InCube Challenge 2023: A First in China!

From October 9 to 13, an interdisciplinary team of five international university students stepped into a glass cube container at Jiangnan University (Wuxi, China), to collaboratively tackle a major societal challenge over the course of five intensive days. This was the first time for the InCube Challenge, a global innovation competition organized by the ETH Entrepreneur Club, to feature a cube in China.

For this first edition in China, Swissnex in China has brought together the ETH Zürich student organizers, corporate partner Bühler Group China and university partner Jiangnan University to collaborate on the initiative, united by a common goal of fostering entrepreneurial talent in young people across and beyond borders.

The two-week-long innovation challenge consists of three parts: Prep Cube, OutCube and InCube. During PrepCube and OutCube, the selected international participants met both virtually and in person in Switzerland to train and bond with each other. They will then join their assigned team at one of the cube locations around the world to live and work together for five days inside a glass-walled container to solve a challenge set by the corporate partner. At the end of the five days, the teams will pitch their solution to a jury and live audience at the ETH Entrepreneur Club’s annual signature Launch & AI_X Summit in Zurich. Past editions of the InCube Challenge have featured teams from Switzerland, the US, Singapore and South Africa.

For the 7th edition of the InCube Challenge, also the first edition in China, we were thrilled to welcome five students from diverse academic backgrounds and different parts of the world. Their areas of expertise span across Food Science, Robotics, Physics, and Economics, adding richness and diversity to the dynamic team.

Meet Team Bühler @ Wuxi, China

• Piphany (Pei Yu) Kuo, Bachelor student of Robotics Engineering, Peking University;
• Jiaxu Feng, Bachelor student of Science in Physics, Fudan University;
• Heidi Lee, Facilitator of Team Bühler, ETH Entrepreneur Club;
• Xinyi Zhu, Bachelor student of Food quality and safety, Jiangnan University;
• Baptiste Henri, Master student of Management, Technology, and Economics MSc, ETH Zürich.
• Shufan Luo, Master student of Food Science and Engineering, Jiangnan University;

On October 9, the kick-off event for the InCube Challenge in China was held at Jiangnan University, where our student team eagerly stepped into their glass-walled “home” for the next 5 days. During this intensive time, the interdisciplinary team of five international university students collaborated to develop a solution to the challenge set by the project’s sponsor, Bühler China: “How to leverage sustainable protein and utilize side stream for future food and agriculture system?”

The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, and our current food system will not be capable of feeding them in a way that does not harm the planet and our health. Meat-based diets are key contributors to both environmental and public health crises, and it is vital that we drive short- and long-term sustainable food & feed production practices that reduce GHG emissions and lower our land footprint while making sure to deliver the nutrition needed for all. Another challenge is that we still waste or lose 30% of our food across the value chain, and many of the commercial products we use end up either in landfill or incineration. This linear “take-make-waste” economy is an unsustainable way to use the planet’s limited resources and land.

The students’ schedule during the 5-day challenge was intense, starting from empathizing and defining problems, going through the entire design thinking process, and culminating in pitching their ideas to global experts at the AI+X Summit. During the first two days, the students went through the entire design thinking process under the guidance of experts from Bühler China, identifying and solving pressing problems, which resulted in a concise problem statement. On Day 3, a professor from Jiangnan University specializing in the food industry visited the glass cube to assist the students in reviewing their concept. Together, they discussed and devised their final solution. Subsequently, the students proceeded to develop the business plan, construct a prototype, and made preparations for the final pitch, which was scheduled for Day 5.

On Day 5, Team Bühler stepped out of their glass cube, fully prepared to present their solution: A B2B platform called Bioshare for sharing bioreactors.

Bioshare is a pioneering B2B bioreactor renting platform that addresses the pressing challenges of increased protein demand amidst limited resources, aiming to fulfill future needs. Bioshare seeks to revolutionize the food and agriculture industry by promoting bioreactor sharing for a more sustainable future. The platform facilitates the entire process, from contract agreement, IP protection to payment security. By optimizing bioreactor utilization, fostering the growth of the alternative protein industry, and harnessing side streams for up-cycling, Bioshare actively contributes to sustainability efforts.

Their first pitch took place at the Launch & AI+X Summit on October 13, which was a collaborative event organized by ETH AI Center, ETH Entrepreneur Club, and ZHAW University of Applied Sciences. At this summit, they presented their idea in detail to a global audience consisting of industry and academic experts.

There were five teams joining the final pitching competition:

  • Bühler @ Wuxi, China: How to leverage sustainable protein and utilize side streams for the future food and agriculture systems?
  • ABB x Microsoft @ Zurich Europaplatz: What is needed to make the “old” industry of energy distribution more attractive to young talents and young professionals? How can you make the energy distribution infrastructure get the attention they deserve – as the backbone of an electrified society?
  • Aveniq @ Zurich Paradeplatz: Health@home – new ways for better health and care. How do we get there together?
  • Aargau x ABB x Microsoft @ FHNW Brugg: How can the large installed base of ABB electrical equipment and related data be leveraged to help mining companies achieve their sustainability goals by adopting electrical vehicles for haulage despite the financial constraints?
  • Roche x IQVIA @ Basel: Is it possible to create a solution utilizing technology that can assist patients and their caregivers to increase the percentage of patients who continue treatment for over three years from 15% to 25%?

The following day, Team Bühler participated in another final pitching event at Swissnex in China and presented their ideas to a group of food industry professionals, researchers, and startups in China, as well as their fellow student peers. The Cubers recounted their experience working together closely over the past five days, leveraging their diverse, interdisciplinary backgrounds and perspectives to overcome challenges. The room was abuzz with inspiration, as knowledge was shared, and connections were forged during the networking reception.


InCube Challenge 2023



InCube is an international innovation competition. It is the first gateway to entrepreneurship for brilliant young minds across the globe.


Learn more

  • ETH
  • Buhler
  • Snx China