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Hackathons at Kingston University

Businesses need innovation to grow. The Kingston University HackCentre is a multi-disciplinary centre which offers organisations access to the problem-solving capacity of our innovative students and expert academics.

What are Hackathons?

Hackathons are problem solving events and workshops. Students work in teams to solve defined challenges for public, private, or third sector organisations. Solutions might include new or improved products and services, or provide new insights and thinking about the problem or context.

Hackathons solve problems for organisations; they also develop student capacity to be innovative, including creative thinking and problem-solving skills and approaches.

Events are structured to suit the nature of the problem and solution sought. They may run over half a day, a full day or over several weeks. We design and host hackathons in partnership with challenge-sponsors, offering an intensive co-operative initiative between industry partners, students and academics.

These are a great way to access talented students and develop innovation in your organisation. You will also be inspiring the next generation of graduates by providing them with live briefs to work on.

The objectives

Hackathons are ultimately about creating innovation opportunities from a different perspective. In most cases the process of students exploring and questioning business structure and practices itself offers insights for the business owner, often providing thought-provoking perspectives.

The emphasis is on students providing a rationale for why their chosen idea solves a pain point, as opposed to coming up with a transformative business idea or having a shiny prototype that does not solve any real problem.

The process

Each hackathon is bespoke, varying in duration and format to meet the needs of our partners. The session (or sessions) is broken down into sections and we follow the design Council's Double Diamond Thinking process: introduction to the challenge, exploring the problem, ideation, evaluation, building a presentation and pitching. At the final stage students present their ideas to the challenge-sponsors or a panel of judges for feedback and Q&A.

Students are guided through the process and given plenty of prompts to develop solutions (the ideation process). We create a safe environment where students can work with businesses to develop their skills.

Since March 2020 and in response to the Covid-19 lock-down we have run Hackathons online, using breakout rooms and collaborative tools to facilitate group work.


As a partner organisation, you may wish to sponsor a Hackathon, bringing in your own challenge. Or you may wish to support an event by attending to speak about your organisation's role in the challenge topic. For instance, the UN Sustainable Development Goals are relevant to many organisations; you may be able to provide insight from your perspective to help students understand the challenge. Other options are to facilitate group work, or to attend judging rounds and provide feedback

For each Hackathon the team will:

  • Support and guide challenge-sponsors to define their challenge(s) into the best possible articulation for a successful Hackathon
  • Recruit student participants from the right academic and/or demographic background
  • Plan, structure and execute the hackathon around the unique challenge
The ideas students come up with are typically the starting point to a development process where organisations (often with the help of students) can carry out further research and testing to refine the solution. Students value the recognition for the original idea and have been involved in further development of the concept.

The brief

It is essential to provide as much contextual knowledge (and technical information if relevant) for students to best understand your market and problem statements. A well-defined brief will help students focus on your challenge, ensuring that outputs are relevant, considered and appropriate.

  • Identify key business areas that are suffering because of definite challenges
  • Identify new opportunities you want to create
The HackCentre Project Manager works hand-in-hand with challenge-sponsors to perfect the brief before each hackathon.

Partner with us: solve real-life problems and offer powerful opportunities

A partnership with Kingston University's HackCentre gives sponsors an injection of innovative thinking and solutions, insights into their operations, organisation and needs of future customers

In parallel, Kingston students gain invaluable industry-relevant experience and insight. For the vast number of our students who have no professional networks, this provides an opportunity to build towards their career goals.

If you would like to discuss running a hackathon at Kingston University, please contact Amanda Baker at Email:

Case study

We hosted a two-part online hackathon in collaboration with the Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Businesses were invited to pose one or more challenges they expected to face due to the Covid-19 crisis, aiming for students to come up with innovative solutions to help their businesses.

Students from the Business School worked with three business owners over four online sessions using breakout rooms. The ideas they came up with helped businesses plan alternative engagement methods with their clients due to the then lock-down. The students benefited by developing their consultancy skills and skills in ideation and innovation, and adding something tangible to their cv.