Challenge Garage: the result of bringing young people with innovative ideas to the world of business

“Time to think, and a fresh, untainted view”. According to the three companies participating in the Challenge Garage 2013 at Pompeu Fabra University’s business school, the Barcelona School of Management, this can be the main shortcoming that businesses come up against when the time comes to innovate.

Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC), CaixaBank and Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, SA (CAF) were the three companies participating in this innovative training course, the very aim of which was to fill this gap felt by businesses, while at the same time bringing young M. Sc. students in international business into companies so that they can work with real business challenges, learning by doing. “Sometimes, companies are so immersed in our day-to-day operations that an external, fresh viewpoint like that of these young students can provide you with a different vision and the opportunity to explore new areas”, said Miguel Angel Dombriz, head of New Business at FGC.

Electronic travel cards for the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat
The presentation of Challenge Garage’s winning projects started with Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (the Catalan Government Railway). Laura Bayona, Mariona González and Maria Ivanova proposed substituting the current paper tickets for electronic cards. “We think it would have many benefits: from saving paper and offering the client extra services throughout the journey so that they can make good use of their travel time, to creating a user register that would allow the company to get know the clients, their habits and their needs better, with the aim of keeping them loyal to the company”, they explained. The card would also offer services like language exchanges, meeting spaces, relevant content, breakfast on the go, or even a social network so that users on longer voyages could interact and share interests. Dombriz added that the FGC was already looking at the idea of a smart card. “What was interesting to me was the idea of working towards knowing more about our users. We regularly work to improve the efficiency, functionality or punctuality of the service, but it is true that we know very little about who our users are or what they need, apart from the rail service itself”, he added. In thanks, the three students of the M.Sc. in International Business received a model of an FGC train, as a symbol of the effort put in and the satisfaction gained from a job well done.

Interactive platform to attract partners
The second winning project was by three new students: Muhittin Volkan Erinç and Burka Olçer, both from Turkey, and Jerónimo Parramón from Barcelona. These students presented a more technological project to CAF: creating an interactive platform to enable access to potential new partners or businesses to invest in. The idea of the platform is that a system of filters will help CAF to detect the projects which hold most interest for them. “We are very happy with the result. It has been a very interesting experience, especially since we have been able to work with real companies in real time, instead of simulating practical case studies in the classroom”, said Volkan Erinç and Jeroni Parramón. It is precisely this characteristic which is the major differentiating factor of the Challenge Garage. “This is what we call learning by doing. There is nothing better for learning than practical experience of real challenges, this obliges you to consider the current condition of the market and of society”, explained the tutor of the Challenge, Fernando López Mompó.

Crowdfunding network for CaixaBank
The third project, a daring proposal to create a crowdfunding network for CaixaBank, was presented by Andrea López. With the aim of bringing young people closer to the bank, this network would allow students to present their business projects to CaixaBank clients, who would evaluate them and decide whether or not to invest their savings. “CaixaBank could become the ideal environment in which to connect start-up projects with potential investors with funding capacity” Andrea claimed.

Ana Valenzuela, dean of the Barcelona School of Management, appeared satisfied with the results of this second edition of the UPF business school project. “Fresh ideas, cooperation and creativity are the strategic values that the Challenge Garage aims to provide, in such a way that students can work on concrete business challenges from a multidisciplinary viewpoint”. The Challenge Garage aims to bring students closer to the reality of the business world, which is increasingly concerned with the training and preparation of young people. The Challenge Garage is a unique opportunity aimed at the students of the eight Master of Science programmes taught at the Barcelona School of Management, whose student body is made up of 85% international students. “M. Sc. programmes are specifically designed for young, qualified students who are looking for a professional specialisation and at the same time wish to acquire a new way to work and contribute to the world of management using perspectives such as transversality, analytics and scientific support, values which are increasingly sought after in the professional market”, added Daniel Serra, academic director of the Continuing Education Institute at Pompeu Fabra University.