Brazilians and THUAS students put bakery products on the map in Brazil

Fifteen Brazilian and fifteen THUAS students spent Monday afternoon working on the Challenge of Ideas. They have five days to develop a plan to increase familiarity with the Dutch company Zeelandia – a specialist in bakery ingredients – among 63,000 Brazilian bakeries.

It is 1 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Fifteen THUAS students sit somewhat tensely in front of a huge screen in the Innovation Playground, awaiting a functioning Skype connection with Senai, an educational institution in São Paulo. There, in one of the biggest cities in the world and almost 10,000 kilometres away, fifteen students are also sitting and waiting to take on a weeklong challenge together with the THUAS students.

When the black screen suddenly illuminates, the mood in the room picks up and everyone starts waving and whooping. ‘You’re pioneers!’ cries a proud Brazilian professor. ‘We signed a collaboration agreement with The Hague University of Applied Sciences two-and-a-half years ago and this event is a dream come true. Thank you for your willingness to take on this challenge – it is not an easy one.’

More about that challenge later, but first, why launch this project? Since 2014, with the arrival of President of the Executive Board Leonard Geluk, THUAS decided to collaborate more often with countries in Europe, China and Brazil. A variety of projects have been launched since then (such as this one and this one), but the Challenge of Ideas is a unique event, according to the organisers.

‘We’re always talking about the WIN themes and looking beyond the boundaries of your degree programme. I wanted to practice what I preach,’ explains lecturer of Marketing and co-organiser Jeanette Diepenbroek. ‘This is the first international project involving multiple degree programmes. We have students of Industrial Design Engineering, Business Management Studies, Social Work and Social Services, HBO-ICT, Marketing, International Business and Management Studies and Process & Food Technology, and from dozens of countries, such as Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Romania, Brazil and, of course, the Netherlands. An unprecedented project in other words.’

Back to the challenge. After a few pleasantries are exchanged between THUAS and Senai, it’s time for the main programme. The man who announces the challenge also happens to be a Brazilian representative of the Dutch company Zeelandia, which has a branch in Brazil. The bakery ingredient specialist already has a small share in the Brazilian market and wants to expand that share. But Zeelandia has to contend with dozens of competitors and there are more than 60,000 bakeries. How can Zeelandia come into contact with all those bakeries in an efficient and effective manner?

After the briefing, the students have numerous questions. ‘Is there already a contact system in place?’ ‘Do we need to come up with a strategy for Brazil only?’ ‘Which Zeelandia products are we talking about exactly?’ Another student wonders aloud whether this problem can in fact be solved within a week’s time.

Mariana Segala, 29, is eager to get started at any rate. This fourth-year Process & Food Technology and exchange student from Senai already has a minor advantage over the other students, since this is the second time she’s taken part in such a challenge. ‘Winning is fantastic, of course, but the best part is seeing how everyone comes out stronger afterwards. You can learn a tremendous amount from each other in only a week because you examine a problem together with a range of disciplines – marketing, design, business management, etc.’

A beaming Jeanette Diepenbroek looks on as the groups of students dissipate. ‘This is why we do it. The run-up to the event was not easy because the project cannot be embedded in the daily curriculum, which means that everyone was wondering whether to give the students time off or credit. But I’m very pleased that most lecturers recognise the value of this kind of event and that we’re participating with fifteen highly motivated students.’

Want to see an impression of the Challenge of Ideas? You can do so here: