U21 PwC Innovation Challenge

Present your ideas about the future world of work to PwC and their clients to win world-class career development or a trip to PwC Middle East.

Black and teal text reading U21 Universitas 21.

The 2021 U21 PwC Innovation Challenge invites graduate students to stretch their critical thinking and presentation skills by responding to a real life workforce challenge in a succinct three-minute video presentation.

Why take part?

The Innovation Challenge is about increasing U21 students’ employment opportunities by providing a direct connection to PwC and their company client base; PwC client CEOs will be involved in judging the final rounds, and PwC will be providing a tailored VIP experience for the winner of each Group.

The challenge supports and prepares U21 students for the world of work by allowing them to consider and respond to real workplace challenges. The format of the competition is designed to help students develop presentation and communication skills as well as fostering critical thinking and expertise.

The 2021 challenge

The recent Upskilling for Shared Prosperity report by the World Economic Forum and PwC makes the case for providing employees with learning and development opportunities to expand their horizons while minimising skills gaps. The report highlights certain challenges, such as addressing the disconnect between current education programmes and the skills employers need today and in the future, but also presents the advantages of upskilling, including wider social benefits triggered by the development of specific skills that will prove beneficial for the future success of the global economy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on the global economy in ways we could not have imagined. It has further exposed the inadequacies of our current economic structures and highlights a growing mismatch between people’s current skills and those needed for the jobs at the heart of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The skills gap is widening and causing greater inequality in the workplace.

Based on the report and proposed call to action, suggest an initiative that can be undertaken by governments and/or businesses and/or education providers that can help improve and maintain shared and sustainable prosperity.


There will be a People’s Choice vote to determine one of the three overall winners this year. The vote will take place via the U21 website between Tuesday 27 July and Friday 20 August 2021.

Winners (3 in total)

  • Expenses-paid visit to Dubai (7 days) meeting with staff at PwC Dubai who will arrange visits to some of the innovative projects in the city. Travel will take place in accordance with global travel guidelines and timing will be determined by local restrictions.
  • Career development coaching sessions with the PwC Academy.
  • Free access to employability skills  development online courses (via the PwC Academy) with costs of the assessment and certificate covered. 

Runners Up (7 in total)

  • Career coaching sessions with the PwC Academy.
  • Online training courses (as above).

All Approved Entrants

  • Online training courses (as above).

Entering the competition

Checking your eligibility

Any registered graduate student in one of U21’s member universities (this includes students from taught masters programmes, research masters programmes and PhDs) is eligible. Students on joint PhDs between two U21 members will be eligible to apply.

NOTE: As some of the prizes may involve time in a company undertaking training, internships etc., students who enter the competition should ensure that they are in a position to take up any such opportunities within a reasonable time period.

Preparing your entry

Be sure to download and read the U21 PwC Innovation Challenge Student Handbook for tips on preparing your entry, judging criteria and links to videos of previous winners.

Submitting your entry

The University of Auckland selection panel will select the top four local entries to be put forward to the regional competition.

  • Prepare and film your presentation according to the rules for submission.
  • Submit your video to Deborah McAllister Universitas21@auckland.ac.nz by 12noon Tuesday 1 June 2021. If your file is too large to be sent via email, please use the University’s Web DropOff Box.
  • The local selection panel will make a decision by Friday 11 June 2021.
  • The selected University of Auckland finalists will then be invited to submit their video to U21 for regional judging by Friday 2 July 2021.

Rules for submission

  • Submissions must be made via the specified University of Auckland 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 the wrong format will not be accepted.
  • Presentations are limited to three 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 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 (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.

Got questions?

If you have any questions about the competition or application process, please contact Deb McAllister at universitas21@auckland.ac.nz.