Winners of the U21 & PwC Innovation Challenge 2021 Announced


Universitas 21 (U21) and PwC are pleased to announce the three winners of the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge competition 2021. Congratulations to Samardeepsingh Sarna from McMaster University, Eunice OreOluwa Fasan from University College Dublin, and Aibankitlang Allya from University of Birmingham, who won the first ever People’s Choice vote for the competition, which received over 4500 votes via the U21 website.

This year’s challenge invited graduate students from across the network to submit a 3-minute video to suggest initiatives that can be undertaken by governments and/or businesses and/or education providers to help improve and maintain shared and sustainable prosperity.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the global economy and further exposed the inadequacies of our current economic structures, highlighting a growing mismatch between people’s current skills and the needs of the workplace. Using the Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report by the World Economic Forum and PwC as a starting point, students were asked to address how to narrow the widening skills gap.

Sally Jeffery, Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers Middle East and Co-Founder of the Innovation Challenge competition, commented, "This year’s applicants to the innovation challenge deserve special merit; to participate in such a tough ask after such a challenging year demonstrates genuine resilience that I am sure will be a tremendous advantage to them as they pursue their careers.  Thank you to them and the faculties who encouraged them to apply.  We look forward to working with the successful applicants in the weeks ahead."

People’s Choice winner Aibankitlan Allya from University of Birmingham said: "The competition was nothing like I've experienced before, and it pushed me to think beyond the comfort of academic learning. The challenge gave me a valuable perspective that this generation has the chance and the resources to ensure that no one misses the fourth industrial revolution because it is a ticket for every worker to a piece of the pie."

Eunice OreOluwa Fasan, winner from University College Dublin said, "It was a pleasure to take part in the U21 PwC Innovation Challenge this year. Not only was it an opportunity to put my critical thinking skills into practice, but it also served to reshape my views on education, people and the working world. In the course of my research, I came across truly inspiring real-world examples of individuals who have taken this challenge head on within their own communities and workplaces, it's only unfortunate that I couldn't fit them all into my 3-minute video. My hope is that many organisations will also take this on board and make investing in their employees' growth and practical learning a core part of the organisational culture, so that this in turn may create a ripple effect that fosters shared and sustainable prosperity for all. At the end of the day, the grass isn't always greener on the other side, rather as Neil Barrington once said, the grass is greener where you water it."

Samardeepsingh Sarna, winner from McMaster University said: "(It was) a stimulating opportunity that ignited our creativity and invigorated innovation!" 

Professor Jenny Dixon, U21 Provost said: "I was very impressed with the high standard of applications to the competition. What stood out across the diverse field was that students took a very holistic approach, including the integration of well-being, in closing the skills gap and reducing inequality in the global workplace."

The three winners will receive career development coaching sessions with the PwC Academy. A further 8 shortlisted entries will receive access to online training resources courtesy of PwC. 

Amongst the judges were Tristan Hockley, Partner – South East Asia Consulting (Singapore), Anisha Vittee, Senior Manager – South Africa Education and Skills Practice, and Jenny Bridge, Director – Education and Skills Consulting.

Connie Wan