University of Virginia wins Accenture’s US innovation challenge

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A team of undergraduate students from the University of Virginia has won this year’s US Accenture Innovation Challenge.

The winning team will provide consulting support to the Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest-growing nonprofit solely dedicated to clean water.

Waterkeeper Alliance is a nonprofit organisation that unites more than 300 Waterkeeper groups around the world working to protect rivers, lakes and coastal waterways. It serves to strengthen and grow a global network of grassroots leaders working for clean water across six continents.

The winning team was selected following multiple rounds of competition involving 1,193 students from 63 undergraduate campuses and diversity partner programmes across the United States.

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The University of Virginia team’s winning proposal entails the creation of an image database of plastic pollution of waterways and the use of artificial intelligence to analyse and sort image data.

The project included the creation of a portal to support collaboration among Waterkeeper volunteers and the creation and tracking of community-based efforts including location-specific plastic pollution removal plans.

Marty Rodgers, senior managing director of Accenture’s US south region, said: “This year’s Challenge showcased doing well and doing good and responsible business, combining ideas and cutting-edge technology such as AI software for the common purpose of making a cleaner and healthier planet.

Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance, adds: “All the projects we reviewed were so impressive; it was hard to pick a winner.

“The University of Virginia team wowed us with their innovative thinking about pollution monitoring. We know that clean water saves lives. We’re honored and inspired that Accenture took this opportunity to direct some of our finest young minds toward tackling the epidemic of plastic pollution.”

Launched in 2012, the Accenture Innovation Challenge provides college students from across the United States an opportunity to offer ideas and solutions to support a priority goal of a nonprofit organisation. Accenture organizes two such competitions each year, one for college undergraduates and one for students in graduate programmes.