IEU Experience


We chatted with some of the IEU Labs students to hear more about their experience at the Social Hackathon and the ideas behind their award-winning projects.

On June 13th, IEU Labs—in collaboration with Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation—held a Social Hackathon: an opportunity for participants to get together and develop proposals to address our planet’s alarming environmental crisis.

The president of the foundation’s Spanish branch selected three projects developed by IEU Labs participants, as the winning proposals:

  1. Jelly Power: Daniil Kim, Alisher Akhmadjonov and Olivia Navarro.
  2.  Water Alliance: Rafail Panagiotou, Linh Nguyên Phuong and Ramsey Dannia Huayta Montano.
  3. True Foods: Emma Lisa Sutherland, María Llorens Martí, Alessandra Felli and Maxime Goose.

Students from each team were invited to attend the award ceremony held by the prince of Monaco himself on June 20th at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid.

The hackathon focused on the foundation’s three main goals:

  • To limit the effects of climate change and promote renewable energy;
  • To safeguard biodiversity; and
  • To manage water resources and combat desertification.

We chatted with some of the IEU Labs students to hear more about their experience at the Social Hackathon and the ideas behind their award-winning projects.

First up were Alisher Akhmadjonov and Daniil Kim from team Jelly Power, an initiative that aims to replenish the ocean’s biodiversity and combat global warming by creating solar panels—from jellyfish. Next we spoke to Emma Lisa Sutherland from True Foods, who developed an app to help consumers see the true cost of their dietary choices.

What’s the Social Hackathon all about?

Alisher: The Social Hackathon is a competition where participants have a set amount of time to come up with a fascinating—yet practical and realistic—idea based on one of the foundation’s three main goals, and develop it into a business plan.

What was your experience like and what did you learn?

Alisher: To be completely honest, I had no idea what the Social Hackathon would be like and what we would do before arriving on the day. And the experience was incredible! The time constraints forced us to use our brains at full capacity in order to develop something outstanding—out-of-the-box yet doable at the same time.

Daniil: Our team decided to go with safeguarding biodiversity as our theme. We were given about four hours for the whole process, during which we had to conduct research, develop our idea, and create a presentation.

Alisher: My own concerns about the environment coincided with the hackathon’s theme we chose, which really sparked my desire to deliver the best solution possible. The biggest pleasure for me and the key to success was working with my team; we knew each other beforehand and understand each other really well, so we were very productive in the short time we had.

Most groups spread out through the campus to go and work at their preferred location, but the atmosphere at the hackathon itself was excellent—friendly, with just a touch of competitiveness.

Daniil: I found the experience really informative; we all learned a lot from researching and developing our idea, as well as from the other teams’ presentations.


Emma: It would be impossible to cite everything my partner and I took from it, but the main takeaways were: how to manage your time, how to keep your mind focused on one idea, and how to do a good presentation.

Tell us about your project, Jelly Power.

Alisher: Jelly Power is a startup driven by a desire to solve the biodiversity crisis in the ocean. We identified two significant environmental problems: the acceleration of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere, and the overpopulation of jellyfish.

Strictly speaking, our solution is to manufacture solar panels from jellyfish, by extracting a protein called Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) from their cells, which can be used to coat an aluminium electrode connected to an electric circuit. When this is exposed to UV radiation (i.e. sunlight), the GFP protein absorbs a photon and releases an electron, generating current in the circuit and creating electricity.

The solar panels would be significantly more efficient than conventional panels, and also cost less to produce thanks to the simplicity of the design and the fewer chemical elements needed. Conventional panels require expensive materials like silicon, silver, and titanium dioxide, which our panels don’t.

Daniil: The solution has great potential, and only a few IEU labs have explored this method. By building solar panels this way, we can create cleaner and more organic panels that would work more efficiently and at a lower cost, while simultaneously reducing the jellyfish populations that often threaten other marine species.

Alisher: To summarize, Jelly Power helps combat global warming with more efficient and affordable solar panels while controlling the jellyfish population, thereby replenishing the ocean’s biodiversity.

And what about True Foods?

Emma: True Foods is an app that allows people to discover the real impact of the food and drinks they consume.

For example, picture you’re at a restaurant and you’re about to order a good steak. You quickly check the app and see how disastrous the impact of producing that piece of meat has on the environment, so you make an informed decision to switch to the pasta dish instead.

We think it’s so important for young people to ask the right questions, like, do I have a sustainable lifestyle? How can I minimize my carbon emissions? Why should single-use plastics be banned?

Once you’re aware of how bad (or good) your lifestyle is, if you’re a responsible person you will change. Of course, there are always some people who don’t have any incentive to change because of their privileged position, but that shouldn’t deter the rest of us from doing the right thing.

What would you say to future students who are interested in participating in the Social Hackathon?

Alisher: Never stick to your first idea, work as a team and, most importantly, enjoy your time! 

Daniil: Get ready to think out of the box, to work intensively for several hours, and to confidently pitch your project to the organizers. This will give you a chance to win and have a short conversation with Prince Albert II, but also to gain new knowledge and have an enjoyable experience. The ceremony is a great event—not only because it rewards significant contributions to the abovementioned fields, but because it really is quite fascinating and inspirational.

Emma: Find the right partner: my partner María and I are roommates and we have complementary skill sets, so when we’re working together with the same vision we’re really productive.

I’d also like to point out that we had the opportunity to chat with Prince Albert II of Monaco about climate change at the ceremony, which was an amazing experience! So I’d say go for it: drive innovation and fight for climate change!