Solvay Business Game: excellence in the limelight and backstage
For business students, both in Belgium and worldwide, the beginning of March has a special flavour: for two days, they compete in teams in a series of business cases evaluated by a jury of teachers and business professionals. Backstage, Solvay Brussels School students work for more than a year to make it happen.
It was an unusually busy Saturday evening at the Sheraton Brussels Airport Hotel. Hundreds of business students from Belgium, Europe and even further afield were eagerly awaiting the moment when the jury would designate the winners of the biggest business case competition for students in Europe.
Around them, a whole host of fellow students were flying around like busy worker bees, putting the finishing touches to the ceremony and organising the well-deserved party that would follow two days of hard work. Welcome to the 12th edition of the Solvay Business Game!
Organised by students
One of the most striking features of the Solvay Business Game is that, from day one, it has been organised by students of the Solvay Brussels School (SBS). “Well, almost, since I am actually a law student” says Alice Portnoy, the current president of the organising committee. “I’ve been involved in the organisation since the beginning of my studies at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. This is, by the way, how it works for most of the organising committee: they’re all ‘long timers’. That is how we ensure knowledge is passed on over the years, despite the fact that we are all students. Most of the current organisers started with small volunteer assignments during the event itself, and got more and more involved over the course of their studies. We have a ‘core team’ of 13 people: each of them is responsible for a specific aspect of the organisation.”
A well-oiled machine, refined over the years, has grown since 2014 into a franchise, the Alliance of European Business Games. In exchange for a fee, members of the Alliance get access to knowledge and materials to help them organise their own Business Game.
The Solvay Business Game remains the biggest business game in Europe. “Every year, we have 400 participants, who are selected from more than 1,100 applications,” Alice Portnoy details. “Applicants come from as far as India, China or the US. Of course, we try to maintain a good balance between Belgians, Europeans and students from further abroad.”
All applicants must go through the same process: they have to find a teammate in their university or business school, and work together on an online case. The best teams get to participate in the on-site competition. During these two days, they are then partnered with other pairs for the various challenges they have to compete on during the two-day event.
For Artur Julià, a student of the Advanced Master in Innovation and Strategic Management (AMISM) at the SBS, this pairing with total strangers is one of the strong points of the game. “For some challenges, you meet people that you feel really comfortable working with. For others, you are less fortunate. But in both cases, you have to do the work. It’s a lot like in real business life, so it’s very good practice.”
Artur knows it first hand, as he already has some work experience – he got his degree in mechanical engineering in 2016 and quit his job in Barcelona to join the AMISM. “Our schedule is quite packed, and we have to carefully choose our priorities. I heard from many students that the Solvay Business Game was worth it, so I teamed up with a friend and we were selected. I’m very glad I came; the whole experience has been above my expectations. It was very challenging, and fun at the same time. Also, this is a good place to meet people from interesting companies, like Umicore, for example.”
What also amazed Artur is the organisation itself: “Despite being a pretty huge event, everything went very well. It’s amazing and very inspiring to think it was entirely managed by fellow students.”
Interested in joining the next Solvay Business Game? Apply for the next edition!