30. Jan 2023

What if Lab: Students and innovative companies work together to solve challenges in the water industry

What if Lab is a project under the Business Lighthouse for Water Technology. A project created to attract more young people to the water industry and to boost innovation in the field. But how do you get more young students interested in water and water issues? Well, you do it by giving them a challenge, of course.

There are plenty of climate and environmental challenges to tackle and the water sector has plenty of unexplored innovation potential. One of those challenges was delivered by Henrik Truelsen from the startup Dansk Algeplast, who asked in the fall:

What if algae plastic could become the preferred plastic-like material of the future?


Algae under the microscope

Six laboratory and environmental technology students from Aarhus Business Academy took up the challenge. For three months, the students worked intensively on sub-challenges of the topic. They investigated whether the algae and algae plastic contained heavy metals and whether they could be washed or cleaned away? And what impact this has on the company’s wastewater management.

The result required several hours in the lab with various experiments. According to the students, it was an exciting and sometimes challenging task:

We started the project from scratch and came up with our own solutions on how to work with the algae, as it’s something no one has done before. It has been fun, but also a challenging task that has taught us a lot.

Another adds that the exciting thing about the assignment was that the project was not just theoretical, but that the results would actually be used by Henrik from Dansk Algeplast, so they had to make it work.

Good knowledge and useful results

At the end of the project, Henrik from Dansk Algeplast presented the results at a closing session, and he is confident that he will be able to use the results in his work:

I am happy and proud of the results they have managed to deliver in such a short time. These are definitely results that I can use in my future work and that I look forward to sharing in my algae network.

The company and the students have met for a start-up meeting, where Henrik has brought algae and plastic samples, but in addition, What if Lab has been responsible for sparring with the students. Henrik says:

I really feel that I have gained a lot from the collaboration and have given very little in return. It has only required a couple of emails to the students when they have had questions. I would definitely recommend other companies with water challenges to participate in the project.


A unique insight into the industry

In addition to delivering some great results for Dansk Algeplast, the collaboration has also given the students a unique insight into some of the innovation potential in the water sector. A future career path in the water sector is now on the radar, and several of the students have secured internships in the water sector.

Project Manager Maja Kragh from Clean adds:

It has been great to follow the project and to be on the sidelines when the students have had the algae under the microscope in the laboratory. You experience a special spirit in the students when they are given a responsibility and are allowed to work with real-life environmental challenges as they appear in the water sector. I am absolutely certain that this is the way forward if we want to attract a new generation of young talent to the water sector.


To conclude the question; can algae plastic become the plastic of choice in the future? Henrik continues to work on solving one challenge at a time.

What If Lab is part of the Business Lighthouse for Water Technology. The project is 1 of 8 that aim to boost the workforce in the water sector.

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