Young Innovators celebrate three years of education innovation on World Environment Day 

Young Innovators celebrate three years of education innovation on World Environment Day 

June 5 marks the United Nations’ international day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect our environment. But above all, World Environment Day offers a global platform for inspiring positive change. 

This has been the mission of EIT Climate-KIC’s Young Innovators programme, which has evolved from an ambitious undertaking to modernise secondary education to an international success story since its launch in 2018.

The programme offers teachers and students a pathway for problem solving and creativity in the face of climate change, and the opportunity to engage and mobilise their local communities and schools to collaborate on real-world climate challenges. 

In fact, it is the challenge-led programme in Europe supporting climate innovation through a wide net of partnerships with schools, cities, governments and industry. Students are equipped with the skills and competencies needed to become changemakers and lead us towards a prosperous, inclusive and zero-carbon society.

Impact by the numbers

What began as an educational experiment involving 22 schools has now expanded five-fold, impacting the lives of 3,900 students and 1,500 teachers across 167 schools. The Young Innovators programme currently operates in 24 countries spanning Europe, the United States and South America. 

By teaching the complexity of interrelations, creativity and problem-solving skills, the programme aims to:

  • Prepare students for green jobs with climate innovation competences which will be key to career resiliency. 
  • Empower students and teachers through participatory democratic decision making, helping them develop collaborative ways of working, and translating ideas into actions. 
  • Enable change-makers and their capabilities of mobilising others to generate collective climate action.
  • Engage teachers, school directors, industry partners and governments in developing local ecosystems that are unified in tackling climate challenges. 

Delivery Partners make it possible

Through workshops, visual tools, challenge-led learning and a well-researched innovative methodology, EIT Climate-KIC trains partners, teachers and educators to deliver the programme worldwide to maximise impact and accelerate students’ transition toward low-carbon lifestyles.

“Ultimately, if you can create a journey from very early on that gives students the opportunity to be active, direct their own learning, and make their own choices about their own lives, then they will grow up setting goals for themselves and being able to achieve them,” explained Barna Baráth of the EIT Climate-KIC Supervisory Board.

Baráth’s vision for 21-century learning has coalesced in an English language, international school inspired by sustainability. At REAL School Budapest, students in grades K-12 are immersed in nature, acquire knowledge through hands-on projects, turn creative ideas into reality, and develop the mindsets, knowledge and skills needed to build a better world.

At its core, REAL School embodies the principles of the Young Innovators programme by introducing children to a systems innovation approach that fosters social awareness and entrepreneurial thinking. Both organizations share a common goal of empowering youth to pursue solutions aimed at addressing climate challenges through innovation.

Another EIT Climate-KIC partner, Patrick van der Hofstad, spearheads an operation in the Netherlands that offers pre-university students the opportunity to tackle real-world climate challenges encountered by everyday businesses.

His organisation Technotrend Foundation stands by the mantra “sustainable development through technology education”, offering educational programmes that promote innovation, future-proofing, and systems thinking to Young Innovators since 2018.

“It’s not so much that the students will come up with new solutions that are perfectly fit for the company. But students will learn how to ask the right questions and see things from a different lens…This is why enterprises can benefit from participating in the programme,” said van der Hofstad.

In 2020, the Young Innovators programme successfully expanded into the Nordic region thanks to a partnership with Aalto University in Espoo, Finland. Dr. Salvatore Ruggiero, from the Department of Management Studies, is the man carrying the torch.

His method of delivering the Young Innovators programme includes “D-Game”, a multiplayer activity that engages students and teachers in behavioral change through inspirational education. Schools in Finland, Spain, Switzerland and Italy are the selected test sites in 2021.

“We would like to promote experiential learning. This is a type of learning where the individual has first an experience and then is encouraged to reflect on that experience to develop new skills or ways of thinking. It’s learning by doing, and in that, you also learn about yourself and other people’s world views,” said Dr. Ruggiero.

How to get involved 

EIT Climate-KIC continues to scale the Young Innovators programme with high ambitions. We are seeking involvement and engagement in a variety of ways: 

  • Challenge owner: Empower and showcase local climate action in your city, school, company or region.
  • Delivery partner: Engage schools, students, teachers and innovators’ networks on climate action.
  • Corporate partner: Find solutions and enable climate action together with young people, validate opportunities and get a sense of what youth are concerned about.
  • Supporter: Help us shape our strategy and amplify our mission together with other funders, amplifiers and educational experts.​

For more information about becoming a partner contact us or send a message to Luise Heidenreich,