UCL Alumni


Connecting passion and purpose with Cintia Nunes

Cintia Nunes (BSc Economics 2011) is dedicated to making the world a better place. Here, she shares her story of becoming a social innovation and impact advocate.

Cintia Nunes UCL alumna

13 February 2023

As the General Manager, Head of Asia at The Mills Fabrica - an innovation accelerator in Hong Kong - Cintia Nunes manages an investment fund that supports techstyle (an intersection between technology and lifestyle that covers textile and apparel) and agri-food (agriculture and food) start-ups striving to make their industries more sustainable.

Her driving force is the belief that business can, and should, act as a force for good, benefitting people and the planet. The seed of this idea was planted while Cintia was studying her degree in Economics at UCL.

Discovering UCL

“Economics appealed to me as I liked the idea I could use frameworks and rationale to understand the world and solve problems,” says Cintia.

Once decided on her subject, it didn’t take Cintia long to set her sights on UCL. “I discovered that UCL was the first university to admit women alongside men. To know I’d be at a university that had always had a progressive mindset was really attractive,” she explains.

UCL’s central London location was also a huge draw. Cintia adds: “As someone who grew up outside of London in Northampton, every time I’d visit, I’d just want to stay for as long as I could. So, when I finally had the chance to move away from home, it just had to be London!”

The art of learning how to think

Once at UCL, Cintia relished the opportunity to be taught by visionary professors, alongside peers whom she could learn from. “We were actively encouraged to share our thoughts and debate. That was really important because, in order to strengthen your thought process, you need to be around smart people who are willing to debate with you.”

As a student, Cintia recalls how she found some assumptions in economics a little problematic. “For example, I remember in my first year learning about utility maximization and profit maximization and I was already thinking about how I partly disagreed. I even wrote that in my exam!” she says.

Cintia adds: “I was arguing with this economic model because generally, I believe that as human beings, profit maximization is not the only goal. It’s not the only reason we live.”

Being given the opportunity at UCL to question and disagree with the economic concepts and models she was learning about was hugely valuable for Cintia. She was learning how to think, not what to think. “For me, it was really important to be able to critique economic models and frameworks, to think about what didn’t make sense from a human perspective, and to have the space to do so.”

Through the conversations and debates she was having; a seed had been planted. She knew she wanted to do things differently and work to make the world a better place.

Cintia at UCL in October 2022. "Every time I return to London I have a walk around UCL," she says.

A eureka moment

While at UCL, Cintia discovered a book in the Waterstones on Gower Street by Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus called Creating a World Without Poverty: Social Business and the Future of Capitalism. “This book led me to do what I’m doing today!” reveals Cintia.

In his book, Yunus’ book outlines the concept of social business, where the creative vision of the entrepreneur is applied to today's most serious problems: feeding the poor, housing the homeless, healing the sick and protecting the planet.

“I absorbed the book, referencing it throughout my studies. The book showed me an economic model that made so much sense to me.” 

Finding the right track

After graduating from UCL in 2011, Cintia initially worked in the corporate world. She got a job at consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble as a senior consumer and market insights manager at its Hong Kong branch.

Cintia did well there but, after seven years, she decided to leave. “I quit as I knew I wanted to find purpose in my work. I wanted the work I was doing to make a difference,” Cintia explains.

Her career pivot first took her to Grana, a Hong Kong-based startup fashion company, and then to Dream Impact, a company connecting social entrepreneurs and startup founders working in education, poverty alleviation, and inclusion, with the resources that they need to grow.

Connecting passion with purpose

Cintia stepped into her current role at The Mills Fabrica in January 2022. Fabrica is the innovation arm of The Mills, the heritage revitalization project which stems from the Nan Fung Group's textile legacy in Hong Kong.

“Essentially what we do is we focus on incubating and investing in innovations in techstyle and agrifood that are working to make these industries more sustainable. This includes funding innovations like natural dyes that don't contain pollutants, or consume less water,” explains Cintia.

First ignited while studying at UCL, Cintia's passion for driving social impact and systemic change is being fulfilled. “This is the adventure I have been looking for! Being able to be part of the process of finding solutions to global challenges is so fascinating,” she says.


Cintia at The Mills Fabrica's concept store 'Fabrica X', where visitors can experience sustainable living with the latest eco-friendly fashion (techstyle) and food tech (agrifood tech) brands and innovations.

Looking ahead, Cintia’s goal is to “bridge the gap and build meaningful partnerships between innovations and big corporations. Startups need scale to accelerate while big companies need innovative solutions to thrive, particularly for sustainability. It’s a win-win relationship.”

She adds: “I hope to leverage resources to create business models that deliver both purpose and profit. Making systemic change is hard, but this is a challenge I want to take on. People say it’s idealistic, but if it was easy, I wouldn’t be here!”