A team of students from Griffith University’s five-star MBA program has enjoyed remarkable success at this year’s Global Business Challenge finals, taking second place among an overall competitive field comprising 98 teams from 38 universities across 14 countries.
This year hosted by Griffith and administered by the Queensland University of Technology, the fourth Global Business Challenge presented its participants with the project of designing ‘sustainable solutions to global problems’, a challenge to which Wendy Zernike, Erik Malan and Les Adams rose with aplomb through LRES (Long-term Renewable Energy Storage), their concept for making the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
MBA Director Associate Professor Chris Fleming congratulated the team on their competition result, saying that he is “incredibly proud” of their achievement.
“The team has gone to great lengths this year to present a solid business proposal for a product designed to address the global transition to renewable energy,” Associate Professor Fleming said.
“The team’s final product was of an exceptionally high standard and I thank the students for representing the Griffith MBA in the 2017 GBC.”
The students’ LRES solution essentially proposes a means of delivering long-term hydrogen energy storage for remote off-grid and isolated communities, by indefinitely storing solar energy, in solid metal-hydride form, at low pressure and ambient temperature to ensure safety and stability.
Ms Zernike explained that the underlying technology – which is presently in use at the Sir Samuel Griffith Centre, at Griffith’s Nathan campus – presents a viable long-term solution because “it can be stored for days, weeks, months, and doesn’t self-discharge like lithium ion batteries do”.
One of the primary benefits of the LRES proposal is a reduction or removal of the need for diesel generators in remote communities, enabling them to take steps towards 100% renewable energy, of greater reliability, affordability and sustainability than traditional sources.
“The potential to make a global impact shouldn’t be understated.”
“There is huge potential for such a solution at these communities not only in Australia but in other developed and developing countries on a global scale,” Mr Adams said.
“Some 60 per cent of the UN’s sustainable development goals are reliant on access to reliable, affordable and sustainable energy, so the potential to make a global impact shouldn’t be understated.”
The exemplary result is the culmination of almost 10 months’ work for the trio and their supporters, Professor Evan Douglas and graduate mentor Andrew Zaniewski, a previous GBC entrant whose Griffith team achieved third place in 2014’s competition.
“We owe a depth of gratitude to our Alumni mentor, Andrew Zaniewski, who provided invaluable insight and guidance from his own experience,” Mr Adams said. “Andrew was a great help to us for the whole year and kept turning up to our never ending meetings and conference calls to provide guidance.”
Ms Zernike, Mr Adams and Mr Malan first teamed up in February, making their way through the first-round challenge of creating a video pitch and five-page executive summary and navigating challenges of both a practical and physical nature.
“After the finalists were announced, the work only increased; weekly meetings were the norm,” Mr Adams said. “For several months of this period, Erik was travelling internationally, so we became very adept at working virtually and across time zones.”
From a study standpoint, the competition provided the MBA team a chance at “consolidating theory from the MBA subjects and putting it into practice by writing a strategic business case to present at an executive level for investors,” Ms Zernike said.
One of the team’s key strengths, according to Mr Adams, is that its members come from a diversity of backgrounds, providing them with a breadth of insight and experience when it came to crafting their forward-thinking solution.
“I came back to study after 30 years via the Graduate Certificate for Business, then into the MBA program – first in my family to attend university,” Mr Adams said. “Erik was an online MBA student and from a film and media background.
“Wendy is a health professional, who also does work in the Solomon Islands. So, between the three of us, we typify the Griffith University MBA difference, and it looks like we made it work in this GBC result.”
“Group dynamics are obviously a huge part of working under pressure to achieve results,” he added. “This was a key element for us. Just when we thought we’d worked each other out, the pressure of the lock-in phase added another level to how we performed as a group.
“We developed some little tricks and simple techniques to help dissipate stressful interactions and keep us on track. These proved to be one of our most valuable tools.”
“Competitions such as the Global Business Challenge enable MBA students to gain practical experience in developing a product and business plan with real world application.”
With the competition now behind him, Mr Adams has come to view the experience as “very challenging” but “immensely rewarding and fulfilling”.
“Of course, at times, it is also frustrating and draining, but the ability to commit and chase a goal of this nature for a long period is part of the challenge,” he said.
The exceptional outcome further builds on the Griffith MBA’s reputation as an incubator of innovation and progressive thinking, providing opportunities for its students to engage with complex issues in meaningful ways and light the way forward for more socially responsible business practices.
“Competitions such as the Global Business Challenge enable MBA students to gain practical experience in developing a product and business plan with real world application,” Associate Professor Fleming said.
“The premise of this particular competition each year is to find implementable business solutions for relevant global problems relating to topics such as water, food, health and energy.
“The sustainability focus of this challenge is well aligned with the Griffith MBA core values of sustainable business practices, responsible leadership and an Asia-Pacific perspective.”