Winners of the U21 & PwC Innovation Challenge 2019-20 Announced

Universitas 21 (U21) and PwC are pleased to announce the three winners of the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge competition 2019/20.  Congratulations to James Tait from the University of Melbourne, Daniel Student from the University of California, Davis and Christopher Girardi also from the University of Melbourne. 

The three winners will each be given an expenses-paid week-long trip to PwC Middle East (or another PwC office if they wish) along with career development coaching sessions with the PwC Academy. 

James Tait
James Tait

The competition attracted 44 entries from 17 universities in the U21 network; all 44 entrants have been awarded online careers training from PwC and the 10 entries shortlisted as finalists will be given both online careers training and mentoring. 

In the 2019/20 competition PwC challenged students 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?’.  Entrants then each produced a three-minute video in which they presented their answer to the question. 

Yomna Nassar, Manager at PwC Middle East (Government & Public Sector Consulting - Education & Skills), ‘I was really impressed by the great selection of videos and high participants’ turnout in this year’s innovation challenge. The ideas presented were innovative, clearly framed and supported by solid research. There certainly isn't a better time to reflect on the impact of our day to day actions on people, society and the environment.’ 

Christopher Girardi
Christopher Girardi

Professor Bairbre Redmond, Provost of U21 commented on the competition: ‘The overall quality of the entrants from U21 universities this year was extremely impressive. They brought insight, intelligence and energy to their discussions of the kinds of jobs needed for an environmentally-sensitive economy and the best way to prepare students for such work. My thanks to all students who made the effort to participate – the experience gained in preparing your presentations will be a resource for you in the future and my warmest congratulation to the winners.  We are also grateful to the large number of senior figures (16) from the world of work and the arts who took time to participate in the adjudication process.’ 

Amongst the judges were Corrine Smith, Director of Academic Development at the Royal College of Art,  Pamela Richards from the Institute of Coaching and Performance at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), Humberto Jimenez Martinez, PwC Australia and former competition winner and Sally Jeffrey, PwC Partner – Education and Skills at PwC Middle East. 

James Tait, Winner from the University of Melbourne commented: 'I am incredibly honoured and humbled in having my little idea deemed as worthy for winning this prestigious competition. I sincerely hope it’s the first step in a long career of building resilience and equality in both my own communities and communities around the world.’  

Christopher Girardi, Winner also from the University of Melbourne said: 'I’m deeply passionate about the challenge’s central social and environmental issues, so it’s been phenomenal taking part in the U21 PwC Innovation Challenge, let alone being one of this year’s winners. In refining and pitching a solution, it’s also been wonderful to not only grow my understanding of how complex these issues are, but to connect my personal experiences to matters of global concern.’ 

Daniel Student crop
Daniel Student

Daniel Student, Winner from University California, Davis said: 'Working on the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge was its own reward. It provided me with a wonderful opportunity to expand my personal knowledge on fascinating and important subjects and to grow as a researcher, presenter and thought leader. As a soon-to-be MBA concentrating in strategy and innovation & entrepreneurship, and as President of the UC Davis Net Impact Graduate Chapter, I was particularly motivated to investigate how universities can best prepare students for entry into a green workforce and to make my dreams of a large-scale contribution towards improving our planet a reality.'

Read more about Daniel's experience of the competition in his blog.

The runners up were: Hayden Wilkinson – University College Dublin, Laura Hamblin – The University of Melbourne, Artem Kaliuta – KU Leuven, Deepesh Jayasekara – University of Nottingham, Eugenia Lancellotta – University of Birmingham, Andrea Konta – University of Nottingham & Sophia Arkinstall – University of Queensland

All ten videos can be seen here

News of the next Innovation Challenge will be announced later in 2020. 




















Rachel Edwards