Innovation Challenge: Information for Universities

A world-class opportunity for students to showcase their skills to PwC and its client base, opening up unique training and professional development opportunities with the world's leading employers.


Download the Innovation Challenge Handbook

Register your Institution

Upon registration you will obtain access to marketing material (including U21’s branding collateral and guidelines) to help promote the competition, along with other advice and support needed.  

You will need to register your institution in order to take part. This registration process will ask you to identify one named contact who U21 will communicate and support. This contact will also be required to promote the competition to their respective students, and submit their videos on their behalf. The named contact will be notified (along with the student) of the outcome of the competition.

Click here to fill out the online registration form.

Who is eligible?

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.

Letting Students know about the Challenge Competition

Universities should circulate a general call for interest to students as soon as possible to ensure maximum participation. Students can be given a link to the challenge details and access to videos from the previous competition on the U21 website.

It may be useful for your university’s named contact to seek assistance from interested individual academic or professional staff (e.g. from the Careers Office) for advice/guidance in preparing for shortlisting your university’s three finalists. 

You may also want to consider offering skills-focused training workshops or feedback sessions alongside this competition, to ensure a wider student reach. U21 can offer advice and provide peer-to-peer support on how other universities have promoted and supported the participation of their students within the competition. Contact Connie Wan should you be interested in e.g. development of skills training, preliminary long-listing process etc.    


Each university is responsible for its own internal selection process to choose 4 entries to submit to the U21 competition. It is up to each institution to decide whether selection takes place by means of pre-recorded video presentations submitted by the students, or as a live session. The successful entries (max. 4 from each institution) must be submitted in video format to U21; these can be uploaded together with the submission form. These finalists will be put forward to PwC and their client base for judging and selection.

Selecting Your Judging Panel

To ensure a level of consistency across all internal heats, U21 recommends considering the following when selecting your judging panel:

  • Ensure that your judging panel is balanced by academic/professional positions and discipline; the Innovation Challenge is open to those studying in all disciplines
  • Include three to five judges on your panel
  • Consider including a professional, non-academic member of staff such as an individual from Marketing or Careers/Employability

Judging Criteria

At every level of the competition each competitor will be assessed on the judging criteria listed below. Please note that each criterion should be weighted equally. It would be important that your judges are aware of, and refer to these criteria when choosing their finalists

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) 

Tips and advice

  • U21 will be available to the universities’ named contacts throughout the process if they have any questions or encounter any difficulties.
  • It is the responsibility of the U21 institution to ensure that students are made aware of Intellectual Property implications and agree to their videos being disseminated on the U21 and PwC websites, social media, and to industry professionals. 
  • Consider providing your students with the appropriate filming equipment to ensure that they have the right means to film.
  • Check the video submissions before you submit them; make sure that the video plays and that the sound on the finalist’s submission is audible.
  • All videos submitted to the U21 competition should be sent by the named contact 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 students' submission should reflect their own original thoughts and ideas.
  • Your institution contact will be notified should one of your students be awarded a prize with further details of how they can claim their prize ahead of any wider announcement.

If you have any questions or need advice with any aspect of the competition, please contact