Student sustainability entrepreneurship is another major focus, with upcycling start-up Breer showcasing the motivational KT environment and practical support available to aspiring young creative thinkers at HKUST.

Keen to turn an environmental protection project on reducing surplus food into “social innovation”, four undergraduates from the School of Engineering and School of Business and Management got in touch with the University’s KT units to find out how. Their goal was to repurpose some of the large quantities of unsold bread being discarded every day by bakeries in Hong Kong – nearly 1,700 tonnes in total – and turn it into craft beer.

Benefiting from the comprehensive KT programs and assistance available, the Breer founders learned about the practicalities of running a company and how to commercialize their pioneering concept, from honing their socially responsible business idea to supply chains and funding. Meanwhile, successful applications to the Entrepreneurship Acceleration Fund supported the start-up in its initial stages.

As the business took shape, the interactive relationship between the start-up and KT teams continued to spur development. The undergraduates came up with the idea of “Breer-runners”, student volunteers who helped collect the leftover items, and HKUST supported the move by storing the waste bread in the HKUST The BASE’s co-working hub. In addition, the University’s long-established industry connections enabled the students to contact major organizations and start collaborations. The team’s self-devised Breer App followed, adding a valuable technology element that streamlined operational arrangements.

Once Breer’s craft beer started to be sold commercially and gain media attention, the students were tempted to widen the investment base. However, after advice from the KT team, the founders decided to stay focused on improving their product and business know-how. Participation in the MentorHUB@HKUST scheme helped facilitate experience-sharing with a wide range of individuals and industries. The Breer team went on to win the prestigious HKUST-Sino One-Million-Dollar Entrepreneurship Competition in 2021, along with many other recognitions.

By June 2022, Breer had teamed up with Jardine Restaurant Group’s Pizza Hut and Maxim’s Group and sold 15,000 units of its first two brands via 200-plus outlets and 13,000 units of its third brand at some 100 outlets. With HKUST’s support, the start-up has also joined HKSTP’s incubation program. There, it is set not only to continue to cheer its customers but also the environment in Hong Kong and overseas, given the students’ plans to expand.