Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

Cisco UKI University Challenge 2016

January 31, 2017

October 20th 2016 saw the delivery and execution of Cisco’s third annual University Challenge held at Bedfont Lakes, our EMEAR HQ. This year, we welcomed the reception of 85 students from 17 universities across the UK to participate in a 24+ hour innovation challenge.

This years event saw the utilisation of various Cisco technologies and API’s supplied from DevNet and Meraki, to create a Proof of Concept (PoC) in software for a go to market strategy within various market verticals. Additional sponsors of the event were the UK&I country leadership board, NetAcad, WPR and HR University Relations – all of whom made the delivery of the event possible. The event saw involvement from the CIO of Cisco IT, Guillermo Diaz Jr. Who gave a warm and personalised welcome video to all attendees. He reiterated the importance of software engineering, and how investing in talent from universities is crucial to Cisco’s evolution into a software and subscription centric company. IT professionals like Tom Deckers (Cisco IT), Cory Guynn (Meraki) and Matt Johnson (Engineering) provided great support by way of the keynote speeches and technical assistance provided throughout the event.

For the challenge, each university team consisted of x3 Software Engineers, x1 Project Manager and x1 Business Analyst. It was the responsibility of the engineers to build the PoC with the business analyst conducting market analytics to elucidate on the go to market strategy, value proposition, competitor market, and financial projections. The Project Manager was tasked with building the project plan while ensuring the project milestones were met within the confines of a structured roadmap including considerations for scalability and further development (if the team had more time to complete their solution).

Starting at 08:00 and finishing at 14:00 the following day, this marathon event saw the showcase of Cisco technologies, interactive demos, keynote speeches, competitions and freshly prepared hot catering. At 21:00 on the 20th all university teams were broken out into separate meeting rooms where they took part in Telepresence enabled conference sessions; gaining mentorship from Cisco professionals operating in different time zones. This activity proved pivotal for the students as they used these sessions to pull the direction of their solutions into something that would be viable as an enterprise class solution, before working through the night. After a hot breakfast on the morning of the 21st, all project work ceased and the process to whittle the 17 teams down to the top three began. After some fierce deliberation over a two-hour period, the three finalists were announced and began preparation for their pitches on the main stage. The judging panel consisted of Scott Gardner (CEO for UK&I), Phil Smith (Chair), Tunji Akintokun (Director), Emma Rudden (Global Account Manager), Colin Seward (Director), Nicki Ryan (Director), Tom Deckers (IT Architect), Cory Guynn (Systems Engineer, Meraki) and Kareem Iskander (DevNet). The top three successful finalists were The University of Glasgow, Teeside University and The University of Bath, with the University of bath eventually taking the crown as the 2016 University Challenge winners!

All finalists did an amazing job and this event saw the highest standard of solutions we’ve seen since the inception of this initiative. The University of Bat’s ‘Spark Learning’ solution leveraged Cisco Spark API’s to create a gamified, interactive, multiple choice quiz aimed at primary schools. They presented a very well polished presentation along with a working demo of the PoC. The value of such an application would expand the install base of Cisco Spark as the vision would be to roll it out across the education sector. The scalability and commercial value proposition came from the ability to provide a subscription based revenue model that would see the release of various question and answer packs pertaining to the topic or level of study. As this year’s solutions were of such a high standard, arrangements for two of the finalists were made for them to repeat their pitches in front of our innovation managers @ IDEALondon. This provided the teams with a unique opportunity to pitch their idea as a start-up to a corporate entity interested in the incubation and acceleration of start-up solutions that disrupt the market.

The event was a great success and was welcomed and applauded by both Cisco leadership and the universities that took part. Watch this space for any further developments as we continue to provide opportunities for the next wave of industry professionals.

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