Ideation Challenge seeks brightest young minds in artificial intelligence

Register now

As organizations turn to data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence to advance their businesses, the demand for top technology talent is growing. To help develop and attract the next generation of talent, KPMG International created the KPMG Ideation Challenge, a global program that gathers STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students from around the globe with the aim of solving real-world business issues with AI-driven ideas and solutions.

Out of more than 600 applicants, nine teams drawn from 65 premier universities across the world were selected to advance to the final of KPMG's second annual Ideation Challenge May 10-12 in Amsterdam. Participating teams were from universities in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Netherlands, UK and US.

This year, the KPMG Ideation Challenge named University of Toronto Team Paramount AI as the winner. Paramount AI's winning idea is a solution that aims to redefine the waste management industry, effectively combining AI and intelligent automation to solve the issue of rising landfills by automating waste segregation at the source.

Paramount AI will retain the intellectual property rights to take their solution to market. The team will also attend the KPMG Annual AI Summit in October in Toronto where they will present their idea on a global stage to several hundred KPMG professionals, data scientists, influencers and clients.

Throughout the Challenge event, each team was tasked with applying AI technologies to help solve a real or imagined business issue within an organization of their choice - anything from a not-for-profit organization to a tech startup or a bank. They worked alongside KPMG professionals who helped co-develop their innovative ideas and turn them into prototypes. The students' final submissions were reviewed by a panel of KPMG judges, who scored each submission based on five criteria: innovation, presentation, feasibility, client impact and customer impact.

To better understand the goals of the program, Information Management spoke with Thomas Erwin, global Head of KPMG Lighthouse, Center of Excellence for Data-driven Technologies and a partner with KPMG in Germany. Erwin served on the panel of judges who scored each of the nine submissions, and was a key sponsor of the initiative.

Information Management: KPMG recently sponsored the second Ideation Challenge for college students. Please tell us what that challenge is all about.

Thomas Erwin: The KPMG Ideation Challenge is a global program that gathers STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students from around the globe to solve real-world business issues with artificial intelligence (AI)-driven ideas and solutions.

IM: What is the overall goal of the challenge?

Erwin: KPMG developed the KPMG Ideation Challenge to attract the brightest talent in data and analytics, artificial intelligence and intelligent automation. Our goal is to identify and develop that talent while also helping them to bring their innovative ideas to reality, with the chance for them to start a career with KPMG. Overall, we want to encourage students to create a positive impact with their ideas, driving real-world benefits.

IM: This year’s overall theme was artificial intelligence. Why was that group of technologies chosen?

Erwin: The AI revolution has arrived. And for today's C-suite leaders, the question is no longer if AI will fit into their business but how it will transform them into an AI-first, digital enterprise.

With so many of our member firms’ clients turning to KPMG to help uncover AI-driven solutions to advance their business, it was the most fitting theme. AI can drive impactful change for businesses, allowing them to stay competitive and drive growth and profitability. Given this, the demand for top AI talent is growing every day, and this competition provides a unique way to identify those candidates to join our expanding KPMG Lighthouse team.

IM: The winning team in this year’s challenge was from the University of Toronto. What set their solution apart from other entries?

Erwin: Team Paramount AI’s winning idea was a solution that looked at solving the issue of rising landfills by implementing the automation of waste segregation. We scored each submission based on five criteria: innovation, presentation, feasibility, client impact and customer impact.

Team Paramount excelled across all these categories, their live demonstration especially stood out from other submissions. Team Paramount were able to build a garbage identification system for automatic sorting in bins, an idea which could make a real difference in reducing landfill and save money for many companies.

IM: The University of Toronto students will be attending the KPMG annual AI Summit in October. What is that event all about?

Erwin: This year’s KPMG Annual AI Summit will take place in Toronto in October. It’s a global gathering of more than 200 KPMG experts focused on AI’s fast-emerging opportunities. The summit - featuring speakers from business and academia – will generate many ideas, questions and timely observations concerning AI's rapidly emerging capacity to generate enhanced business insights, smarter decision making and advanced predictive functions.

Team Paramount will be among the presenters at the Summit. They will have the opportunity to present their idea on to a global audience of KPMG practitioners, data scientists, influencers and clients.

IM: What is your sense of what qualities or attributes make for the best budding professionals to go into careers working with artificial intelligence?

Erwin: The best candidates for jobs in AI have strong problem solving and analytical abilities. They must be highly motivated and enthusiastic to take on a variety of challenges and opportunities. Also, while it’s a highly technical and skilled position, strong communication skills are key as they will work in teams and with clients and need to be able to work collaboratively with others to solve problems and take advantage of new opportunities.

IM: There seems to be a great deal of interest in, but confusion over, the opportunities to work with AI in the corporate sector. What would you say are the most important myths and realities that organizations should know about AI today?

Erwin: One of the biggest myths is that AI is still an emerging area. At KPMG, we can see that it has well and truly arrived and is a strategic area of our business. The span of AI continues to grow, whilst existing AI techniques are rapidly maturing and becoming commonplace with many of our clients.

The opportunities for AI can be as small as automating a process, or entirely transforming the way a business serves its customers. At KPMG, we find that the question is less whether AI can help your business, and more about how AI can change your business.

Another misconception is that AI requires a large amount of investment, when the reality that the benefits of AI can be proven reasonably quickly with modern approaches and technology. This is an optimal time for an organization to evaluate how they can benefit from AI.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.