Dr Inty Grønneberg
It was at Imperial that Dr Inty Grønneberg (PhD Design Engineering Research 2019) began gravitating towards technological entrepreneurship.
Keen to explore the real life application of technology – and passionate about using his knowledge to create a better future for the planet and society, Inty saw his thesis as an opportunity to research technological entrepreneurship through a design lens.
With his PhD now complete, Inty today is running his own company – Ichthion, devising innovative ways of cleaning our oceans using technology and data.
Why did you choose to study at Imperial?
I applied to Imperial because I was quite interested in innovation and technological entrepreneurship, and Imperial seemed to be the best place for pursuing this in the UK.
In the end I think I was right - I was able to complete my PhD studies about innovation in technological start ups and went on to begin my own company, Ichthion. I don’t think this achievement would have been possible without the vast opportunities that Imperial provided me with to explore innovation.
Can you tell us about your time at Imperial?
I was part of the Creativity, Innovation and Enterprise research group in the Dyson School of Design Engineering, studying a wide range of areas such as innovation, technological start ups, product design, design thinking, systems thinking and manufacturing.
As a result of my research, I was able to develop new knowledge about technology entrepreneurship (TE) by using a design lens. I gave my PhD thesis the following title: Entrepreneurial Design Studies for Agile Product Design in Technological Start Ups.
During my studies I was also very involved in the ecosystem of Imperial with regards to innovation and entrepreneurship. This blend of research with practice encouraged me to found Ichthion, my multi-award winning company born out of the laboratories of Imperial College London, which seeks to overcome the limitations of existing technologies by delivering the first truly scalable solutions to reduce the flow of plastics into the world's oceans. More on that below.
When I wasn’t working on my PhD, I enjoyed being a part of Latin-American society.
Who did you find inspiring at Imperial and why?
It was really inspiring to meet people who were dreaming to make a better future for humanity with their work. This led me to believe that I can do such things through my work too.
I had the great opportunity to be close with others interested in innovation, not only from an academic perspective but from a practical perspective too, as some of my peers were starting their own companies.
What is your fondest memory of your time here?
Attending all the seminars and events related to innovation that Imperial runs on a regular basis. They were amazing opportunities to find like-minded people and to learn from them.
What is your favourite place at Imperial and why?
Imperial’s Translation and Innovation Hub (I-HUB), part of ThinkSpace and based at the White City campus, was where my company started. That place opened big opportunities up to me. It is the ideal place to start a company.
Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now and how you got here.
Ichthion proposes energy-generative systems that uniquely can be installed in rivers, coastal areas and the oceans to remove plastic waste and generate data.
As a result of my work for Ichthion, I have received several awards, such as ‘Inventor of the Year’. I was included as part of the list: ‘Innovators Under 35’ in Latin America by the MIT Technology Review, and was also awarded the National Order of Merit, grade ‘Great Commander’ by the president of the Republic of Ecuador in January 2019. In addition, I was recognized as ‘Ecuadorian Ambassador for the Environment and Bio-Economy’ by the Ministry of Environment in January 2019.
What does sustainability mean to you, and how does your work connect with it?
Sustainability means everything to me and the organisations that I am building. There is no planet B, and we need to make use of whatever we can to curve the destruction of the planet due to our existing economic and industrial models.
Ichthion is now a UK company with operations in South America that develops and implements award winning technologies and solutions to decrease plastic pollution in our ocean. The company also designs and executes circular economy programs for its customers based on data.
So far, Ichthion has received around USD $2.2 million from its seed investment round, multiple international grants, and contracts for its R&D development and operations.
My NGO, Fundación Circular, works actively in Ecuador with the aim of decreasing the impact of waste in the environment. It has contributed to several public policies that are now law in the country.
Fundación Circular has also introduced Refill to Ecuador, an award-winning campaign, from city to sea, designed to connect people to places to eat, drink and shop with less waste.
How has what you learnt at Imperial helped you in your career so far?
Beyond the academic knowledge I gained at Imperial, it is difficult to define the broader things I learned.
In summary, I believe that my entire way of understanding the world and its possibilities were shaped during my PhD studies and by my life experiences in London.
What are your career reflections so far?
I’ve come to realise that being an entrepreneur is a difficult path full of challenges and hard moments. Nonetheless, I believe that perseverance is crucial in order to overcome obstacles and make great things happen.
What does a typical day look like for you now?
Every day is entirely different. We have set out to achieve scalability and growth, and I work towards this goal each day. Perhaps the only consistency is that I have to keep making decisions that will shape the future of the organisations that I have created.
What are your plans for the future?
Making Ichthion the company that helps solve the worldwide problem of plastic pollution based on technology and data!
What would be your advice for current students?
Try to meet people from different backgrounds and interests to you during your time at university. Participate in events that interest you and create new connections.
What makes you proud to be an Imperial alumnus?
That I am part of a network of people trying to change the world for the better.
What one word or phrase would you use to describe Imperial alumni?
What is the best advice that you have ever been given?
That as an entrepreneur, it is important to celebrate the small successes. The path is hard, and it makes sense to celebrate each accomplishment with your team as you go.