Surrey success at Santander's Big Ideas Challenge final

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Santander has announced the winners of its ‘Big Ideas’ competition, set up to identify transformational ideas to overcome some of the key technological issues and bring digital innovation to the financial industry, at an awards ceremony last night in London.


• ‘Big Ideas’ competition encourages students to transform the financial industry through innovative digital ideas with a £20,000 prize fund
• Categories include the future of virtual banking, semantic search and digital authentication
• Category winners include projects from Lancaster University, University of Surrey and Aston University. Santander creative thinkers award goes to the University of Strathclyde.

Three teams have been named as the winners of the competition:
• Lancaster University for their project Gryphos received £5,000
• University of Surrey for their project Encord received £5,000
• Aston University for their project Applying Ontology received £5,000

In addition the University of Strathclyde, with its project - Rhythm Tapping - won the Santander Creative Thinkers award for the most creative idea receiving a prize of £3,500.

Matt Hutnell, Divisional Retail Director at Santander Universities said: “It’s vital that we encourage and reward entrepreneurial students to dare to challenge and innovate. Through Big Ideas, we asked students to create unique, forward thinking solutions with the potential to transform the sector.

The Winning Ideas
Project Gryphos saw Kyaw Tun Sein, Sebastien Combret and Patrizia Carbone from the University of Lancaster develop a combination of fingerprint, voice, heartbeat and SMS recognition for password authentication.

The University of Surrey’s Abdullah Al-Shakarchi and James Telfer developed a smart system capable of capturing conversations between customers and advisors to enable automatic data entry during the interview process to save time completing applications.

PhD Computer Science student Nazmul Hussain from Aston University developed a prototype ontology model to support and improve semantic search enabling customers to find products and services more easily.

PhD Pharmacy student Jo Zhou from the University of Strathclyde, won the creative thinkers award for digital authentication through rhythmic tapping, using a favourite song for example, on a mobile device.

Abdullah Al-Shakarchi said of his experience: "The competition provided a stimulating avenue to engage in idea generation and presentation. It was incredibly well defined, structured and organised by Santander, with initial feedback and multiple review sessions ahead of the final. The most thrilling aspect was the challenging executive committee presentation to a board which included Santander's COO, this was an exceptionally unique and exceedingly valuable opportunity to have at university level."

James Telfer added: "We initially discovered the competition through the University's Student Enterprise Newsletter. The Student Enterprise department worked hard to make all resources available to us even though we are on industrial placement and unable to participate during working hours. As we progressed to the final, we were paired with two professors in the Business and Electronic Engineering departments, to assist us with commercial and technical aspects of our pitch. Reflecting on the competition, it was a superb exercise to develop our ability to generate ideas through short to long term market vision and sell them to relevant stakeholders. This was particularly beneficial as we believe those two to be the most strenuous and critical aspects of any development."

Matt Hutnell summarised the competition's aims: “The worlds of technology and banking continue to evolve at pace, and it is vital that we engage the brightest young minds to help shape this. Nurturing young talent and ensuring the right support and opportunities are in place are essential to successfully fostering digital innovation that will ultimately add value by creating more choice and convenience for our customers.”

The competition, which has a £20,000 prize fund, called upon bright, creative student minds to put forward their ideas, and also offered finalists the opportunity to work closely with Santander’s Innovation team to develop prototype solutions whilst retaining ownership of their work.

The Big Ideas Executive Judging Panel included:

  • Juan Olaizola ‐ Santander UK’s Chief Operating Officer, Santander UK
  • Sigga Sigurdardottir ‐ Head of Customer and Innovation, Santander UK
  • Edward Metzger ‐ Head of Innovation T&O, Santander UK (Panel host)
  • Sergio Varela – Head of Solution and Innovation at ISBAN UK
  • Michelle Kent – Head of Digital, Santander UK
  • Aurore Hochard – Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes, Cass Business School

For more information on the competition please visit:

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