It’s goodbye to the age of consumerism. Nowadays, the word on everybody’s lips is sustainability.

Reducing pollution, tackling waste, promoting recycling and entirely rethinking our approach to consumption are not just good intentions – they are fundamental pillars upon which the foundations of a new industrial era are being laid.

The widespread sustainability culture is helping to promote the concept of clean technology, which is expected to generate turnover of around $1.3bn for companies in the sector over the next few years.

It represents a cultural shift – and one that it’s worth investing in right from the word go.

For this reason, many business schools are now tackling the topic of clean technology, encouraging their students to construct an innovative business viewpoint that embraces sustainability without losing sight of the bottom line.

As well as special lectures and seminars, clean technology has for some years now been the focus of a contest open to the most promising business minds of tomorrow. Since 2009, the CleanTech Challenge has been taking place every year in London. The contest is sponsored and hosted by London Business School and University College London, with candidates having to propose their own clean technology business ideas. It is designed to test the participants’ skill, innovation, intelligence and sustainable approach.

The CleanTech Challenge, which runs from November to April, begins with a national heat whereby entrants fight it out on a local level before coming to London for the final phase to challenge for a £10,000 prize.

In 2016, five alumni of the MIP MBA course in Milan won the Italian section of the competition. They were Elena Sopadzhieva, Alejandro Iniguez Torres, Gabriela Albornoz, Nícolas Zamoner and Carla Buda.

The young team edged out the opposition thanks to their FoodMe mobile app, a service with a clear focus on sustainability and business in its purest form.

The FoodMe concept – which began to take shape among the desks of MIP – strikes right to the core of the sustainability issue: the app helps users to reduce food waste by suggesting special recipes based on ingredients that are just about to reach their use-by date. Users can manually enter the foodstuffs they have in their fridge to update the in-app list, or link the app to loyalty cards from the main supermarkets in the country.

Yet there is another feature that makes FoodMe so attractive to large-scale retail companies and other industry players: the app is able to monitor consumer habits and build up a profile of their eating and purchasing preferences. It means the app holds the key to a treasure chest of big data that could play an invaluable role in helping companies get to know how their customers behave in the privacy of their own homes. This, in turn, would enable companies to create new products and services tailored to fit the real needs of their end users.

Although FoodMe didn’t go on to win the overall competition, it is an undeniably smart and – more importantly – useful app that looks set to come to fruition thanks to MIP’s start-up incubator: PoliHub.