Press Releases

Together we can defeat darkness

Brussels, Belgium, 24 June 2016

Oculus, a students’ team helping the visually impaired to become more independent in their movement won the Global Finale of the Social Innovation Relay 2016.

The Social Innovation Relay (SIR), a JA Europe initiative, is supported by NN Group and aims to inspire secondary students to develop innovative business concepts that address social challenges.


[Brussels, 24 June 2016] Oculus from Romania won the Global Finale of ‘Social Innovation Relay’ with high-tech glasses including safety and navigation devices. The glasses are equipped with an infrared sensor measuring the surface temperature of objects and relays information on the distances to nearby objects, offering alternative trajectories to the user. After qualifying in their country, Oculus competed for the global title against student teams from across the world. This 6th edition involved more than 10,000 students across 10 countries: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Japan, The Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Singapore, and Spain.

Miruna Gafencu team member of Oculus shared her experience, saying: “The participation at the Social Innovation Relay competition strengthened the connections between us, the team members. It gave us the chance to practice our creativity and presentation skills, to work together with the NN volunteer whose advice contributed to the development of the ‘real’ business. All these being said, most important is that we hope to help as many visually impaired people as possible. Together we can defeat darkness through an intelligent use of technology!

The Social Innovation Relay offers students the opportunity to partner with business volunteers who provide a combination of virtual and face-to-face mentorship in the areas of their expertise. This hands-on experience provides students the opportunity to connect their theoretical knowledge with the ‘real world.’ Through a mix of online and offline activities, students are able to grow practical business skills and strengthen their social awareness. Together with NN, JA Europe seeks to increase students’ self-confidence, empowering them to get creative and find solutions to both local and global social needs in the following sectors: education, health, social inclusion, livelihood development, and sustainability.

We are a proud partner of Junior Achievement Europe and are excited to help them run the Social Innovation Relay (SIR) in 10 countries. The programme allows us to work together with our employees – who volunteer their time – to help young people set up-projects that have a significant social impact. The competition promotes financial knowledge and stimulates an entrepreneurial mindset - which are valuable skills for any professional - and align with the themes of NN's Corporate Citizenship programme Future Matters. I congratulate all teams on their placement in the global final, and especially the top three for their outstanding achievement.”– Fleur Hudig, Head of Corporate Citizenship NN.

The Global Final took place online, with the following Jury: Fleur Hudig, Head of Corporate Citizenship, NN Group; Dafni Kaloudi, Brand Communication Specialist, NN Greece; Hatsuko Takei, Senior Manager, PR & Communications Team; Ana Alonso Dopazo, HR, NN Spain; Manuel Zaera, NN Spain; Eva Paunova, Member of the European Parliament; Lars Johansson-Kjellerød, Founder & CEO, Unicus (social entrepreneur) and Vivian Lau, CEO, JA Asia Pacific.

I am happy to support JA Europe and NN Group in fostering the hands-on skills and entrepreneurial expertise needed to start a successful career. Facilitating entrepreneurship is one of my key priority as an MEP and skills creation is particularly close to my heart. At EU level, we place significant value on developing an entrepreneurial mind-set for our young generation, which is also key for the bright future of a prosperous Europe.” says Eva Paunova, Member of the European Parliament.



• Social Innovation Relay Winner 2016: Oculus, Romania

• 2nd Place:  Intellias, Singapore

• 3rd Place:  HeartheWorld, Bulgaria


About The Social Innovation Relay (SIR)

The Social Innovation Relay (SIR) is a global competition organized in collaboration with NN Group that challenges secondary school students to develop an innovative business concept that addresses a social need. SIR provides young people with the hands-on skills and entrepreneurial expertise needed to start a successful career through a combination of virtual and face-to-face mentoring by experienced executives.


About JA Europe

JA Europe is Europe’s largest provider of entrepreneurship education programmes, reaching 3.2 million students in 39 countries. JA Europe brings the public and private sectors together to provide young people in primary and secondary schools and early university with high-quality education programmes to teach them about enterprise, entrepreneurship, business and economics in a practical way. 


About NN Group

NN Group is an international insurance and asset management company, active in more than 18 countries, with a strong presence in a number of European countries and Japan. With around 11,500 employees the group offers retirement services, insurance, investments and banking to more than 15 million customers. NN Group includes Nationale-Nederlanden, NN and NN Investment Partners. NN Group is listed on Euronext Amsterdam (NN).


For further information, please contact:

Mathilde Poncelet

+32 2 893 4436 


Daphne Andriesse

Press Officer NN Group

+31 6 10 91 87 90 


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