The Greenhouse – A Nexus of Sustainable Innovation
Wednesday Apr 19,2023 | IIE News
Article by AY2022/23 Semester 2 Greenhouse Student Community Managers
Cheryl Vanessa Devan (Year 3, School of Accountancy), Clement Wong Jing Liang (Year 2, School of Computing and Information Systems), Shanice Ellevina (Year 2, Lee Kong Chian School of Business), Shaune Chow (Y3, School of Socials Science), Khiew Wei Jun (Year 2, Lee Kong Chian School of Business)
From left to right: Clement, Wei Jun, Shaune, Cheryl, Shanice
To avert a climate catastrophe, the world needs to collectively slash emissions to reach net zero by 2050. To attain this insanely ambitious goal, the World Economic Forum puts forth that “reaching that goal will require us to rapidly scale up existing clean energy solutions, develop new ways to make and store clean energy, and explore ways to reverse historical emissions”, through which “technological innovation will play a crucial role at every stage”.
The Greenhouse represents a nexus of sustainable innovation at Singapore Management University. It is situated in SMU Connexion, Singapore’s first large-scale mass-engineered timber development and on-site net zero energy building with its own power generated from a photovoltaic. The Greenhouse is also an incubator of next-gen sustainability innovations aimed at disrupting our carbon-intensive status quo and ushering in the net zero worlds of tomorrow. Among the pillars of sustainability addressed by our incubated start-ups include food waste, climate change, conservation, and empowerment.
The SMU Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IIE) has taken a unique approach to attracting students to be part of The Greenhouse community. Rather than simply providing students with access to the space, IIE has made them active participants in its management and development. Selected students have been appointed as Student Community Managers (SCMs), and they are responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, planning and executing events, and supporting entrepreneurs utilising the space. This hands-on experience not only imparts valuable leadership and management skills but also allows SCMs to develop a deeper understanding of the local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Click on the tabs below to hear from our current batch of SCMs’ take on how The Greenhouse upholds its positioning as SMU’s nexus of sustainable innovation!
- How did you get involved with the SMU IIE’s Greenhouse, and what inspired you to take on a role as a Student Committee Manager?
Cheryl: I came across this role on the Instagram story of one of my professors, who is now an Assistant Director with IIE. I chanced upon it right as I was sourcing for part-time jobs to take on for the semester and was particularly drawn to the events management and community-building opportunities that were offered by this role. I am now about to conclude my second consecutive semester serving as a Greenhouse SCM.
Clement: I happened to chance upon the job opening from the Global Innovation Immersion (GII) Telegram broadcast channel! I had an enjoyable time liaising with the IIE team that supported me throughout my GII summer stint and thought it would be a great community to explore working alongside them while exploring the start-up ecosystem in SMU.
Shanice: I was introduced to this role by my friend who was a student community manager in the previous term. Apart from being a part-time job, the main reason why I wanted to take on this role is to build connections within the start-up community. As an aspiring founder myself, I believe it is important to foster a wide network of connections, who knows, maybe I will meet my co-founder at the Greenhouse!
Shaune: I was first exposed to the Greenhouse as a participant in the Business Innovations Generator (BIG) incubation programme. I thought the community-building efforts done by the SMU IIE team were very meaningful and wanted to be a part of helping build the I&E community in SMU.
Wei Jun: I was introduced to the role by my professor who shared about the job opportunity. I wanted to learn more about the entrepreneurship scene but was unsure of where to start. Then came along this opportunity which I felt would allow me to gain valuable knowledge about entrepreneurship and learn from stakeholders I would meet in the process.
- What are some of the sustainable practices that you try to incorporate into your daily life?
Cheryl: My family and I actively practice recycling at home, and also try our best to bring our own bags whenever we do groceries or shopping to minimise the use of single-use plastics.
Clement: I tend to not ask for plastic bags when I make purchases, provided I have a bag on me and/or can hand carry my items. If I do receive one, I make sure to reuse them in the future (e.g., Trash bags, packing clothes)
Shanice: I try to bring my own bag when shopping for groceries to prevent plastic waste.
Shaune: I try to take more public transport and avoid single-use disposables when “da bao-ing" food.
Wei Jun: I would avoid taking plastic utensils/straws when I’m packing food.
- How has your work in The Greenhouse influenced your understanding of sustainability and environmental issues?
Cheryl: This role has made me realise just how much youths have an advantage in shaping the future of sustainability given that our generation might be slightly more attuned to the challenges and opportunities presented by sustainability issues. I foresee us becoming more responsible consumers, as an increasing number of us adopt habits and make choices to support sustainable practices and products. While the future of sustainability remains complex and rather ambiguous, young people hold the power to shape it by advocating for change and leading by example – I personally have already seen this in action through the young founders behind some of our sustainability-based innovations within The Greenhouse.
Clement: My work in The Greenhouse has deepened my understanding of sustainability and environmental issues, particularly in relation to the role of technological advancements in shaping the future. I believe that the future of sustainability will depend on a combination of factors, including technological advancements, and a continued focus on reducing waste and carbon emissions. I have been personally influenced to stay up-to-date with sustainable technology and how it can be improved and utilised. I believe that this influence is not unique to me and that other young individuals who are passionate about sustainability can also benefit from staying abreast of the latest advancements in this field.
Shanice: As I worked in The Greenhouse, I realised that most start-ups have a strong focus on sustainability and I believe that this is a good direction that we are heading to. As the world faces major environmental challenges such as climate change, it was definitely eye-opening to see how sustainable start-ups and ventures are emerging. This just shows that more and more people are becoming aware of the existence and effects of climate change.
Shaune: The work in The Greenhouse is very broad-based as we manage a community that looks to build impact that might not just lie in the start-up space. But definitely, one insight that I got out of my stint here was how you don't have to be specifically in the sustainability space to care about creating a better world, every company and organization can and needs to think about sustainability within the circles they touch.
Wei Jun: This role has opened my eyes to the urgency of sustainability problems as we do see more and more ESG-related start-ups and initiatives. You would be surprised at the insights you gain when speaking to start-up founders as compared to researching the problems online.
While more needs to be done, the future of sustainability looks promising as awareness of the urgency to address climate change is definitely growing through initiatives such as COP27. ESG has become a buzzword even among young people. I believe young people can leverage social media to encourage sustainable behaviors and increase awareness of sustainability. It is critical for young people to look at sustainability from a new perspective and to continuously innovate to develop solutions that will help us achieve our global targets.
- Finally, as a Student Community Manager of The Greenhouse, what is your biggest takeaway or learning experience, and what advice would you give to students who are interested in applying for this role?
Cheryl: As an SCM, my biggest takeaway has been the importance of community building. I have had the privilege to forge many valuable connections with various members of our innovation ecosystem, from start-up founders to VCs and corporates. These connections have exposed me to new ideas, resources, and support, and given me the confidence to potentially pursue my own venture in the future. Apart from these connections, I have also had the opportunity to forge new friendships with my fellow SCMs, who have definitely made the job far more enjoyable 😊 I would advise interested students to be open to networking and collaborations, given that growing partnerships is a large part of this role. While the job might get taxing at times, it is most certainly a rewarding experience too.
Clement: The biggest takeaway from my role has been the opportunity to meet and converse with like-minded individuals who share an entrepreneurial drive. As an SCM, we’re tasked with event planning and management. Thanks to that, I’ve had multiple instances where I have rubbed shoulders with event organizers and attendees from various backgrounds, ranging from fellow students interested in the innovation space to C-suite or director-level individuals who have graced our events. It has been a pleasure to learn nuggets of information by stepping out of my comfort zone and engaging in conversation with these individuals. I’m then able to pick out the most appropriate knowledge and insights gained from these interactions and apply them to my own life and career, whilst further developing my entrepreneurial skills and mindset.
Shanice: I learned how to better liaise and communicate with external stakeholders, and solve problems promptly as it occurs. I believe these skills are transferable skills that anyone can apply in school or the future workplace. Honestly, my advice is just to come in with a mentality to learn and try to bond with your fellow SCMs as much as possible! I met amazing friends here and I wouldn’t have met them if I did not apply for this role.
Shaune: I really enjoyed the community-building aspects of my stint as an SCM. It was really fun and eye-opening to meet new and interesting people and organise initiatives to bring people together and see the exciting things that come out of it. I was very inspired by how willing people were willing to give back to and help build the community here at The Greenhouse. If I were to give a piece of advice, I’d say definitely to make the most out of all the autonomy and support you are given as an SCM to roll out the ideas that excite you and meet the people that inspire you!
Wei Jun: Even if you are a blank sheet, take the first step and expose yourself to the entrepreneurship scene. As an SCM, I had the opportunity to meet and learn the mindsets of industry professionals ranging from corporate leaders to top management in venture capitalists. If you’re lucky, they might even offer you an internship. Personally, I was able to secure an internship with a start-up by applying the knowledge I learned while listening to talks and engaging with the various stakeholders. 😊
Inspired to make a difference? 💪 Submit your resume to thegreenhouse [at] smu.edu.sg and join our team at the forefront of innovation and entrepreneurship at SMU!