Innovation Challenge: Information for Students

Have you got what it takes to win the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge? A chance to showcase your critical thinking and share your ideas with PwC and their clients to win a 7-day trip to Dubai and some exclusive world-class training and professional development opportunities. (In discussion with a prizewinner, PwC is open to re-organising the location of the prize to a PwC headquarters in another country).

The Challenge 

In your video submission you will need to respond to the following question:

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?  

Competition dates

The 2019-2020 competition is now closed. The dates for the next round will be announced in Summer 2020.  

Are you eligible to apply?

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 and how to register

Your university will announce an initial call for entry or expression for interest. When you receive this, get in touch with your university contact to express your interest in taking part in the competition. If you do not receive such notification, email and you will be provided information of your university contact.

Your university will provide you with the challenge question to which you have to respond - ensure that you have ready access to video/filming equipment and have familiarised yourself with the rules (see below). Your university will set a shortlisting process in order to choose three entries to be put through to the U21 final.   


  • 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.   


Preparation for this competition is key. Here are a few tips on how to prepare for the competition:

  • Research the challenge. You want to demonstrate your ability to present a well-rounded argument. It’s your chance to show them how much you know.
  • Consider what to include in your slide (if using) There is nothing worse than having to stare at a redundant slide during a presentation - make sure you make it work for you!
  • Learn your ‘script’. It is better to have a structure in mind for what you’re going to say. Writing it down will save you time and effort when it comes around to filming.
  • Practise! Practise your script so that you become fluent - you are being judged on your ability to articulate your opinion and knowledge.
  • Think about how you want to present yourself. First impressions count, make sure that you're dressed appropriately.
  • Watch the previous winning videos. Get an idea of what is expected.

What are the judges looking for?

At every level of the competition you will be assessed on the judging criteria listed below. Please note that each criterion is equally weighted.

Comprehension and Content

  • Did the candidate have a logical approach to answering the question? - i.e. familiarity with the background material, a set of key considerations.
  • Did the candidate clearly explain their point of view? 
  • Did the candidate articulate the conclusions and recommendations clearly?
  • Did the candidate provide adequate background information to illustrate points? 
  • Did the candidate spend adequate time on each element of their presentation – or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?

Engagement and Communication

  • Did the presentation make you want to know more from this candidate and potentially employ them? 
  • Did the candidate convey enthusiasm for the challenge and genuine interest in the problem? 
  • Did the candidate capture and maintain your attention? (sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, confident stance)   

Intellectual Property - IMPORTANT!

By submitting your entry to the Innovation Challenge, you are acknowledging that your 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 (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram), and PwC’s media channels. Your video will be shared with PwC’s clients (you will be notified which clients and be contacted should any work-related opportunities arise). 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 your presentation draws on work/research that is being/has been conducted under contract with an outside sponsor, you are advised to discuss the related contractual terms of confidentiality and intellectual property with your supervisor(s) before participating in this competition. U21 and PwC have the right to ask you to withdraw from the competition if these conditions are not met.   

Winning Videos from 2018-2019

Humberto Jiminez Martinez - Winner of the Innovation Challenge (Group A)
Aishwarya Kansakar - Runner Up (Group A)
Jacob David Cherian - Runner Up (Group A)


Mac Montana - Winner (Group B)
Wing Tung Cheng - Runner Up (Group B)


Aloka Wijesooriya - Runner Up (Group B)
Sarah Hashmi - Winner (Group C)


Daniel Student - Runner Up (Group C)
Eddie Morrissey - Runner Up (Group C)