Students Providing Ideas for Innovative Solutions to Company-Defined Sustainability Challenges

Continuing on with our theme this month of Student Engagement, this week we focus in on opportunities for students to solve real challenges with real companies, focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Breakthrough Innovation Challenge (BIC), a collaboration between PRME and the UN Global Compact, is a year-long programme that brings together young professionals from leading multinational companies to evaluate disruptive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and Internet of Things, and build sustainable business models addressing the SDGs powered by these technologies. The project is part of a larger UN Global Compact Initiative, Project Breakthrough, which aims to catalyze breakthrough, rather than incremental, corporate innovation to advance the SDGs.

“Disruptive technologies are radically transforming industries and changing many aspects of our lives. The Breakthrough Innovation Challenge brings together leading companies and young innovators to design the sustainable business models of tomorrow. This is an exciting opportunity for students to put their ideas and knowledge into practice.” Nikolay Ivanov Coordinator, PRME Champions

How this works in practice

Corporate teams of young entrepreneurs will be tasked with developing a solution to a company-defined challenge focused on the intersection of sustainability and a disruptive technology. PRME students are invited to connect with the participating companies and challenge or support their company teams with innovative sets of ideas and solutions to their company-specific challenges.

Student teams are made up of 3 students per team and should be made up of interdisciplinary members from undergraduate and/or graduate programmes. They have until March 19th to sign up and respond to one of the cases presented by the companies. Company teams will then review the submissions and select one response they consider the best for each challenge. The selected student teams will be invited to work virtually with the company teams between April and June to further develop their ideas. They will be invited to participate in the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2017 and the teams with the best ideas would present their solutions on September 21st at the United Nations in NYC.

The challenges

Eight companies have defined eight real-life challenges focused on building sustainable business models and solutions powered by disruptive technologies. These include:

  • BRASKEM – Halve the key inputs used by agribusiness while increasing yields
  • ENEL – Affordable, clean and sustainable energy for everyone
  • FUJI XEROX – Creating an innovative work culture for creative, decent, eco-friendly work
  • IBERDROLA – Providing clean and affordable energy to everyone
  • NATURA – Enable a global collaboration network of Natura’s consultants
  • NESTLE – Enable exponential consumer engagement and behaviour change to contribute towards Nestlé’s strategy to prevent and minimise food waste along the value chain
  • SUMITOMO CHEMICAL – Feeding the world through precision agriculture- biosensors
  • YARA – Responsibly feed the world and protect the planet

The impact on students

Students will have the opportunity not just to engage in real life business challenges around the Sustainable Development Goals, but to possibly contribute to real company’s strategies in this area moving forward. This is a unique opportunity to step out of the classroom and make an impact in the way a global company approaches these issues.

Moving forwards

This is the pilot year for the Breakthrough Innovation Challenge with the prospects of having it run annually. The quality and impact of this engagement between multinational companies and innovative students will determine the future design of this programme.

How to get involved

PRME students can register here. For more information visit


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