Dominique Rocher, Arqus Talent Fund scholarship awardee, selected for the EDHE Competition in South Africa and Prototypes for Humanity at COP28
|30 Nov 2023
|30 Nov 2023
PhD Students Dominique Rocher and Wessel Myburgh, co-founders of Urobo Biotech and co-tutelage PhD students of Crop Science (DAFNAE) under the supervision of Prof Lorenzo Favaro from the University of Padua and Prof Marinda Viljoen-Bloom from Stellenbosch University (South Africa), have been selected as finalists in the EDHE National Student Entrepreneurship Competition of South Africa, and Prototypes for Humanity held at COP28 in Dubai.
Dominique Rocher is one of the PhD students awarded the Arqus Talent Scholarship Fund designed to attract and retain talent at the postgraduate level from around the world. Thanks to this initiative, she will be able to develop her doctoral project at the University of Padua.
Ms. Rocher is also in charge of representing the cutting-edge research and entrepreneurial spirit fostered at the University of Padua and Stellenbosch University during the finals of the EDHE National Student Entrepreneurship Competition, taking place in Johannesburg on 30 November and 1 December 2023
Organized by the Department of Higher Education and Training, in collaboration with Universities South Africa and supported by the University Capacity Development Programme, the EDHE Entrepreneurship Intervarsity showcases top student entrepreneurs across all 26 South African public universities. It is a vital platform aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship, fostering innovation, and inspiring universities to support student businesses. One winner will be selected from all 26 universities, with a cash prize of R100,000. The competition not only recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit of students but also contributes significantly to the growth and development of the next generation of business leaders.
This year, the competition has expanded to include a new category, Research-Based Businesses, emphasizing the importance of bridging the gap between academia and industry.
With a robust background in molecular and environmental laboratories, Ms. Rocher’s research, including projects on biofuel production and sustainable waste management, has been published in esteemed academic journals and books. Her Ph.D. project, titled “Development of an enzyme cocktail for mixed bioplastic hydrolysis,” aims to address critical challenges in climate change and sustainable development.
Ms. Rocher’s selection as an Arqus Talent Scholarship recipient is a testament to her contributions and commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration. Her extensive international experience, collaborating with universities in South Africa, Italy, Japan, and Germany, reflects her open-mindedness and adaptability. The scholarship provides her with the opportunity to join the University of Padua, under Prof. Lorenzo Favaro, known for his excellence in academic research, as well as collaborate under the supervision of Prof Marinda Viljoen-Bloom at Stellenbosch University, South Africa.
In a recent interview with Innovus at Stellenbosch University, Ms. Rocher stated “Collaborating with esteemed institutions like the University of Padua provides us with invaluable insights and connections, enabling us to approach real-world problems from a multidimensional perspective.”
The Arqus Talent Scholarship not only aligns with Ms. Rocher’s research goals but also facilitates mobilities with Arqus partners such as the University of Leipzig and Graz University. “Being a recipient of the Arqus Talent Scholarship Fund within the Arqus European University Alliance has broadened our horizons immensely. Partnering with universities across Europe, including UniPD, Graz University, and the University of Leipzig, has empowered us to synergize knowledge and share innovative solutions on a global scale. This alliance not only enriches our research but also fuels our commitment to tackling the complex challenges posed by bioplastics.” Her engagement with Prof. Wolfgang Zimmermann and Prof. Tobias Stern further enhances her expertise in enzymatic degradation and life cycle assessment.
Beyond her scientific pursuits, Ms. Rocher has actively translated her knowledge into social and economic impact. Her involvement in establishing social entrepreneurial non-profit organizations and co-founding a Stellenbosch University and University of Padua spin-off, Urobo Biotech, underscores her commitment to driving sustainable practices and circular economy principles.
As an Arqus Ambassador, Ms. Rocher is dedicated to promoting the values and vision of the Arqus community, fostering collaboration, and maximizing benefits through culture transfer, societal service, and entrepreneurial development. Her passion for representing the Arqus network aligns with its mission of driving innovation and excellence in research.
Ms. Dominique Rocher’s multi-sectoral and challenge-based research proposal is poised to yield tangible solutions with a positive impact on society, making her an exemplary recipient of the Arqus Talent Scholarship. “I look forward to all the opportunities which my position as an Arqus Talent Scholarship Fund awardee will bring and hope to make impactful contributions to the fields of climate change and sustainable development.”
Meanwhile, Rocher’s partner in Urobo Biotech, Wessel Myburgh, is attending the prestigious Prototypes for Humanity event at COP28 on behalf of their spin-off company. Prototypes for Humanity is the world’s largest and most diverse gathering of talent and innovation.
Taking place in Dubai this November, the annual programme showcases 100 of the most innovative projects selected from over 3000 applications around the world, creating real-world impact for the environment and society. During this event, Mr. Myburgh will engage with world leaders, and various stakeholders, including patrons, academic peers, industry leaders, humanitarian agencies, and venture-building experts, to address pressing issues.
At the core of Urobo Biotech’s project is the development of enzymatic and microbial processes to convert bioplastic waste into high-value products and fuels within existing waste management facilities. This technology enables the selective breakdown of bioplastics in mixed waste streams, resolving processing issues without the need for prior sorting. Additionally, the enzyme innovations boost renewable energy generation from bioplastic waste, creating extra value for waste management facilities.