Discover the Zurich Innovation Championship… #ZIC2023

International startup collaborations that yield business results


Read time: 7 mins.

This article was published first on 16 February on LinkedIn under the profile of Sabine VanderLinden and is being republished here. 

Driven by a personal experience of a natural disaster, Ahmad Wani co-founded One Concern in 2015. His situation relates to one of the massive floods in Kashmir, where nearly 85% of the region was underwater, and many lost their lives and loved ones.

Ahmad Wani and his family were forced to live under one roof for almost seven days as floodwaters destroyed their community. Surviving a deadly flood has shaped his worldview and driven his passion for building one of the leading climate analytics companies in the world.

In 2022, One Concern, a scaleup focused on delivering infrastructure-level digital twins, entered the Zurich Innovation Championship to provide a lens on how climate resilience and better control measurements within cities can improve the accuracy of predictions and release of responses. One Concern was one of the winners in the Prevention and Mitigation category, selected by Zurich North America and its Commercial Insurance business unit.

Picture from the Zurich Innovation Championship Website where the One Concern case study is illustrated and captured
The One Concern’s proposition is available with a video on Zurich Innovation Championship’s website.

So many more exciting stories can be accessed on the Zurich Innovation Championship website under the past editions.

The Zurich Innovation Championship

The Zurich Innovation Championship, now in its fourth edition (#ZIC2023), is a prestigious international competition run by Zurich Insurance Group that recognizes and rewards the most innovative and groundbreaking ideas in multiple fields directly impacting the insurance industry and its value chain. Zurich executives within the Group Strategy and Group Technology units lead this annual challenge. It attracts some of the brightest minds and most forward-thinking founders worldwide. Zurich Insurance Group, or Zurich, believes that change is the only constant in life. As the speed of change is accelerating, insurers must adapt, collaborate, and partner with those able to accelerate the transformation of business models. That’s why this initiative aims to work with startups able to reinvent Zurich’s operations and deliver customer-centric product offerings.

In 2022, the competition welcomed over 2,700 applications, leading to twelve global winners with unique customer-centric and technology-led propositions.

The competition is open to any startup and scaleup with an innovative proposition that can positively impact the environment or society, help Zurich exceed its customers’ changing needs, and deliver unique ways to pave the way for the future of insurance.

The key driver of the competition is to validate and adopt commercially viable technologies by working directly with startups and collaborating with them to bring compelling products and services to market. Think about this initiative as targeted business development on hyperspeed. The goal is to make everyone love insurance slightly more and yield a competitive advantage through differentiation.

Thoughts about business resilience with picture taken from the WoW Museum in Zurich
Picture from Zurich Innovation Championship 2023’s launch at the WoW Museum.

This year’s five tournament categories

The 2023 challenges, like previous years, are aligned with Zurich’s strategic priorities, spanning over five areas of interest for solutions able to transform existing insurance propositions since its inauguration in 2018.

The Zurich tournament categories are:

  1. Enhancing the Customer Experience: We all know that the customer is at the center of everything. We often discuss this subject. Still, delivering on such a promise takes work and effort. Zurich is looking for ventures with cutting-edge and innovative solutions able to provide exceptionally tailored engagements embedded within each customer experience, whether elderly, millennials, Gen Z, corporate customers, or small and medium enterprises. Consider solutions to enhance customer engagement with artificial intelligence, rewards ecosystem, investment insights, Web 3.0 experience, and contextual offerings.
  2. Transforming Commercial Insurance: In a rapidly changing risk landscape, Zurich is committed to earning the trust of its commercial insurance customers by providing tailored insurance solutions and risk management services to secure client data and protect clients’ information while delivering innovative solutions able to assess risk, predict risk and prevent risk. Cyber risk prevention, climate resilience, worker safety, and supply chain insights are all on the card.
  3. Elevating Distribution Partnerships: Zurich is dedicated to enhancing its partnership model and attracting new distribution approaches and ecosystem partners to meet the evolving needs of its customers. The group is also developing strategies to deliver mutually beneficial information and interactions with its stakeholders. This entails considering B2B2E and digital propositions, groundbreaking gig economy-led technologies, and embedded insurance platforms supported by digital ecosystems.
  4. Facilitating Digital Enablement: The digital revolution is here. Zurich wants to unearth new technologies and engagement mechanisms to drive efficiency and agility while ensuring the right customer, agents, and employee experience. These may include prediction-driven solutions leveraging embedded intelligence such as AI or RPA or new insurance mechanisms such as parametric insurance.
  5. Helping Society Transition to a More Sustainable World: One of the most crucial challenges of this decade, sustainability is undoubtedly on this year’s agenda as last year. As a responsible and socially conscious company, Zurich is dedicated to helping society transition to a more environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable future by deploying sustainable operational practices, delivering more societally aligned offers, and supporting value chain partners.
ZIC2023 5 categories and strategic themes
ZIC2023’s challenges and strategic themes.

Mastering the global startup tournament

The process is straightforward but still highly competitive. The top performers only with highly innovative solutions and successful ideas are invited into the competition at a local and global level.

First, I recommend evaluating one or multiple of the themes shared above.

Then, submit a detailed online application outlining how your innovation changes insurance.

Next, you will be invited to participate in a series of online interviews designed to evaluate the suitability of the solutions and their ability to answer pointed questions talking to stakeholders worldwide.

With such an engaging, still rigorous selection process, it was no surprise that the Zurich Innovation Championship is today one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive events.

Everyone can learn why the Zurich Innovation Championship is so unique and access some tips on the submission, selection, acceleration, and adoption processes by reading the white paper.

No alt text provided for this image
ZIC2022 – The Startup Awards.

Advantages of participating in the competition

Startups and scaleups always ask… What is in it for me?

I thought I would provide a little list of why the program suits both startups and scaleups.

  1. Learning and Development: Active engagement in the competition allows participants to receive feedback on their ideas from teams located in multiple locations, learn from experts in the field, and gain valuable experience in developing and pitching their solutions to an executive audience.
  2. Exposure: The competition allows each participating company to showcase its ideas and solutions to a large audience of experts, increasing its visibility to executives within the group.
  3. Networking: Participants can meet and interact with other entrepreneurs, internal experts, and investors, creating valuable connections and extending collaboration opportunities.
  4. Cash Prize, Among Others: The competition typically offers excellent prizes such as financing, learning tools, and an engagement platform to solve significant problems. The objective is to always remain fair with all engaged participating teams.
  5. Opportunities for Growth: The competition can help identify potential business opportunities and support them to take their solutions to the next level.
Quote from Joel Agard to inspire the next group of startups
ZIC2023 – Quote from Joel Agard.

Evaluate your innovative power… Why not try it?

Over the acceleration period, you, as a growth venture, can learn how to work directly with a top-tier corporation and showcase your innovation and capabilities to a global audience. In addition, the winners can participate in special sessions and learn about the insurance sector to the next level of depth. Each team continuously receives intense support and resources to help ensure alignment of the solutions with Zurich Insurance Group’s international expectations.

Once your solution has been validated through the acceleration phase, startups enter an adoption or implementation phase. The goal is to evaluate local delivery opportunities and scale the solution.

Overall, it is essential to ensure a transparent and fair process is in place for accepting startups and scaleups into the innovation competition while considering a variety of factors, such as the quality and feasibility of the solution in context, its potential impact, and its readiness to take the solution to the very next level.

Let’s drive innovation! Be part of the movement = Insurance reimagined!

To find out more > go to ZIC2023

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