Skip to main content
Close up of sculpture outside Law School building
Event_

Summer innovation program

17-19 February 2021 (final presentations the week of 5 April 2021)
The Summer Innovation Program (SIP) brings together students from across the University to identify, understand and explore innovative solutions at the nexus between law, science and technology.

Applications close on 20 December 2020

The Summer Innovation Program (SIP) will give you the opportunity to live, work and learn within a vibrant collegiate environment on campus for three days in February 2021. Then, over the next five weeks, work in teams and with leading industry professionals, to further hone, develop and design solutions to current global challenges – legal/regulatory/ethical and scientific – and ‘pitch’ your ideas to a panel of leading experts in the fields of science, law, engineering and journalism.

Challenge topics include:

  • Public health
  • Automated decision making
  • Sustainability
  • Institutional integrity.

Taking into account student interests and disciplinary background, organisers will allocate successful applicants into four teams (five students allocated to each team), with each group tackling its own individual challenge.

Throughout the program, teams will have access to:

  • Ongoing mentoring from leading researchers, experts in design thinking, legal practitioners, policy entrepreneurs and industry partners, some of whom will join and participate in the residential experience and will be available to mentor and advise throughout the program.
  • Innovation Hub resources including technical facilities, such as 3D-Printing and coding support, as well as take tours of VR Lab and Nanoscience facilities
  • State-of-the-art recording equipment and technical support to record and present the finished solutions.

These experiences will assist teams to understand the wide range of technologies that may be deployed to translate new ideas to viable prototypes or programs of work.

The program will culminate with teams pitching their individual projects to a panel of leading experts. Students will have to pre-record their pitches and then answer the panel’s questions. All teams will receive feedback and the winning team will be awarded a monetary prize along with a package of resources and ongoing support to develop further its ‘winning pitch’ into a viable future work program.

The Summer Innovation Program combines the joys of creativity, the rigours of coursework, and the community and the collegiality of romanticised academia. Partaking in the program was the highlight of my academic journey so far, and I have no doubts that I’ll continue to look back upon it as fondly as I do now, forever.
SIP 2020 participant, Riley Vaughan

Applications for the 2021 Summer Innovation Program will open on 24 November 2020 and close on 16 December 2020.

Applications open: 24 November 2020

Applications close: 18 December 2020 (extended deadline)

Current University of Sydney students, or those who may have just graduated at the end of 2020, from all disciplines and from all levels with an interest in law and technology are encouraged to apply.

The Summer Innovation Program values diversity and encourages creative and original thinking. We are looking for bright, independently-minded students who are keen to learn and have the ability to get on with people. SIP will prioritise equity and diversity in applications.

Step 1: Eligibility                                                              

Any current student, studying in any discipline at the University of Sydney, or any student who has just graduated at the end of 2020 can apply.

Step 2: Apply online

Complete our online application, which includes:

  • CV [2 pages maximum] and academic transcript
  • A statement of motivation [500 words] explaining your interest in SIP, what contribution you hope to make and what you hope to learn from the program OR
  • A 1-3 minute video or audio file introducing yourself, your motivation to be a part of SIP 2021 and what you hope to achieve/contribute
  • Ordering, by preference, which challenge topic you would like to work on
  • An optional equality and diversity survey.

Step 3: Confirmation and team Introduction

Students will be advised of the outcome of their application by 23 December 2020, by email. Students must accept or decline by 4 January 2021. Once confirmed, students will be allocated to teams, and there will be some induction and introductory readings that will assist students to orient themselves, their expectations of the program and their specific challenge.   

Automated decision-making challenge

The rapid expansion of large scale data collection, coupled with advances in data analytics and machine learning, are changing the ways that we engage with government (and how it engages with us), and the ways that we interact in the market. It is increasingly possible to link and analyse huge datasets about people and their behaviour, to make predictions about what will happen in the future, respond to those predictions by making automated decisions about people, monitor the outcomes and respond dynamically over time. Automated systems can be, and are being used to analyse CVs and video interviews to decide who gets shortlisted for a job; to tailor and personalise advertisements and news content on social media platforms, to rout traffic and transport, and to decide where to focus social welfare and law enforcement; or what medical and health services to offer people. The use of automated systems in these high stakes decision-making environments raises huge questions for society: questions about the ubiquitous collection of data and what data collection misses; questions about the fairness of these automated systems and the potential biases built into them; and questions about how we can best exercise democratic oversight and governance of these systems so that they operate for the benefit of people and society. What limits are there on the use of automated decision-making? When do we need a ‘human in the loop’? What tools (technical, conceptual) do people who are developing, procuring, or using automated systems need to make sure they are doing it well and not causing harm? How can people and society get involved in how data is gathered or tools used?

~ Professor Kimberlee Weatherall

Sustainability challenge

Achieving sustainability is a multifaceted challenge as is evidenced by the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals including climate change (Goal 13) and access to affordable and clean energy (Goal 7). While the Australian government has signed up to the SDG, according to the latest Climate Transparency report, Australia’s per capita emissions are three times the G20 average. One of the crucial issues leading to this result is Australia’s lack of legal and policy frameworks for achieving a 100% clean energy powered grid and reaching net-zero emissions. Innovative legal solutions are needed to address the core trilemma of ensuring: (1) economic development, (2) environmental protection (including human health), and (3) social development (including human rights).

The Federal government’s recently released Technology Investment Roadmap proposes using hydrogen - ‘H2 under 2°’– as part of its energy innovation transition. Hydrogen will be produced at around $2 per kilogram which is the price at which hydrogen competes with fossil fuels. Integral to this is the Asian Renewable Energy Hub (‘the Hub’) in the Pilbara planned for completion in 2027. It will be the world’s largest power station providing 40% of Australia’s generation. The Hub will establish 14 gigawatts of electrolysers to convert desalinated seawater into ‘green hydrogen’ as well as 1,600 giant wind turbines, and 78 square metres of solar panels. What legal framework is needed to support the ‘H2 under 2°’ technological innovation?

~ Dr Madeline Taylor and Professor Rosemary Lyster

Institutional integrity challenge

Each day, we are confronted with integrity challenges and our newsfeeds are full of unfolding scandals. No sector has been immune – and these challenges have impacted negatively on the levels of trust in our public, private and corporate sectors, as well as the regulatory agencies and laws which are ostensibly that should be working to prevent such abuses.

Even our own sector - higher education and research – has not been immune from such challenges. For example, the replication crisis in science has uncovered the prevalence of scholarly malpractice, dishonesty and misconduct. Turnitin reveals a three-fold increase in integrity matters in assessment in Sydney Law School! Whether such behaviour is framed as systemic, structural, cultural or simply individual ‘rotten apples’ working in an otherwise pristine barrel, we are now ‘counting the costs’ in both economic, political and social terms.

This challenge requires the team to identify and gauge the seriousness of a current, new or emerging integrity challenge. Team members will be challenged to think critically about how integrity problems are understood, and how institutions, individuals, systems and rules can be more effectively harnessed to prevent, deter and remedy associated harms.

~ Professor Simon Bronitt

Public health challenge

The world is facing an urgent need to improve preparedness and control of existing and future global health threats. For instance high blood pressure is a major leading risk factor for disability, cardiovascular disease and kidney chronic disease, which is linked to 1 in 5 of all deaths. However, the lack of suitable technologies to reliably track and communicate blood pressure to patients, as well as difficulties to make health care more equitable contributes to have a large number of cases undiagnosed. As a result, such patients are prevented from existing effective treatments and better lifestyle recommendations.

Importantly, the climate crisis is also a threat for public health since it can increase natural disasters, malnutrition rates, water scarcity and the proliferation and transmission of infectious diseases. Moreover, according to WHO air pollution kills approximately 7 million people per year.

In addition to the previous threads, the current COVID-19 pandemic accounts for more than 54 million people infected and more than 1.3 million deaths as of November of 2020. Almost a year after the initial outbreak the rate of infection keeps increasing making it very clear that more effective actions plans in the societal, economic and public health dimensions are required. New optics and innovative ideas are required for the successful development of such plans, which will be essential as well for preparedness to future global epidemics.

~ Dr David Martinez Martin

  • A maximum of 20 students will be admitted into the program to form 4 teams.
  • Team members must be current or just graduated [end of 2020] students of the University of Sydney. Participants must be available in person for the residential (17-19 February 2021) and the week of 5 April 2021 for the final presentations. Participants must also be available to communicate and work with their teams over the four intervening weeks.
  • Applicants may indicate preferences about the four challenges. Where possible, these preferences will be accommodated.

SIP aims to ensure that participants will experience the best of student life, through opportunities to live and learn on campus within a residential college, to experience ‘hands on’ interdisciplinary learning outside the formal constraints of grade coursework, and to establish new and ongoing professional networks. This process is supported by a team of leading academics, practitioners and industry mentors who will work with and support the students.

SIP addresses the University of Sydney Graduate Qualities through a program that provides opportunities for developing the following:

  • Depth of disciplinary expertise – SIP students will have the opportunity to apply and develop a prototype or solution responding to a challenge facing their discipline. 
  • Broader skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication (oral and written), information and digital literacy as well as inventiveness SIP students will participate in seminars and round-tables with invited innovators and industry professionals, gain access to advanced technical facilities, and be faced with novel questions, will learn how to increase the impact of their expertise, and their ability to effectively and creatively respond to new challenges.
  • Cultural competence –SIP students will learn how to form effective teams, and to work productively, collaboratively and openly in diverse groups and across cultural boundaries.
  • Interdisciplinary effectiveness – SIP students will be drawn from across the University, requiring participants to consider broader perspectives, cultivate innovation mindsets, and gain more contextualised and systemic forms of understanding.
  • An integrated, professional, ethical and personal identity – SIP students, through structured collaboration, have the freedom to experiment and invent, alive to the ethical, political and moral questions of these challenges.
  • Influence – SIP students, over the 4-week program, will gain in confidence personal resilience, and enhance their capacities to understand complex challenges and cope with uncertainty, and to tackle these challenges with a holistic, interdisciplinary approach, considering the wider impact of their proposal, their professional and social responsibility, and their proposal’s ability to make a positive contribution to society.

For further information on our Graduate Qualities, visit the Educational Innovation’s Sydney Graduate Page.

Professor Simon Bronitt is the Dean of the Sydney Law School. Simon has three ARC Laureate decades of working across disciplinary boundaries and working with and nurturing inspiring legal minds. His commitment to interdisciplinarity culminated in his leadership of an interdisciplinary ARC Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (2009-2014). He has devoted much of his academic life to seeking knowledge to hold the powerful to account, and improving the quality of justice for powerless members of society.

Dr David Martinez-Martin is a physicist and Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Sydney. Trained in Spain and Switzerland, David describes himself, first and foremost, as an innovator. With many significant patents and inventions under development, he understands the challenges of scientific translation, and how new biomedical inventions designed in partnership with global industry partners must work for the betterment of society. He provides a unique perspective on commercialisation and how intellectual property plays a role in advancing (and sometimes frustrating) scientific advances.

1. Automated decision making

2. Institutional integrity

3. Public health

4. Sustainability

Successful applicants and teams will receive the following support:

  • Three days of residential living on campus at a university college
  • Five weeks to organise and work with a team to develop, design and hone a solution to a specific challenge
  • Financial support in the form of a bursary to compensate you for the time you will dedicate to the program
  • Access to a diverse range of mentors from law, science, industry and academia
  • Access to advanced technical facilities
  • Dedicated team mentor to help your ideas develop
  • Support and expertise from ‘SIP Ambassadors’ – former students who participated in SIP 2020
  • Exposure to industry partners and networking opportunities
  • Access to all SIP alumni events
  • Ongoing internal media exposure and support.

Do I have to pay?

SIP is free for all participants. There is no enrolment cost. The program covers college accommodation (single room) and shared dining catering for the 3 days of the program that students are based on campus. A holding deposit ($200) is required to be paid, when you accept the offer, which is refundable at the end of the program.

Can I get course credit?

SIP is designed as a dedicated extra-curricular, so course credit is not available.

Do I have to study law?

No, only an interest in law and science is needed!

Do I have to study science or engineering?

No, all disciplines are welcome to apply.

Do I have to study at the University of Sydney?

Yes.

Do I have to be an undergraduate?

No. Students at all levels are welcome to apply.

Can I apply if I need to miss a few days?

You must be in attendance, in-person, for the three-day residential (17-19 February 2021), and for the final pitch (week of 5 April 2021). It is preferable that students are also available in-person in the weeks between these dates to make it easier for their team to work together, but if you have to be out of Sydney during any of this time it is up to you and your team to organise an alternative form of meeting such as zoom.

How do I apply?

See the instructions above.

What is the application process like?

See instructions above. We want you to use your statement of motivation and video or audio file to give us a sample of your talents, ambitions and ability to contribute. Use the application to show off your best ideas!

How are teams allocated?

Organisers will allocate teams on a number of different factors including demonstrated interests, topic preferences, and disciplinary background.

Can I choose who I work with?

No. You can enter preferences as to the challenge topic, but we cannot guarantee you will be placed in that team.

Once accepted, what do I need to bring?

More information will be provided to successful applicants.

How should I behave?

Students are expected to uphold the university code of conduct.

I am extremely grateful for participating in the Summer Innovation Program in 2020. Through engaging with other students, teachers and mentors you will be supported with the resources and expert-knowledge that you need to solve complex world problems in a social, interactive and creative environment. As a result of SIP, I have been able to become a confident Project Director of a non-profit Refugees Are Never Alone, RANA at Enactus USYD, as well as in my university subjects and other professional pursuits.
SIP 2020 participant, Dyana Satya Moitinho Freitas

Summer Innovation Program

Co-Convenor

Professor Simon Bronitt
Academic profile

Co-Convenor

Dr David Martinez-Martin
Academic profile