Published: 15-02-2021 09:03 | Updated: 16-02-2021 10:03

KI-students help companies solve the challenge on how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine

Winning team Skillbridge Challenge 2020
The winning team of the Skillbridge Challenge 2020. Stephen Townsend (KI, MSc. Bioentrepreneurship), Edvin Sjökvist (SSE, MSc. in Business & Management), Praveen Pillai (KI MSc. in Bioentrepreneurship), Jonathan Malmberg (KTH, MSc. in Industrial Engineering & Management)

During a one-week challenge Praveen Pillai and Stephen Townsend, two KI students, worked together with students from other schools to solve the case on how Pfizer and IBM could ensure a successful COVID-19 vaccine distribution – and their solution ended up winning the challenge!

Praveen Pillai and Stephen Townsend are currently doing their MSc in Bioentrepreneurship at KI. It was their professor who told them about the case competition the Skillbridge Case Student Challenge 2020 which is arranged by Pfizer, IBM, and Arthur D. Little. One of the intentions of the competition is to integrate students with different competence to work on a case together. The challenge was to develop a proposal of a platform for services, technical solutions, interface, and communication plans, which would provide good conditions to offer the Swedish population the COVID-19 vaccine. The students applied individually by writing a letter of motivation about how they think they could contribute.

- As two international students, we thought this was a great opportunity to learn more about Sweden, collaborate with a diverse student group, and meet like-minded individuals to help solve pandemic-related challenges, Praveen Pillai and Stephen Townsend comment in an e-mail.

Praveen Pillai and Stephen Townsend got accepted to the challenge and the teams were mixed with students from the participating schools: Berghs School of Communication, Stockholm School of Economics, Karolinska Institutet, and KTH Royal Institutet of Technology.

For one week in October 2020, their team got to work together to solve the case.

- At the end of the week, the intensity began to rise as we were building our final presentation. We had been through sleepless nights, excessive amounts of coffee, and the nerves of presenting to the experienced jury were growing on us. However, as a team, we managed to calm down as we were very convinced by our solution, and we believed the jury would feel the same.

All teams presented their final solutions to a jury which consisted of representatives from the different companies, as well as representatives from Region Stockholm. It was a true moment of joy and a big relief for the team as the results were presented during the video-conference call.

- We started cheering and yelling for about a full minute, only to realize our Zoom microphone was on mute… it must have been an awkward silence for the others!  

Even though it was a tough week with a lot of hard work, they both agree that it was an amazing experience. Praveen Pillai says that he discovered an interest in strategy formulation for companies which is a path that he wishes to develop further. Stephen Townsend says that he learned about the value of teamwork and gained further appreciation for the challenges in dealing with a global pandemic. The next Skillbridge Case Student Challenge is tentatively planned for October 2021. Both Praveen and Stephen recommend students to join these types of case challenges.

- Do not have any expectations and just enjoy the process. It is a great learning experience and remember; focus on understanding the problem, they say.