Students chase entrepreneurial dreams in XJTLU contest

27 Dec 2023

A project idea that could save lives and reduce injury in the fisheries and aquaculture industry won first prize at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University’s Global Entrepreneurial Dream-chasers Competition on 20 December at XJTLU’s Entrepreneur College (Taicang).

The top prize-winning pitch by a student team from the National University of Defense Technology, China, envisions a range of underwater robots to handle risky work currently done by deep-sea divers.

Underwater robots design by Zixiao Jiao and team

“According to the China Fishery Yearbook 2020, the annual mortality rate among deep-sea divers is as high as 3%, and 64% of deep-sea divers suffer from lung disease,” says Zixiao Jiao, the team leader.

Fisheries and aquaculture production of aquatic animals is an important industry for China, which held a 35% share of production worldwide in 2020, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

In addition to reducing risks to humans, using robotics is efficient, Jiao says.

“A single heavyweight robot can complete the workload of three divers a day, whereas a cluster of three robots can cover a farming area with a diameter of three kilometres during operations,” he says.

“Compared to manual operations, the robots could help increase the production value of fishing by 240%.”

Jiao says implementing these robots would not affect the fishers’ job security.

“Rather, fishers can easily learn how to use the robots through an instructional video, and to increase productivity,” he says. If the robots are used regularly, the fishers will need training in professional skills, security awareness, and maintenance, he adds.

Furthermore, using the robots will add new jobs in areas like research, programming, technical work, and sales, he adds.

The team was awarded a 20,000 RMB investment fund for their bottom mariculture capture service pitch.

Jiao presents the pitch to competition judges

The competition attracted 114 teams from 15 universities worldwide, including Mahidol University International College, Thailand; Nanjing University, China; Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain; The University of Edinburgh, UK; and Phenikaa University, Vietnam.

“The competition offers university students around the world a platform to realise their entrepreneurial dreams, through project guidance from industry experts and investment funds via the XJTLU Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Hub,” says Professor Youmin Xi, Executive President of XJTLU.

Professor Youmin Xi

Dr Sim Wan Jie from Universiti Kuala Lumpur, one of the competition judges, adds that pitch competitions show students they can develop themselves through teamwork and creativity.

Of the original 114 teams, 10 advanced to the final online/onsite pitch competition at XJTLU.

  • First prize winner: team led by Zixiao Jiao from National University of Defense Technology, China.
  • Second prize winners: team led by Zijie Tang from Soochow University, China; and team led by Yujie Zhang from Nanjing Tech University, China.
  • Third prize winners: team led by Yu Deng from XJTLU, China; team led by Sahil Nawalkha from Mahidol University, Thailand; and team led by Yasmin Firzanah Binti Norliza from Universiti Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
  • Excellence Prize winners: team led by Ruinan Wang from XJTLU, China; team led by Mohd Aliff from Universiti Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; team led by Hashed Moqbel Alnaeem from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia; and team led by Syarifah Fatimah binti Syed Ali from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

Teams’ pitches were on varied topics including smart farming, materials science, and artificial intelligence application in healthcare services.


By Haolun Xu
Edited by Tamara Kaup, Patricia Pieterse
Photos by Jingrui Duan

27 Dec 2023