UnitedHealth Group Team of Undergrads Wins Open Innovation Challenge

A business strategy that includes an interactive portal and online discussion forums for patients of the UnitedHealth Group was the winning business plan in this year's Open Innovation challenge, a competition in the undergraduate Open Innovation and Business Models course.

The challenge was the culmination of a semester of work in the course, taught for the second year in the row by Solomon Darwin, associate director of the Center for Open Innovation. This year's winning team consisted of Kevin Jenkins, BS 12 (Mechanical Engineering); Allison Lam and Jay Tong, both BS 13; Dilpreet Tung, BS 12; and Tianbo Xu, BS 12 (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science).

Students in the class were divided into teams of five, and assigned to solve real-world problems for a major corporation. Their work was judged Dec. 9 by executives from each of the participating companies: Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, UnitedHealth Group (UHG). UHG executives asked students to find ways to increase patient engagement and awareness of their insurance programs while continuing to control costs.

"It is fascinating to see the fresh thinking and perspective these talented students bring to complex issues — with practical solutions and recommendations," said Meredith Baratz, UHG's vice president for market solutions.

The winning team will visit UnitedHealth's Minneapolis headquarters next year to present its solution to corporate decision makers.

"The first time we met with senior executives from UHG, we realized this was more than just a class," the winning team's students said in a joint statement about the challenge. “It was a real honor to work with executives on real-world problems that need to be solved."

Solomon Darwin (bottom row, center), associate director of the Center for Open Innovation, coordinated the Open Innovation challenge. He is pictured here with the winning team (left to right): Dilpreet Tung, Jay Tong, Tianbo Xu, Kevin Jenkins, and Allison Lam.