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Accenture Announces U.S. Innovation Challenge Winner

University of Virginia team wins with an innovative project to fight plastic pollution in waterways

A team of undergraduate students from the University of Virginia has won this year’s U.S. Accenture Innovation Challenge and will provide consulting support to the Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest and fastest-growing nonprofit solely dedicated to clean water. The winning team was selected following multiple rounds of competition involving 1,193 students from 63 undergraduate campuses and diversity partner programs across the United States.

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“This year’s Challenge showcased doing well and doing good and responsible business, combining ideas and cutting-edge technology such as AI software for the common purpose of making a cleaner and healthier planet”

The University of Virginia team’s winning proposal entails the creation of an image database of plastic pollution of waterways and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze and sort image data. The project included the creation of a portal to support collaboration among Waterkeeper volunteers and the creation and tracking of community-based efforts including location-specific plastic pollution removal plans.

“This year’s Challenge showcased doing well and doing good and responsible business, combining ideas and cutting-edge technology such as AI software for the common purpose of making a cleaner and healthier planet,” said Marty Rodgers, senior managing director of Accenture’s U.S. south region. “This initiative looks to accelerate and expand data-driven, community-led efforts to address the massive and growing problem of plastic pollution. On behalf of Accenture, I am proud to congratulate the winning Cavaliers team, who worked tirelessly in their spare time, through loads of disruption, inspired by the powerful mission of Waterkeeper’s Alliance.”

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Waterkeeper Alliance is a nonprofit organization that unites more than 300 Waterkeeper groups around the world working to protect rivers, lakes and coastal waterways. It serves to strengthen and grow a global network of grassroots leaders working for clean water across six continents.

“All the projects we reviewed were so impressive; it was hard to pick a winner,” said Marc Yaggi, executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance. “The University of Virginia team wowed us with their innovative thinking about pollution monitoring. We know that clean water saves lives. We’re honored and inspired that Accenture took this opportunity to direct some of our finest young minds toward tackling the epidemic of plastic pollution.”

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