Empowered by the BAU strategic objectives and with a vision to strengthen and elevate BAU leading research, the BAU Incubation program was launched in February 2019. The main goal is to establish a hub for emerging creative, promising, and innovative entrepreneurial BAU students, academic and non-academic staff-members. The program guides members of BAU throughout their journey of transforming their innovative business ideas into scalable ones. Members are connected with investors, advisors, influencers and entrepreneurs. Current challenges, achievements, projected plans and approaches to achieve UN SDGs, as well as synergies with the academic platforms, are showcased.
BAU incubator proposes three pillars to leverage the momentum around social entrepreneurship, spread the entrepreneurial mindset within its community, and identify future opportunities to create strategies for (1) civic engagement and economic integration of underprivileged communities, (2) public sector development and public-private partnership, and (3) NGOs and sustainability of civic society actors.
BAU’s intention of providing continuous community services and engagement has become further prominent in the wake of the Beirut Blast. Thus, BAU has been involved in the process of assessing the damages and volunteering on the field; this engagement will also continue in the technical support regarding the reconstruction. With these main aspects in mind, the BAU incubator aims at creating job opportunities by finding solutions to social problems, creating income-generating activities in remote areas, promoting social cohesion between communities and sectarian groups, protecting the environment and natural resources of the country, generating and redistributing profit to marginalized citizens, assisting the government in supplying quality services to citizens, and promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and social awareness in Lebanon.
BAU was selected by the International Association of Universities IAU to represent and lead the SDG 9 Goal which includes: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. SDG 9 aims mainly to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, to enhance scientific research, to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on affordable and equitable access for all. With the focus on SDG 9, BAU incubator intends to address most UN SDGs: Nb. 09: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure • Nb. 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, SDG 13: Climate Action, SDG 14: Life Below Water, SDG 15: Life on Land, SDG 17: Partnership with the Goals.
The BAU incubator is keen on creating partnerships with the public and private sector. Being part of the BAU network, the incubator benefits from the wide professional and academic network that BAU has established. Regarding the public sector, an official agreement has been signed with the Beirut Municipality and Al Mina Municipality to support scientific research and benefit from the logistic capacities and data charts offered by both parties. Regarding the private sector, BAU has UNIDO and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Lebanon as its partners.
Taking further steps, BAU intends to collaborate with industry and corporates to leverage on the private sector inputs, whether in the form of finance or other types of support like expertise, access to facilities, corporate venturing, go-to-market support, scaling up etc.
1.3 Building Logistics
The fundamental purpose of creating the BAU incubator is to provide a platform where students are encouraged to pursue and embrace opportunities, explore new ideas, take intellectual risks and begin the process of becoming leading researchers and innovators, and eventually have a real-life impact.
BAU started establishing the incubator’s space in Spring 2020. Committing to practicing the best possible platform for the incubatees, BAU began by defining the stages of incubation and accordingly setting up the space for it. Accordingly, BAU intends to designate a space for every stage and allocate the necessary infrastructure. For the pre-incubation phase, in order to assist the students in the first steps, BAU offers a pre-incubation period (up to 3 months) to the candidates. During that period, advice will be given by experts on the preparation of the business plan (business model definition, clients typology, technical partnership, legal proofs, …) as well as local contacts as appropriate (such as testing a Proof of Concept). During this period, an office is allocated to get easy access to the candidates. The objective of the pre-incubation period is to prepare the candidate and mature the project to bring them to the requirements specified by the local public funding organizations.
While BAU’s incubator design shares a common theme of flexibility, the design offers cues to people using the space, inspiring them to connect in new ways. Unlike the traditional academic design, the BAU incubator will resemble co-working spaces and startup offices, offering people choice and control over where and how they work.
1.4 Incubation Practices
The BAU incubator is currently at its early establishing stages. When first founded, the incubator was part of BAU’s Center for Entrepreneurship. Currently, BAU intends to expand the facility and dedicate a facility space and experts to extend its impact on the community. Being part of a leading Lebanese academic institute, the BAU incubator provides access to all the University’s labs and research centers.
The main goal of BAU’s incubator is to establish a hub for emerging creative, promising, and innovative entrepreneurial BAU students, staff, and faculty members. The program guides members of BAU throughout their journey of transforming their innovative business ideas into scalable businesses. Members are connected with investors, advisors, influencers and entrepreneurs.
Figure 1 The incubation process and allocated facilities
Cluster for Building Construction Technology
2.1 Established Startups
The first start-up launched in 2019 by our program is INFRASTIC. INFRASTIC is a concrete block mix, a new construction technology developed by a team of three students from Beirut Arab University.
The team has participated and won several regional and international programs such as UN’s YLP 5. They traveled to participate in the Amman Youth Conference, in November 2019. They also enrolled in the MIT Arab Entrepreneurship Competition and won the first place in the ideation track and 5000$ in grant money. INFRASTIC also won the Development de L'Entrepreneuriat Etudiant au Liban (DEEL) competition organized by AUF. Currently, they are in the first batch of Clean Energy Berytech Program, receiving 2000$ in grant money, with the aim of validating their assumptions and the design. In August 2020, and with the support of BAU’s legal department, INFRASTIC was awarded their first patent by the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce.
During the whole process, of testing, validating, and reporting back, the University offers its lab facilities, and engages its academic staff as the participants’ mentors and advisors. The faculties involved in mentoring are currently the Faculty of Architecture – Design and Built Environment, the Faculty of Engineering, the Faculty of Sciences and the Faculty of Business Administration.
Figure 2 INFRASTIC's achievements
Two other BAU students have been lately admitted to the program. Both projects have partners from other leading Lebanese universities such as the American University of Beirut. The projects entitled ECRO and Snoubra are in their early creation stage moving towards the early incubation stage. Both are led by brilliant female researchers who are keen on leading in the industry.
ECRO, which joined the program in July 2020, focuses on using stone waste as raw materials to produce roof tiles. ECRO is an ecofriendly provider of affordable and customized industrial designs and construction appliances made of crushed stones. Their aim is not only to reduce the usage cement and other harmful materials used in industrial designs and construction but also to promote sustainability by using the stone leftovers from rock factories so that they are not disposed in landfills and drainage systems, which would harm nature. ECRO has been shortlisted in the UN’s YLP6 and has been offered a grant of $2000 by INJAZ.
Figure 3 ECRO's prototypes
Snoubra joined the program early September 2020. They are also taking part in the YLP6 program and are in the process of establishing their start-up. The team is working on creating sustainable building envelops from bioplastics, a prominent and highly-needed research in our community. It is a bio-based plastic made from pinene; chemical product found in pinecone powder. Snoubra relies on research and development for implementation in different disciplines. It aims to reduce waste in the construction sector and non-biodegradable waste in the environment, by introducing a 100% sustainable form of plastic as a main component in the building envelope services. Aligned with the UNDP adopted sustainable development goals according to Agenda 2030, Snoubra tends to also adopt at least 6 SDGs.
Figure 4 Snoubra's design process
Figure 5 The progress of the Building Construction Technology Cluster
2.2 Future Vision
With the vision to strengthen and elevate BAU’s place as a leading research institution, the incubator’s vision is to integrate market-oriented skillsets with advanced scientific thinking of BAU’s scientists, academics, researchers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. The goal is to focus early-stage buildings, innovations and programs on market gaps and catalyze them towards public and private sector engagement and impact.
BAU has a long-established reputation in building partnerships with other universities in the MENA region such as the academic staff mobility from Alexandria University. The potential of synergy that can be created with other universities includes knowledge transfer and exchange, enhancing staff and student mobility, regional partnerships, research collaboration, as well as closer engagement with local and regional industry clusters.