what I have known from corporates, it felt like a home. It was like a company where people knew each other, but it is still a company with structures. It is the environment in which you have structure and freedom at the same time.

Considering learnings, we learned a lot about foam and marketing. I think we are now able to write a research paper on foam. And, another big learning was the networking at the expo. When we first started, we were a bit shy but eventually learned how to approach people, tap into their interests, and dig deeper. It was a special challenge for us, as we went there as students and not clients.

How has it been working in a multidisciplinary team on a deep tech topic?

Team Woamy: There are a lot of benefits to learning from each other. For example, at the expo, our team members with business backgrounds had an easier time talking to people. But at the same time, they got to learn how much goes behind a product. When they heard new technical terms from experts, they could later ask the engineers in our team to explain what they meant.

And now, that we are looking more into marketing, the business and design students in our team can share their knowledge. If you are inexperienced in something, having someone with more expertise in your team helps you to get comfortable faster.

What are you looking forward to in your upcoming process?

Team Woamy: The answers to this question are probably pretty individual, but all in all, we are excited to work on a real-life case. At the end of this, we want to know the process towards a good business outcome from start to end. From prior IDBM courses, we got the theory and tools – now we get to apply them and get comfortable with them.

Also, we want to learn how to see things from different disciplinary angles and thereby gaining more confidence in what we are doing.

Learn more about the team

Tilda (IDBM TECH student with a background in chemical engineering) LinkedIn

Anitha (IDBM TECH student with a background in chemical engineering) LinkedIn

Chu (IDBM ARTS student with a background in industrial design) LinkedIn

Jere (IDBM BIZ student with a background in customer experience) LinkedIn

Nguyen (BIZ) student with a background in operations research and supply chain management

Curious to learn more about our Industry Projects this year? Keep an eye on our blog and social media to get to know the other teams!

Author: Nicole Hußmann


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