Students Showcase Creativity and Business Acumen in Digital Innovation Challenge
NYU Shanghai kicked off its second Digital Innovation Challenge (DIC) on October 28, with around 80 teams from eight universities using generative AI to solve real-world business problems through innovative solutions. More than 300 students competing represented neighboring Duke Kunshan University, East China Normal University, Fudan University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, ShanghaiTech University, Tongji University as well as NYU Shanghai.
This year’s theme of “Generative AI Unlocking Business Innovation (with a focus on Large Language Models)” encouraged cross-disciplinary teams and students from all majors to develop their own business plans related to generative AI. The event was sponsored by Shanghai Frontiers Science Center of Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning, Computer Science, Data Science, and Engineering (CSDSE) and Center for Business Education and Research (CBER) at NYU Shanghai.
During the three-week tech-based business competition, each team had the chance to formally present their projects to the judges and audience. On Innovation Day, November 18, the top 10 student works will be judged by a panel of industry guests and entrepreneurs. The audience will vote online to decide the Best Popularity Award.
Following a keynote speech given by Amazon Web Services Shanghai AI Lab Director Zhang Zheng, an awards ceremony will be held with awards presented by NYU Shanghai’s Vice Chancellor Jeffrey Lehman and Computer Science, Data Science, and Engineering (CSDSE) Interim Dean Nasir Memon.
Memon, who as an assistant professor founded Cybersecurity Games & Conference (CSAW) and has watched it grow into the world’s most comprehensive student-run cybersecurity event, said NYU Shanghai’s competition has a huge potential to grow over the years.
Memon said activities like these give students a vital opportunity to hone their organizational and interpersonal skills. “AI is transforming the world today, and lots of innovation will happen. We can participate in and facilitate that innovation,” he said. “Our students will get inspired when they see innovative ideas from others around the city, even around the country.”
During the competition, all contestants received guidance from Interactive Media Business (IMB), Data Science, and Computer Science faculty as well as industry professionals.
Among them, IMB Assistant Professor of Practice Nicole Wang, IMB Associate Professor of Practice Gabrielle Chou, and Computer Science Professor of Practice Yik-Cheung (Wilson) Tam provided workshops for students over the three weeks. Dr. Chen Meng, AI director of Chinese e-commerce giant JD.COM, shared his latest research on dialogue pre-training and practical experiences with industrial-grade dialogue systems.
Left: Nicole Wang hosting a workshop on “Why AI? How to use it as a tool? ”
Right: Gabrielle Chou at her workshop on “Crafting a Winning Job-to-Be-Done and Value Proposition for the DIC Business LLM Competition.”
Guest speakers such as Brinc’s Strategy & Corporate Innovation Manager Ann Shen, Ford’s Mach-E former Design Lead Xia Lei, LongAI Co-Founder and CEO Lukas Tatge, and L’Oréal PPD China’s former Chief Digital Officer (CDO) Liu Yuchen also shared their insights with students.
Clockwise from top left: Industry guest speakers Ann Shen, Xia Lei, Lukas Tatge, and Liu Yuchen.
At the Challenge’s kickoff, Provost Joanna Waley-Cohen spoke about the importance of activities like the DIC for cultivating the essential qualities for innovative education, including algorithmic thinking, critical analysis, creativity, social perceptiveness, cosmopolitanism, and the ability to persuade someone to change their mind. “These are of tremendous relevance to the digital innovation challenge,” she said.
Joanna Waley-Cohen giving an opening speech at the kick-off ceremony.
Rin Wu Ruilin ’26, President of NYUSHDIC, said the competition is run similar to a startup. “In the future, we hope DIC can have a wider influence, gathering more creative minds and spreading innovation beyond the New Bund Campus,” she said. “DIC will help students turn their imaginations into reality on a wider scale.”
From left: NYUSHDIC members Jasmin Cai Yejia ’27, Eric Zhao Zifan ’26, and Rin Wu Ruilin ’26 in the auditorium on the kick-off day.
NYUSHDIC’s Vice President Tina Song Yuting ’26 said she was proud of successfully organizing the competition, and highlighted the teamwork needed to pull it off. “The opportunity for us to experience it from the beginning to the end is priceless.”
This was NYU Shanghai’s second Digital Innovation Challenge and the first to be held on the New Bund Campus. The first such competition was held in 2021, under the direction of Elena Huang Yuying ’23 who created the concept.
Left: DIC board shown in the courtyard on the kick-off day.
Right: Tina Song hosting the kick-off day event.
- Photo credited to Peng Buoyan ’27.
- Video credited to Freddie Yang Datian ’26.