Innovation Challenge: Information for Students

Have you got what it takes to win the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge? A chance to work together with other graduate students from across the network to pitch your ideas to PwC and their clients.    

Download the 2022 Innovation Challenge Handbook

The 2022 Innovation Challenge comprises 2 phases: 

Individual Challenge (Phase 1): Entrants from U21 network universities will respond individually, via a 3-minute video, to a challenge question set by PwC (as in previous iterations of the competition).  

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




The Challenge  

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


Competition dates 

  • 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   

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.   



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


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 U21 and you will be provided with information about your university contact. 

Respond to the challenge question listed above - 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 2 entries to be put through to the Team Challenge phase.    



  • 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. 

  • The winning group 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: 

  • Research the challenge. You want to demonstrate your ability to present a well-rounded argument. It’s your chance to show the judges how much you know. 

  • Consider what to include in your slide (if using) make sure you make it works 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 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. This will give you an idea  of what is expected. 


What are the judges looking for? 

In both phases 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 (LinkedIn, 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 previous rounds

Humberto Jiminez Martinez - Winner of the Innovation Challenge 2018-19


Mac Montana - Winner 2018-19


Sarah Hashmi - Winner 2018-19


Daniel Student - Winner 2019-20


James Tait - Winner 2019-20


Christopher Girardi - Winner 2019-20