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Apply your academic knowledge to real-world situations in the U21/PwC Innovation Challenge 2021!

McMaster PhD and Masters students (course- and research-based) have an opportunity to showcase their critical thinking skills and share their ideas with leaders in graduate career development – PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and its clients – in this online competition.

The Challenge, organized by Universitas 21 (U21) and partner PwC, allows students to respond to contemporary work-related issues (set by PwC) in a three-minute video. Videos are judged by PwC and its clients.

The Challenge question for McMaster graduate students:

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

How does the competition work?

  • A preliminary adjudication will take place at McMaster and the top video(s) will be entered into the U21/PwC competition.
    • All adjudication decisions are final.
    • McMaster students competing in the Challenge must upload their finished videos to this MacDrive folder.
    • The competition is open to current (registered) graduate students only at McMaster.
    • Students should review the Innovation Challenge rules on the U21 website, including the section on Intellectual Property, before filming their video and submitting. You will also find winning submissions from an earlier Innovation Challenge available for viewing.

McMaster University can submit up to four videos in the U21/PwC competition. Students should not submit videos directly to the U21/PwC competition.

Innovation Challenge Prizes


Three first prize winners will be selected; they will be awarded with virtual one-to-one career coaching sessions with the PwC Academy. There will be 7 runners up who will receive exclusive access to a PwC-approved online course. All approved entrants into the U21 final will receive exclusive access to online courses provided by the PwC Academy to support workplace skills development. A non-credited commendation certificate will be given by U21/PwC to each student who enters the competition.

What’s new this year?

There will be a People’s Choice vote to determine one of the three overall winners! You will be able to vote via the U21 website between Tuesday 27 July and Friday 20 August 2021.

Why take part?

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.

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 2021 Handbook

What’s new this year?

There will be a People’s Choice vote to determine one of the three overall winners! You will be able to vote via the U21 website between Tuesday 27 July and Friday 20 August 2021.


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 4 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 in MP4 video format
  • 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.

What is Universitas 21 (U21)?

U21 is a global network of research-intensive universities, focusing on collaboration and global knowledge exchange.

Review the U21 website for more about the Innovation Challenge. If you are a McMaster student with questions about the competition at McMaster, please contact


  • Deadline for video submissions: 11:59 PM Thursday 24 June 2021
  • Winners to be announced: Week commencing 6 September 2021  



U21 PwC Submission Form - 2021
**Please note that this competition is for graduate students only**

Please upload your video file here and then include the file name of your video in the field above. File format must be .MP4

File Name Example: PwC_jane.smith.MP4