Birzeit Business Hub announces 2018 Green Competition winners

Five teams of students from a number of Palestinian universities were chosen as the winners of the 2018 Green Competition, organized by the Business Hub at Birzeit University, on Thursday, September 27, 2018. 

The award ceremony was held at Birzeit University’s Center for Continuing Education in Ramallah, and featured representatives from the local community and official organizations, green entrepreneurs, donor community delegates, development and environmental activists, and Birzeit University staff and students.

Vice President for Planning and Development at Birzeit University Dr. Ziad Mimi stressed the importance of ecological reforms to the whole country and the university’s community in particular and highlighted how the Green Competition fits neatly within the university’s mission, vision, and social responsibility.

“The Green Competition is one of our contributions toward repairing the damaged environmental ecosystem of our country,” said Mimi. “While Palestine is facing global environmental challenges, our inner policy and economic situation are not geared toward repairing the worsening environment.”   

Mimi emphasized the university’s major achievements in adopting eco-friendly practices. For example, he noted, Birzeit University was the first Palestinian university to adopt fully-computerized administrative and financial systems - nearly eliminating the paper waste associated with old-fashioned systems. 

He added that Birzeit University plants new trees in and around the campus each year and remains one of the greenest campuses. The new solar heating and cooling system currently being installed will allow for a full switch to renewable sources of energy next year. 

Giacomo Miserocchi, the EU representative, remarked that the EU supports and encourages “Sustainable Economic Development” initiatives which fall under the core tenets of the 2017 - 2020 European Joint Strategy. 

“The B-Hub aims at assisting local companies to overcome operational challenges, developing contemporary competencies of university students, and promoting social and green practices as fundamental and necessary for managing the business in the local context where unsafe ecology, unequal society, and unfair employment practices are widespread,” said Miserocchi. 

He added that the Green Competition encourages students to design green initiatives which change how companies do business and raise awareness on lifestyles that help protect the local ecosystem and conserve resources. 

Addressing the attendees, Miserocchi said that the competition was a win for all parties involved - Birzeit University, the B-Hub, and the participants - noting that such initiatives will only bring more attention to the environment. “In times of hardship, it is human to give the best with your intellectual capacities,” he told the participants, urging them to keep on giving for the sake of the environment. 

Zaghloul Samhan, director general of policies and planning at the Environment Quality Authority, congratulated the B-Hub and Birzeit University on the Green Competition, calling it a measure that works directly to protect the Palestinian environment and ecosystem. 

Samhan also gave a brief overview of the Environment Quality Authority, which he said was an official agency tasked with protecting and sustaining the Palestinian environment. “The authority works hand in hand with members of the private sector, universities, businesses, and the public sector to safeguard the environment and achieve the sustainable development goals,” he noted. 

Dr. Osama Mimi, head of the Learning Innovation Unit at the Center for Continuing Education, congratulated all the participants and announced the winners, who were presented with their awards by the EU representative. 

The first prize grants a learning trip to Barcelona in Spain and participation in the SwitchMed Connect conference - fully funded by the EU through the B-Hub.

The winners are: Yousef Al Khatib and Aya Sarsour, whose project encourages solid waste collection from households and raises environmental awareness, took first place; Shakir Nairat took second place for his idea on developing solar panels assembly lines, which reduce cost by 25 percent; while the remaining three teams shared third place. 

Asem Atyaneh was awarded the third place for his idea to combat the environmental damage caused by charcoal factories in Jenin by utilizing the gases produced in the coal-making process to create limestone; Mahmoud Abdelkarim and Sundon Dahbour took third place  for their environmentally-focused social platform, where environmentally-conscious individuals can share ideas and exchange experiences; and Salah Abdelrahman, from Gaza, won third place for establishing a process by which the metal found in debris can be broken down. 

The winning teams were selected based on the results of the idea pitching stage by a jury composed of environmental professionals from the Environment Quality Authority: Zaghloul Samhan, Imad Al-Baba, and Yaser Abu Shanab; Birzeit University: Dr. Omar Zimmo, George P Yerousis, Baher Dkeidek; the Palestinian Polytechnic University: Mr. Ali Ramadan; and Chairperson of the Center for Environment – Palestine Wijdan Al-Sharif. 

To participate in the competition, candidates had to show willingness to apply their ideas to the local communities and businesses or to turn the ideas into their own green projects. The B-Hub offered full technical and business support to the teams, including assistance in testing the ideas at Birzeit University’s technical labs, mentoring in idea structuring, and training on how to start a green business. All technical and business services were offered for free within the program funded by the EU.