U21/PwC Innovation Challenge

U21 and PwC's annual Innovation Challenge is now open for entries. This innovative competition helps graduate students to:  

  • Develop strong communication skills

  • Create their own professional networks  

  • Take on real-world challenges  

  • Connect with other students across the globe 

Universitas 21 and PwC are two globally focused organisations who have come together to offer this exclusive opportunity to U21's graduate student community. 

The new 2022 format of the competition is designed to encourage international collaboration and networking between students across borders and allow them to work together on real-world challenges.  

The 2022 Innovation Challenge comprises 2 phases: 

Individual Challenge (Phase 1): In an individual three-minute video, entrants from U21 network universities will respond to a challenge question (as in previous iterations of the competition).  

Team Challenge Phase (Phase 2): Successful finalists from Phase 1 (put forward by their universities to U21) will participate in a Team Challenge responding to a further question in assigned groups. These groups will then ‘pitch’ their response to a panel.  

Prize: There will be one winning team selected from the final pitches to the judging panel. The winning team will be awarded with highly rated bespoke career coaching with the PwC Academy. All elements of the competition will take place online.   

The Individual  Challenge Question (Phase 1) 

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

To what extent should governments support the private sector in managing and prioritizing their Environmental, Societal and Governance (ESG) agenda? 

PwC’s Annual CEO Survey reported that, despite rising interest in the Environmental, Societal and Governance agenda, strategy is still primarily driven by business metrics. From your own point of view, address the extent to which you think governments should support the private sector in this way, and what form you think the support should take.  

The question for the Team Challenge Phase (Phase 2) will be circulated to successful finalists from the Individual Challenge (Phase 1) after they have been grouped into teams. 


What will graduate students gain by participating? 

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.     As a result of taking part, students will: 

  • Establish an international peer network for collaboration and support 

  • Develop creative and innovative approaches to problem solving 

  • Establish their professional networks by being connected with PwC and their clients 


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 Competition Handbook



  • Challenge opens: Wednesday 13 July 2022 

  • Deadline for registration (universities): Friday 29 July 2022 

  • Deadline for Individual Challenge (Phase 1) video submissions to U21: Friday 30 September 2022 

  • Team Challenge Groups announced: Monday 10 October 2022 

  • Team Challenge Pitches to take place: 5-9 December 2022 

  • Winning group to be announced: Week commencing 12 December 2022   


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 2 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 

Frankie Carter, U21 Educational Innovation and Projects Manager frankie.carter@universitas21.com