An Institution Rooted in Circularity:
Founded in 2017 with the mission of advancing research & education in Africa, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) displays unique characteristics as an academic institution. The first of which is its original location, the Green City of Benguerir, Morocco. As a fully-fledged smart city, the Benguerir Green City provides the necessary framework for ecological exemplarity in academic, economic, environmental and social life within the Rhamna province hosting it. This is thanks to innovative urban planning (soft modes of transport, bioclimatic architecture & density management), infrastructure design (photovoltaic panels, water recycling systems & energy optimization) and sound city management (compact zones, waste recycling & mobility optimization). Sustainability is therefore first and foremost a building block of UM6P’s physical DNA, now certified by a SILVER Level accreditation to the international standard S.T.A.R.S. (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) awarded by the Association for the Advancement for Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), in recognition of UM6P’s sustainability standing in Training, Research, Operations, Planning, Administration and Innovation & Leadership.
In addition to its rather distinct location, UM6P is also the fruit of a multi-stakeholder effort meant at catalyzing Africa’s sustainable development on all fronts. The University was established thanks to the support of OCP Group, a global leader in plant nutrition solutions and the world’s largest producer of phosphate fertilizers. Such support has inspired UM6P to develop a comprehensive operating model in its research partnerships, based on synergy between the worlds of academia and industry.
Sustainability, Powered by Knowledge:
In 5 years, UM6P has developed a research & innovation infrastructure dedicated to sustainability solutions.
The Green Energy Park, a main component of that infrastructure, has a 200 kWp photovoltaic (PV) pilot plant using 5 different technologies (c-Si, a-Si, CIGS, CdTe, CPV) from different manufacturers for testing and comparison of different systems of different photovoltaic technologies. The power plant is composed of several systems with a power between 4-23 kWp with different configurations (fixed system, with tracker with a single axis, bi-axial tracker). The systems of different technologies are electrically separated by PV inverters which supply the platform network with the PV energy produced. Consequently, the PV installation is also able to produce an energetic surplus of 10 MW that will be destined to UM6P’s use.
Capitalizing on a rich national legacy in wind & solar energy, UM6P is furthermore setting its sights on the sustainable solutions of the future. Dubbed the New Green Gold, Hydrogen Fuel has made headlines across the globe for its potential in limiting greenhouse gas emissions while capitalizing on excess renewable energy. Keenly aware of such potential, UM6P signed a framework agreement with OCP Group and the Institute for Research in Solar Energy & New Energies (IRESEN) for cooperation aimed at setting up the GREEN H2A technological platform dedicated to R&D and innovation in the Green Hydrogen sector and its applications (“Power-To-X” – PtX).This infrastructure, a first on an African scale, will make it possible to investigate, test, demonstrate, locally adapt, and scale up the innovative technologies of this promising sector.
Sustainability, of course, goes beyond fuels and emissions and is manifested in even the most mundane activities regulating our existence on this planet – not least of which is the way we produce and consume food. As part of its living labs ecosystem, UM6P is also home to an Experimental Farm emulating real agricultural conditions and challenges. Thanks to the farm’s real scale design, UM6P’s scientists have been able to test and develop alternative solutions in fertility management, soil health, carbon sequestration and crop rotation – all central focuses of agriculture’s environmental footprint in Morocco, Africa and worldwide.
A Community Mobilized for Impact:
As a university, our responsibility in shaping the minds of tomorrow puts us in a privileged position to incubate, foster and advocate for the adoption of sustainable practices. UM6P is today home to more than 3300 students who will constitute the backbone of Moroccan and African leadership going forward. For each student embracing sustainability at UM6P, a conscious, responsible future citizen is positioned to make an impact.
UM6P’s dynamic community is bubbling up with initiatives focused on their immediate living spaces and campuses. One of those is UM6P’s Zero Waste Movement, a road to zero pledgeaimed at equipping, supporting and launching various waste management initiatives to the benefit of the UM6P community. More than a recycling program, it englobes numerous phases to implement an effective procedure of the 3R – Reuse, reduce and recycle –. In many cases, UM6P acts as local sustainability hub in a way that is pioneering the movement locally, be it the first to implement recycling initiatives or launch a student innovative startup to replace plastics. This movement has a strong sustainable impact within three pillars:
- Environmental Impact: illustrated in implementing a global waste management at UM6P which aims to reduce our ecological footprint,
- Social Impact: strengthened by mobilizing local cooperatives in building equipment such as selective sorting bins, thus enhancing the social inclusion of local artisans,
- Economic Impact: represented by ensuring the economic prosperity of local artisans in the Rhamna region.
Already, the grassroots mobilization of UM6P’s community in sustainability is gaining global recognition all the way to the United Nations. As a partner of the 16th UN Climate Change Conference, UM6P was officially recognized as a Climate Hero by the official youth constituency of the United Nations Framework convention on climate change, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Youth 16 (COY16), the official precursor youth event of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26). As the one declaration representing youth vision in Morocco during COY16 at Glasgow, the UM6P Youth Statement was the culmination of extensive work and local, national and international coordination.
Sustainability is the Business of Everyone:
5 years is not much in the life of any academic institution. Yet today, that is exactly the age of UM6P, a university that has achieved much in terms of certification, mobilization and infrastructure pertaining to sustainability. Perhaps key to such successes is the inclusiveness of UM6P’s approach, relentlessly pursuing partnerships with industry, businesses, the public sector, local communities and international counterparts. The road to a cleaner, fairer and durably prosperous planet may be tenuous, but it is easier when we’re all in it together – no matter where we come from.