Our students tackle sustainable energy challenge as part of new UN partnership

9 September 2022

Attendees of the Monash Business School Sustainable Futures Challenge (SFC)

Monash Business School Sustainable Futures Challenge participants with program facilitators and UN representatives.

Monash Business School students are taking on one of the most complex issues of our age – how nations can transition to sustainable energy.

The challenge was part of a world-first partnership between Monash Business School, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), research consultancy InceptLabs and the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA).

Monash Business School’s Course Director Professor Nicholas McGuigan says the multi-sector collaboration grew out of the need to respond to the global pandemic.

“We knew we had to find a new way to educate, something that would prepare our graduates for uncertain, rapidly changing, complex business environments,” he says.

Prof McGuigan joined Incept Labs chief executive Rob Kay and IPA Director of Education Philomena Leung to design a learning program never before attempted in a university context.

The Monash Business School Sustainable Futures Challenge (SFC) was born – a bespoke learning program committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

For the inaugural challenge, student teams tackled SDG 7: Energy Transition for the Asia-Pacific Region.

During the intensive ten-day program, multidisciplinary teams collaborated to undertake independent research, create stakeholder analyses, and find holistic solutions to the problem.

Sponsors IPA awarded prizes in three categories: best overall solution to the problem, best trend research, and best developed scenario.

The Resilient Energy and Cybersecurity Technologies Toolkit (REACTT) Toolkit – a knowledge toolbox to provide policy advice to governments on the risk management component of energy transformation - was named best overall solution by UNESCAP.

“Our solution ensures that even if a country experiences military, political or other turmoil, it will not affect its steady progress towards the relevant goals of the United Nations SDG7,” participating student Fan Wu said.

Anushka Alvares, from the team that won the best scenario category, says the challenge’s collaborative nature produced “richer solutions than the sum of our individual efforts”.

“It was an honour to have been selected amongst such a high calibre of students,” she said.

IPA Group CEO Andrew Conway, winning students Nicholas Fasso-opie, Claire Tyrrell, Shi Tian Jin and Anthony Ta, and IPA Director of Education Philomena Leung.

IPA Group CEO Andrew Conway, winning students Anthony Ta, Sanuja Thavarajah,
Tengyue Shao and Fan Wu, and IPA Director of Education Philomena Leung.

Nicholas Fasso-Opie, whose team won best trend research for its economic analysis, said the opportunity to work with other highly motivated students to solve a real-world problem was the “best prize of all”.

“Where else in your tertiary degree would you get to work with the United Nations to support renewable energy outcomes in the Asian Pacific?” he said.

IPA Group CEO, Andrew Conway said the IPA was delighted to partner with Monash Business School and the UNESCAP to put a spotlight on the commitment, insights and practical solutions proposed by the student teams.

“This was a great example of working collaboratively to design solutions to the many global sustainability challenges. We were all very impressed with the quality of the solutions from all of the teams and the strong sense of face-to-face teamwork on display,” he said.

“We are keen to continue our support for this world-first initiative and sincerely believe it will lead to ensuring solutions to ultimately create a more sustainable future.

“We would like to thank Prof McGuigan, Prof Philomena Leung and Dr Rob Kay for their hard work on this project.”

Prof McGuigan said the ongoing partnership was significant for the university.

“To meet the unprecedented challenges of the future, the world needs business leaders that thrive in complexity and lead through uncertainty,” he said.

“This first-of-its-kind, authentic educational experience will transform our graduates into the sustainable leaders of tomorrow.”