EPFL Changemakers

The EPFL Changemakers is designed for students ready to boost their innovation skills, reflect on sustainability and explore their leadership potential

Our 12-week program allows you to immerse yourself in a hands-on experience where you will work on turning a business idea into reality.

You may either apply to the Startup Track to work on your own entrepreneurship project, or choose the Challenge Track to join a team and work on a solution to a sustainability challenge provided by our Corporate and NGO partners !

If you want to join another Changemaker’s idea, it is also possible to register ! If you want more information on that, please contact [email protected]

As part of our Changemakers community, you will be exposed to new ways of thinking, challenge yourself, get access to expertise and resources, and learn from your peers.

The program is open to all EPFL Bachelor, Master or PhD students. If you are taking the Startup Track, note that we welcome a broad spectrum of projects in Changemakers, in particular those who are expected to have a significant positive impact on society and or the environment.

Be part of a community passionate about shaping the future and join the Changemakers!

Whether you have an idea or not, you are welcome to participate to the EPFL Changemakers program ! 

When applying, you will be able to choose between three program tracks :

  1. Startup Track : You have a great idea you think could become a startup and make the world a better place ? Join the Startup Track !
  2. Challenge Track : You don’t have an entrepreneurship idea but you want to work on developing a solution to a real world sustainability challenge provided by one of our NGO or Corporate partner ? Join the Challenge Track, where you will team up with other challengers to solve the challenge you select! 

If you don’t have any entrepreneurship project, you can still apply to the Changemakers program through the Challenge Track. In this track, you will have the opportunity to work on a challenge from one of our partners, which will maybe be implemented by them in the future !

You can find below the different challenges for this edition : 

  • How might we accelerate the upcycling of agri-food side streams by setting up the reference portal/website for circularity in the food industry?
    The upcycling of agri-food side streams represents a huge opportunity for a better use of natural resources. Today, this opportunity is not completely understood and remains untapped because of the lack of available information and shared knowledge in the sector. 
    The challenge aims at developing a community portal (ie. website) that would inform and guide producers and consumers (upcycling actors) of agri-food side streams.

  • How could we identify methane leakages caused by the energy industry using available technologies?
    Methane is responsible for a large share of global warming, due to the fact its warming potential is equivalent to 100 times that of CO2. The energy sector is in fact one of the major producers of methane, mainly because of releases of methane into the atmosphere across the fossil fuels supply chain (e.g. pipe leakage).
    Examples of available technologies that might be relevant to identify methane leakages are imaging detection systems, artificial intelligence, drone technologies and innovative financial instruments.

Weekly sessions scheduled throughout the semester:

  • A 2-day immersion bootcamp to help you understand the problem you are trying to solve, how you can have an impact on the world.
  • Interactive weekly workshops to help you embrace the concepts behind project success – from solving an unmet need to pretotyping and assessing impact.
  • An inspiring full day excursion to discover your authentic leadership skills.
  • Community sessions where you will meet sustainability driven innovators, and get to know yourself and the other participants a little bit better.
  • A Final Award Ceremony where you will pitch your project and progress to a wide public audience.

Community Support:

  • Each month, your dedicated mentor will help guide your team and your project.
  • You will meet a wide range of innovation, leadership and sustainability experts in the workshops and dedicated coaching sessions.
  • Peer-to-peer exchanges with the other participants, and other EPFL student entrepreneurs.
  • Through the Changemakers network, you will make connections with like-minded students and meet potential partners.

Resources and tools:

  • Opportunity to access to the tools at the EPFL Maker space (eligibility on a case-by-case basis)
  •  Funding opportunities dedicated for validation (eligibility on a case-by-case basis)
  • Awards and prizes for the best projects

Here is a quick overview of the program that you will follow during the 12 weeks. The program contains additional coaching and community sessions that are not stated in the list below. Note that this program can be subject to changes : 

  • Week 1 – 2-Day Bootcamp
  • Week 2 – Understanding the market & preparing stakeholder interviews
  • Week 3 – How is your market research advancing?
  • Week 4 – Challenge track: Build on the solution based on interview findings
  • Week 4 – Startup Track: Redefining your solution based on interview findings
  • Week 5 – Knowing your customers
  • Week 6 – Defining your value proposition
  • Week 7 – Create your first pre-totype
  • Week 8 – Mapping your impact
  • Week 9 – Introduction to business models
  • Week 10 – Get your finance right
  • Week 11 – Elevator pitch
  • Week 12 – Final Award Ceremony
  • You have an idea you want to develop and implement but do not know where to start, or you want to learn more about innovation by working on a hands-on Corporate or NGO challenge.
  • You want to challenge yourself and strengthen you skills.
  • You are ready to invest your energy and time for something you believe in.

EPFL Changemakers is not another academic program. There are no credits but it will provide you with valuable skills for your personal and professional path. Your progress and success will depend on your own motivation and commitment. We look beyond performance on paper and instead focus on your capacity to bring forward exciting projects.

To apply to the Changemakers, you need to:

  • Prepare a 1 minute application video in English. You are free to send us whatever you want as long as it is ethical, and that we understand who you are and why we should choose you. You can upload this video into any platform (Vimeo, Youtube, Google Drive) and add the URL to your application form. Don’t forget to give us access !
  • A great and “professional looking” profile picture of you. We might use it for communication purposes while waiting for the cool professional profile pictures we will do at the bootcamp. 🙂

We will start the program with a 2-day bootcamp happening on Fri 11.03 and Sat 12.03. The program runs weekly in person sessions at The Station on Tuesdays between 17:15 – 19:15. Coaching and apero sessions happen occasionally. 

  Date
Connect – Student Founders Tue 01.03 (17:30 – 19:00)
Bootcamp

Fri 11.03 and Sat 12.03 (9:00 – 17:00)

Weekly workshops

Tuesdays

17:15 – 19:15

Full Day Leadership Excursion 30.04
Apero sessions

Some Thursdays

18:15 – 19:30

Closing Ceremony 

At the DLL EL

Wed 01.06


If you are unsure about your schedule, you can also leave us your comments via email or mark it at the end of the application form.


FAQ

What do I need to enroll to the program?

To be able to participate, you need to be actively enrolled at EPFL during the application process. Please note that if you are finishing your studies midway, the priority might be giving to a student who is enrolled throughout the program. To apply, please follow the instructions stated on the website.

Do I need an entrepreneurship idea to participate?

You can apply without an idea ! The students applying without any idea have two choices :

  1. Apply through the Challenge Track and choose to work on a challenge provided by an NGO or Corporate (you will get to select your challenge). 
  2. If you don’t want to join a challenge, you also have the possibility to join another Changemaker’s startup project. Please refer to the registration form or contact [email protected]

What are the Startup Track and the Challenge Track?

  • Startup Track : This is the traditional EPFL Changemakers track where students apply with their own startup idea they want to implement.
  • Challenge Track : Our NGO and Corporate partners have sustainability related challenges for which they want to find a solution. You will be teaming up with other students in order to find an innovative solution that they will maybe implement in the future ! You will get the chance to select your challenge.

Do the Startup Track and the Challenge Track follow the same workshops?

Yes, everyone follows the same workshops. However, challengers will be assigned a mentor from the NGO/Corporate that provided the challenge, whereas startupers will be matched with mentors from EPFL.

Who will be the final owner of the idea found in the Challenge Track ?

The challenges submitted by our NGO and Corporate partners are real challenges that they are trying to solve. Thus, they are by default the owners of the solution that will be found during the program. However, at the end of the program, if you are very interested in continuing working on the idea you found with your team, you can try to find an agreement with the partners.

What is the application video?

We want to see more than a paper-based application to learn a bit more about you in a 1 minute video

Use this opportunity to tell us in a creative way who you are and why you should be part of this program. Get creative !

What type of ideas are accepted?

Your startup idea can be tech or non-tech driven and follow a profit or not-for-profit model (as long as it is financially viable). Ideally, it will have a significant positive impact on society and or the environment. Please note that your startup idea must be consistent with applicable law and ethical values. If you are unsure of whether your idea would qualify, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

How advanced do I need to be with my startup idea?

EPFL Changemakers is designed for students who have an idea in mind that they didn’t really started implementing. If you already started working on your idea, feel free to apply too. However, if we consider that you are too advanced for the program, we might redirect you to another more advanced entrepreneurship program.

We want to join as a team, can we do so?

You can, however note that each team member that wants to take part in the program needs to fill a separate application form including the application video presenting themselves. The Changemaker status is personal. Of course, for some questions, you can answer the same thing (idea presentation, market need) and submit a team video.

I am not sure I am able to join the sessions, what can I do?

We do not want you to miss out, however we are aware of how packed your EPFL schedule is and that you might need to miss a session once in a while.

The best is for you to note your conflicting classes in the application form so we can schedule accordingly.

If you are unsure about your schedule, you can also leave us your comments via email or mark it at the end of the application form.

Note that if you miss too many sessions or don’t participate fully to them, we will not be able to keep you in the program.

Do I have to work between the workshops?

Yes, we are looking for motivated students that are ready to take some of their free-time to participate 100% to our program. Indeed, the workshops are just giving you some tools that will help you advance your project and the evolution of it will mostly depend on the work you do between sessions. However, we don’t want you to fail your studies because of our program, they are your number 1 priority, but if you are not fully motivated, you may reconsider your application to the program for this semester.

Do I have to pitch at the Final Award Ceremony?

At least one member from each team has to pitch at the Final Award Ceremony and all the teams that participated to the program have to present something. We know public speaking can be (very) intimidating, but this is part of your growing journey as a Changemaker. You will get our full support to prepare! Try, challenge yourself and you will see how good it feels ! 🙂

Why should I give my phone number?

In some emergency cases, we might have to find a quick way to reach out to you. We might also adapt the communication channels we use during the program and using groups on mobile apps such as Whatsapp and Telegram could be an option. 

Why should I give an authorization for pictures of me to be taken and used?

We love to showcase our Changemakers in communication campaigns we do during and after the program and we also like to take cool pictures of you. However, we also respect your privacy and will respect your decision if you decide not to appear in any of our communications, be it on social media or website. But please, then remind us this when we take the official group picture. 

Contact

Should you have any question, do not hesitate to reach out!


Coline Jeannet


[email protected]