Careers and Employability Service
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Employer-led projects and challenges

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Employer-led projects and challenges provide an opportunity for you to engage with real world scenarios and issues affecting industry.

A short-term employer-led project is an innovative way to build your work experience, and can often be done during term-time or during vacation time, alongside your studies. They are great if you have limited work experience and are looking to build your CV.

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The challenge of solving a problem for a local community centre


What do employer-led projects and challenges involve? 

Employer-led projects and challenges provide an opportunity for you to engage with real world scenarios and issues affecting industry. They can be a collaboration between a university and a local employer, exclusive to students of that university, or annual world-wide competitions by multi-national employers. 

Opportunities differ, but are usually short-term projects in which you would work in small groups to research a problem and make recommendations. The application process may include an application form, and this will be followed by a launch, in which the scenario and the parameters of the challenge are set by the employer. There will be designated time to work in your group during the project often with mentoring and support from the employer. The project will usually conclude with a final presentation to showcase solutions. 


Why get involved?

A short-term employer-led project is an innovative way to build your work experience, and can often be done during term-time or during vacation time, alongside your studies. They are great if you have limited work experience and are looking to build your CV.

Not only do employer-led projects and challenges provide you with the opportunity to boost your sector-specific skills, but can also support the development of key employability skills such as communication, problem solving, leadership, and project management. 

In addition, you can benefit from valuable networking opportunities, plus the chance to research employers, including what they look for in the graduates they recruit.  


Will I get paid?

It is unlikely that you will receive payment for an employer-led project or challenge. Some schemes may include a bursary or allowances for travel, or the opportunity to apply for or win prizes, which may include vouchers or other awards, such as mentoring or experiences.  

Are there projects and challenges exclusive to Nottingham students?


Where can I find details of challenges across the UK and beyond?

The following opportunities are challenges, employer-led projects and competitions that involve working in a group or as an individual. Deadlines vary so take a look and make a note of the application timescales. 

Advertising, marketing and PR

  • D&AD: New Blood Awards - Open to all students and recent graduates, the challenge is to answer a creative brief set by world famous brands such as the BBC, Penguin, HSBC and Lego! You can work in a team or enter as an individual
  • Data and Marketing Association (DMA)Talent Marketing Challenge - Working in a team between three and six people, set up your student agency, get stuck into an exciting marketing brief and pitch your ideas to the client
  • L'Oréal Student Brandstorm - as a three-person team crack a real business case, take it from idea to concept, learn to be a brand manager and be automatically invited to an assessment centre for a L’Oréal UK internship. 


  • 120 hours - global architecture competition where students are given 120 hours to solve a complex and socially relevant assignment. By addressing topical discussions in both public and  architecture debate, the competition aims to be a contributor of new thoughts and discussions within both social and cultural discourse
  • International Velux Awards - The International VELUX Award is a competition for students of architecture. The challenge: to work with daylight as an ever relevant source of light, life and joy. Present your ideas to a jury of internationally renowned architects at the World Architecture Festival in Lisbon and win up to €5,000

Business and finance

  • Hult Prize - brings the students from around the world together to focus their passion, energy and talent on solving a single problem from education, water, healthcare to clean water and the refugee crisis 
  • Mint Formations Enterprising Entrepreneur Award - open to students studying a business-related degree (including economics, marketing and finance) or with a business module as part of their course. Submit a business pitch to a panel of judges for a chance to win £1000 towards your tuition fees or setting up your dream business. 
  • Universities Business Challenge - two worldwide simulation-based competitions for undergraduate and postgraduate students. In groups of up to five, undergraduates are challenged to make strategic business decisions in a simulated workplace experience. For the postgraduates, participants act as a board of directors who have taken on the responsibility for improving the performance of a company
  • Zurich Enterprise Challenge - work with one of the world's top insurance companies and interact with its corporate customers to solve real-life strategy and business challenges. Open to teams of up to four masters, MBAs or PhD students

Engineering, IT, science and maths

  • Cyber Security Challenge - runs national online competitions throughout the year to raise awareness of cyber learning opportunities and careers
  • Formula Student - challenges teams of engineering students to design, build and develop a single seater racing car for autocross or sprint racing.
  • Grads in Games - two competitions - Search for a Star and Sumo Digital Rising Star - where students are tasked with creating their own games, art assets, animations or visual effects. The prizes are an interview for an internship or graduate job.
  • Microsoft Imagine Cup - annual global student technology competition. Working in a team of up to four students, you'll use your imagination and passion to create a technology solution to problems facing the world today. Opportunity to win travel, mentorship and cash.
  • Schneider Go Green (Europe) - annual global student competition for sustainable energy solutions, organised by Schneider Electric. Open to business, engineering, physics, computer science, maths and other science students, you'll work in teams of two to compete for a trip to the Schneider Innovation Hub.
  • Showcode - a community platform where coders compete, collaborate and learn through leagues, competitions and hackathons. Check out the VarsityCode.
  • Telegraph STEM Awards - opportunity for STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) undergraduate students (working in a group or individually) to tackle a problem of your choice - from the personal to the global. You could win £25,000 and a work experience placement.
  • UKSEDS - explore five competitions focused on rocketry, rover design, satellite design and in-orbit servicing and manufacturing.

Journalism and writing


  • Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize - aims to recognise the achievements of young translators at the start of their careers and to encourage and support the next generation of literary translators. Age range 18 to 34 years



Please be aware that study abroad, compulsory year abroad, optional placements/internships and integrated year in industry opportunities may change at any time for a number of reasons, including curriculum developments, changes to arrangements with partner universities or placement/industry hosts, travel restrictions or other circumstances outside of the university's control. Every effort will be made to update this information as quickly as possible should a change occur.


Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679