Opening Week: Microchip finds everything

LÜNEBURG. A universally applicable GPS microchip that can help find lost objects—this is the business idea belonging to the winning team of this year’s Opening Week. Around 1,500 first-semester students spent five days confronting the challenges of an aging society as part of the traditional start to the winter semester at Leuphana University of Lüneburg. They were especially concerned with the question of how people in an advanced age can continue to have a vital and fulfilling life. The discussions centered on health care systems, emerging business sectors, and entrepreneurial ideas. The first-semester students discussed their suggestions with numerous international guests and experts from the world of politics, science, and government, including representatives from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, the MIT Media Lab (USA) and the Open Society Foundation.

The project ideas were presented in front of a four-member jury of experts, lead by Christopher Fearne, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health in Malta. The team “Stickons” made the final cut with its idea for a microchip. They are now looking forward to their trip to Brussels, where they will present their idea to politicians and experts of the EU.

The audience prize went to the team “City Scooter.” Building on the urban project for a bicycle sharing service, the young students developed the idea of introducing a similar service for electrically driven scooters. With this idea they wanted to make it possible for older people to enjoy the benefits of increased mobility. The audience prizewinner will receive an invitation to travel to Jordan, where they will learn about the JOHUD-foundation’s work with refugees.

More than 100 teams with up to 15 members each participated in developing ideas for the society of the year 2099. A team of teachers with more than 100 members from 21 countries helped support the projects. This teamwork was made possible thanks to a network Leuphana initiated, called “kenup,” which is just now applying to establish a “Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC) focused on the economic growth potential in demographic change.

The jury praised “the high standards” of the submissions and lauded the young, first-semester students’ creativity. They said it was not easy to chose the prize winners from the many very good submissions, thus the jury unanimously agreed that they could all “be proud” of themselves. In addition to Christopher Fearne, the jury included the President of the Israeli National Academy, Prof. Dr. Ruth Arnon, as well as the tax and finance expert, Katharina von Frankenberg and Klaus F. Jaenecke, an expert in small and medium sized businesses.

According to Holm Keller, who organized the Leuphana Opening Week, the competition reached its goal: “The new students mastered their assignment with a wealth of ideas, creativity, and intense engagement by developing interesting proposals for a better life in an aging society. They will continue to profit later during their studies from the experiences they had in these last days.”

Making their own ideas happen and helping shape the society of tomorrow, these are the university’s expectations of its students, according to Keller. This is why interdisciplinary research into pressing social questions is so important at Leuphana. Hardly any other university offers students so many possibilities in this area.
Opening week at Leuphana University of Lüneburg is one of the outstanding events on the campus located in the ancient Hansa city. In previous years, the first-semester students had gone through major competitions that required them to create start-up companies or develop guiding principles for a new health care system. During another Opening Week, artists from different countries transformed the city of Lüneburg into a street art exhibit, called Artotale.

The Leuphana University sees itself as a public university for the civil society of the 21st century. Its unique study model, the first of its kind in Germany, has received numerous awards. There are more than 8000 young people studying at Leuphana.

You can find a film about this year’s Opening Week here:

You can find further impressions here: