The Hiscox University Data Challenge, which ran for six months, challenged students from top universities across the UK to use advanced data analysis and innovative risk strategies to design an integrated approach to Product Recall insurance.

Previously unfamiliar with the reality of product recalls or the insurance that supports businesses who face them, Surrey students Stewart Hutchins, Xuhui Li, Courtney Elmy and Will Bennet excelled in the competition – in only their first year of entering.

The team’s innovative approach – creating machine-readable data from food product recall information and designing comprehensive risk management guidance to reduce the impact of recalls – won them the first prize: a trophy, £1,000 for their Maths Society, and fast-tracked entry to the Hiscox graduate assessment programme.

Surrey impressed us with their insights into future trends, their narrowing of the dataset to focus on recalls of different types of meat and their very clear business case. What really impressed us was their understanding of the insurance context and their global viewpoint.’

Speaking with the Surrey team at the ceremony, team captain Stewart Hutchins told us:

‘The hardest part of the challenge was part two, where we had to design aspects of a product recall insurance product. We didn’t know quite where to start but once we got an idea of the specific area of recalls we wanted to look at, and zoned in on it, we found that the research came a bit easier – and coming up with ideas for what to do next.’

As part of the competition, all students were given training in data visualisation software that they could use to help them with the challenge, which the Surrey team found particularly valuable:

‘We hadn’t used Tableau before, we didn’t know about it, so it was useful to know it exists and know how to use that software.’

The Surrey students also told us that their project management skills and knowledge of insurance had improved over the course of the competition and that they’d consider pursuing a career in insurance in the future.

Leeds and Cambridge University, the runners-up in the competition, also impressed the judges with their sophisticated methods of analysis, and creation of a beta tool for tracking recall events, respectively. Each team from these universities will receive £250 for their societies.

Last year’s winners, Leeds University, had over 70 internal applications for the competition this year, and even ran a pre-competition challenge to decide on their team members.

‘The anxiety was higher, trying to defend our title and we wanted to find the best students in the university to get involved in this year.’

Despite losing out on the top spot this time around, the Leeds team captain, Lawrence Ning Lu, is positive about the benefits his team experienced by taking part.

‘People know that I’m a trophy hunter, I hunt trophies every year, and I’m glad everyone in the team shares my little habit. But the only thing I really care about is that these students, every single one of them, is doing something quite different aside from their studies.

‘The Hiscox challenge is about the additional value that you create, the additional signal that you send to your potential employer that you’re doing something different. That’s the thing that I want everyone to take away from this.’

For more information about this year’s challenge, the university teams that took part and their innovative competition entries, visit our dedicated Hiscox University Data Challenge hub.