Students Deliver World-Class Solutions in Global Innovation Challenge

Published Dec-11-12

Unique tool makes sense of cloud computing for small businesses to help them increase productivity and efficiency.

Innovation Challenge, United States

The Story:

Students Deliver World-Class Solutions in Global Innovation Challenge Getting some of the best student minds in the world to work on pressing business and social innovation challenges is the intent of the annual Global Innovation Challenge. For more than ten years this open innovation contest has matched over 8,000 talented students from 88 countries with leading companies to solve problems.

A competition is one of the best ways to innovate and creates wins for all involved. Organizations can source new talent, solve a problem and innovate, and participants can showcase their expertise and ingenuity. It’s also a boon for recruiters who can land some prize catches for their corporations.

How it Works

Leading corporate sponsors of the competition field questions that the student teams must address. These questions are typically structured to help those firms find strategic and innovative solutions.

Examples of past questions include:

• How might we use mobile technologies to prevent HIV infection in Generation Y?
• How might Hilton Hotels improve the female guest experience?

During a 4-6 week period teams develop their concepts and create an elevator pitch which is then adjudicated by a panel of judges. From this process 15 semifinalists are chosen from the contest’s sponsored divisions, for further concept refinement and adjudications.

Winners of the Ninth Annual Innovation Challenge

In 2011, the overall winner of the Ninth Annual Innovation Challenge was a team of students from VCU Brandcenter who developed a cloud-based platform solution for small businesses.

The team participated in the AT&T Division. Along with other teams it was challenged to develop a detailed plan for addressing questions on emerging technology and how the telecommunication giant can better connect its cloud-hosting services with mobility apps to meet the needs of small enterprises.

Award-Winning Solution

After interviewing a number of small business owners the students learned that many did not comprehend the benefits of cloud services. So they created a tool that could simplify cloud and mobile applications whilst increasing productivity and efficiency.

At the same time their innovation could provide users with the type of “analytical firepower” usually only available to large companies. And it could all be done for a cost that would suit most small business budgets and not threaten their bank accounts.

“The VCU team’s innovative approach to simplifying adoption of cloud computing for small businesses has a lot of potential and we’re thrilled to have been a collaborator in their winning submission,” said Sam Zellner, AT&T’s Executive Director of Innovation.

According to Don Just, a VCU Brandcenter professor, one of the reasons that the team’s insights led to a successful solution was because of the education center’s emphasis on an interdisciplinary collaborative approach to problem solving.

“Time and again the school's commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration in solving problems has proven to be a powerful tool in a marketplace that is moving at warp speed,” he said.

The four-person team was awarded a prize of $20,000 for their innovative concept, and split the money evenly among members. They also took up the opportunity to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

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