U21/PwC Innovation Challenge

Universitas 21 and PwC, two globally-focused organisations, have come together to offer exclusive professional development opportunities for U21’s graduate students through the Innovation Challenge competition. 

The competition supports and prepares U21 students for the world of work by allowing them to consider and respond to real workplace challenges, overseen by PwC and judges from their client companies. The format of the competition is designed to help students develop presentation and communication skills as well as fostering critical thinking and expertise.

The Challenge

We invite any registered graduate student from U21 member universities to submit a 3-minute response via video to the following challenge:

The recent Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report by the World Economic Forum and PwC makes the case for providing employees with learning and development opportunities to expand their horizons while minimising skills gaps. The report highlights certain challenges, such as addressing the disconnect between current education programmes and the skills employers need today and in the future, but also presents the advantages of upskilling, including wider social benefits triggered by the development of specific skills that will prove beneficial for the future success of the global economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the global economy in ways we could not have imagined. It has further exposed the inadequacies of our current economic structures and highlights a growing mismatch between people’s current skills and those needed for the jobs at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The skills gap is widening and causing greater inequality in the workplace.

Based on the report and proposed call to action, suggest an initiative that can be undertaken by governments and/or businesses and/or education providers that can help improve and maintain shared and sustainable prosperity.


Amendment to U21/PwC Innovation Challenge Prizes 2021 (updated June 2021)

The continuation of the pandemic into 2021 has proved problematic for travel plans across the network. So far, U21 has been unable to plan any face-to-face network wide events for the remainder of this year, instead opting for a virtual programme of engagement activities across the membership.

In light of this, U21 and PwC Middle East have had to make the difficult decision to review the prizes awarded to this year’s entrants. As you are aware, in the previous rounds first prize winners have been awarded a week-long expenses-paid trip to Dubai, courtesy of PwC. You will remember that this prize was offered contingent on it being possible to deliver. We no longer feel that this is the safest or most sustainable option for our winners under current global circumstances.

To provide certainty to our winners, we will be offering three first prize winners virtual one-to-one career coaching sessions with the PwC Academy. This tailored experience will allow the winners to identify their career goals and receive expert guidance on how best to achieve them. Seven runners up will receive exclusive access to a PwC-approved online course.

All entrants will still have the opportunity to develop their presentation and communication skills in preparation for their video entry. The videos will be judged by PwC and their clients, who are leaders in graduate career development.

Why take part?

The challenge offers students the opportunity to apply their knowledge to ‘real-world’ situations and reflect on their own experiences via a short three-minute video. The videos are judged by PwC and their clients, who are leaders in graduate career development. Winners will also gain the opportunity to receive expert guidance on reaching their career goals.   

How to take part

You will need to submit a 3-minute video via your university in response to the challenge outlined above. Prospective entrants can refer to the ‘Information for Students’ section of this website for further details on how to enter and prepare for the competition.

Download the 2021 Handbook

What's new this year?

There will be a People’s Choice vote to determine one of the three overall winners! You will be able to vote via the U21 website between Tuesday 27 July and Friday 20 August 2021.


  • Challenge announced on website: Monday 15 February 2021
  • Deadline for registration (universities): Friday 12 March 2021
  • Deadline for video submissions: Friday 2 July 2021
  • Winners to be announced: Week commencing 6 September 2021  


The competition is open to any registered graduate student in one of U21’s member universities (this includes students from taught and research masters programmes, MPhils etc., and PhDs). It is the responsibility of each U21 university to check the registration status of any student that they send forward as a finalist for adjudication. Students on joint PhDs between two U21 members are eligible to apply.  

Rules for submission

  • Entries to be submitted for final adjudication are limited to 4 per U21 institution and should be submitted to U21 via an agreed university contact. Students should not submit their videos directly to U21.
  • Submissions must be via video format, either an MP4 file or .MOV. Files sent in any other format will not be accepted.
  • Video presentations are strictly limited to 3 minutes and competitors exceeding this will be disqualified.
  • Entrants will be judged on their presentation skills and they must feature in the video.
  • Group submissions are not accepted.
  • It is permissible to use a maximum of one slide per presentation.
  • The 3-minute audio must be continuous no edits or breaks etc.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word only (e.g. no poems, raps or songs). No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted within the video recording.
  • Props are not allowed.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.
  • Group round winners and runners up will be expected to provide a report after the competition to reflect on their experience.  

Intellectual Property

By submitting an entry to the Innovation Challenge, students are acknowledging that their ideas/research will be made publicly accessible and shared with industry professionals. Videos will be uploaded to Vimeo and disseminated through the U21 website and social media platforms (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), and PwC’s media channels. Student videos will be shared with PwC’s clients (they will be notified which clients). Judges, reviewers, staff and the audience will not be asked to sign non- disclosure statements.

U21 and PwC may take stills, video and/or audio clips of the presentations, or copy material prepared for use in the presentation, for promotional purposes.

If the student’s presentation draws on work/ research that is being/has been conducted under contract with an outside sponsor, they are advised to discuss the related contractual terms of confidentiality and intellectual property with their supervisor(s) before participating in this competition. U21 and PwC have the right to ask a student to withdraw from the competition if these conditions are not met.  

Innovation Challenge Contact

Connie Wan. U21 Senior Manager (Network Development and Researcher Engagement) connie.wan@universitas21.com