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 question for the 2019-2020 competition is as follows: 

How can universities help individuals gain a broader perspective on the long-term impact and consequences of their day-to-day actions on people, society and the environment? What types of jobs will an environmentally-sensitive economy need, and what is the best way to prepare students for them?  

Who can take part?

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). Students on joint PhDs between two U21 members are eligible to apply.  

When does the competition take place?

The competition is open now. Note that the 2019-2020 iteration of the competition comprises just one round with all U21 universities working towards one set of deadlines: 

Deadline for registration (universities): Friday 30 August 2019

Deadline for video submissions: Friday 14 February 2020

Judging to take place: 17 February – 6 March 2020

Winners to be announced: Week of 9 March 2020  

How do students submit their application?

In the first place students submit their entries to their own university, who will hold its own internal selection process to choose the 4 best entries. The successful finalists (max. 4 from each institution) will submit their entry proposals in video format to U21; these should be uploaded via the competition entry form.  

What are the prizes?

Three overall winning proposals will be selected. The winners will be awarded an expenses-paid trip to Dubai (7 days) courtesy of PwC where they will get the chance to explore the city and also see some of the innovative projects taking place there. (In discussion with a prizewinner, PwC is open to re-organising the location of the prize to a PwC headquarters in another country if required).

Runner-up prizes (6 in total) will include career development coaching with the PwC Academy. Everyone entered into the U21 competition will receive access to online training via the PwC Academy; the assessment and certificate fees will be covered by PwC.

PwC are not guaranteeing any job placements and are not acting as a recruitment agent, they will however be providing guidance and training on how to enhance employability skills and share videos with key client judges who are looking for top talent.   

7 Steps to entering the competition

  1. Take note of the deadlines for submission.
  2. Identify a local team to support students entering the competition in your university.
  3. Register for the competition with U21. We ask that one person is identified as the contact person in your university for the competition when you register.
  4. Alert students/staff to the date that the U21/PwC competition challenge for your university will be announced.
  5. Publicise the Challenge, when announced; the details of the application process, and encourage student to prepare their responses.
  6. Decide how best to choose 4 finalists in your university. This can be in the form of an event where students present their responses to a university team in person at a live event OR allow students to record their responses and submit them to the university team for adjudication.
  7. Pick 4 finalists and ensure that their 3-minute videos are submitted here by the closing date.   

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. 

  • Submissions must be via video format, either an MP4 file or .MOV. Files sent in the wrong format will not be accepted. 

  • Video presentations are strictly limited to 3 minutes and competitors exceeding this will be disqualified. 

  • 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. 

  • 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 their proposals in video format, 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 PwC’s media channels. Judges, reviewers, staff and the audience will not be asked to sign non-disclosure statements. 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 may take photographs, videotapes and/or audiotapes of the presentations or copy material prepared for use in the presentation, for promotional purposes  

Information for Universities

Local Short-listing at University Level 

  • It is the responsibility of the U21 university to run a local selection process to choose up the 4 student contestant videos to be submitted to the round final. 
  • All videos submitted to the round final should come through an agreed staff member in each university. Students cannot submit their own video directly to U21 for round adjudication. 
  • While individual universities may give general advice to students on their entries, the ideas contained in the student’s submission should reflect their own thoughts and ideas. 


Innovation Challenge Contact

Connie Wan. U21 Researcher Engagement Manager connie.wan@universitas21.com