Winnie Poncelet

Winnie Poncelet

Quality EducationInnovation and InfrastructureSustainable Cities and Communities

Who are you and what do you do?

My personal reason to do what I do is a deep motivation to build a more sustainable society. I strongly believe in the power of cooperation, openness and inclusivity to effect fundamental change in society. As a bioengineer, I believe that bio-based technologies will play a fundamental role in our future sustainable society. I find it important that we have people with both the biological knowledge and skills to develop technologies, but who also have the values to use these technologies to do good. With ReaGent & Magma Nova we focus on the people who shape our world right now. With Ekoli we educate the children who will build the future.

Through ReaGent, we let anyone come into contact with biosciences. We help them to build their own experiments and stimulate them to participate in a broader debate. Our means are an open biolab, a local and global community, peer-to-peer learning and open source knowledge. Designers, artists and makers can thus use bioscience as a tool right now. As part of Magma Nova I personally do research on biodegradable materials to advance our common knowledge base and to teach and inspire others.

With Ekoli we offer applied, fun and practical experiences with biosciences for youth. It differs from the descriptive, standard biology education in school. We inspire children and teach them the mind-set and biological tools to build sustainable technologies. Importantly, we are extra attentive to underprivileged groups who otherwise cannot participate.

What competences would make you a good Generation T?

I believe one of the most fundamental human traits for a great future is to cooperate and connect more. This is embedded in what I do on a structural level, always looking for partners across fields and working on finding synergies instead of putting energy in competing. The organizations I’m involved in mainly work on science and technology, but a big focus is on the way in which we do this. We always try to stimulate cooperation and other values. I’m part of the Hackistan network as one of the pioneering members.  Hackistan is a network that connects people and organizations from different industries and backgrounds to stimulate cooperation.

Looking at things from diverse perspectives is a competence I value highly. Along my journey to do things differently and better, I’ve been active in several different fields including engineering, movie & event production, game theory, arts, sustainability, biotechnology and education. As a result I’m a mix of engineer, entrepreneur, biologist and storyteller. Through my current projects, I’ve found a way to combine many of these perspectives to create value for others. I love interacting with different people to share experiences and ideas on any subject, to learn from each other and be inspired.

Finally, I think it’s important to not take myself too seriously. This way I can stay humble, have an open mind, fail happily and grab every opportunity to learn and improve myself as a person.

Give specific example(s) on how your projects or activities make a difference and initiate change.

At Millibeter, I helped develop the technology to transform organic waste such as manure or food waste into new resources using black soldier fly larvae. My main task was the design of an automated factory to breed larvae at a large scale.

I’m co-founder and coordinator of ReaGent. Artists, designers, hobbyists and engineers alike can use the machinery in our open community biolab. Examples of research are biodegradable shoes or finding new medicines. Additionally, we cultivate a basic biological literacy through science communication events, workshops, articles etc. We have about 20 people working in our lab and have reached 1500+ people this year during our activities.

As a co-founder of Magma Nova I help advance research and design on biodegradable materials and I actively bring this knowledge to the public. I also assist designers and organizations to develop solutions in this field.

I’ve initiated and am now coordinating the non-profit Ekoli to invest in bioscience education for children. We offer a practical, fun and modern addition to the traditional biology education at school, which is often only descriptive and not relevant. We have experimented with different ways of doing this and now we are a large team of volunteers that are ready to reach thousands of children this year. We cooperate with care associations to reach underprivileged groups such as children from difficult families or people with an intellectual disability, who otherwise never do science.

Who inspired you? What made you first passionate about sustainability?

It's hard to point to one or few people that inspire me. I get inspired by many people and organizations all over the world and I discover new ones every day. It sounds cheesy but it's true!