SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Science Technology and Innovation Policy Challenge – And the winner is…

This year saw the launch of a new competition open to all SPRU MSc and PhD students. The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy Challenge provides participants with the opportunity to develop novel science, technology and innovation policy ideas which are then presented to a panel of judges and a live audience. A prize is awarded to the idea with the most potential to solve a significant policy issue and audience members also have a chance to vote for their favourite presentation. Jo Chataway, Professor of Science and Technology Policy, says that the challenge is a way to “showcase the insights, skill and creativity that our students bring to addressing policy challenges” and to “nurture our student’s ambitions to use STI policy to overcome critical and diverse social, economic and environmental problems.”

The first STI policy challenge took place in the Jubilee large lecture theatre where 8 student teams tried to convince the panel and audience that their idea had the most potential to address a pressing societal problem. Ideas ranged from using blockchain technology to increase transparency in the humanitarian aid sector, to developing a universal information storage and sharing service in India’s medical system. 

The winners:

Overall winner

The team which were awarded first prize, and won £500 of book vouchers, were Jack Leahy, Giovanna Pontes and Anna Pope, for their presentation titled Shining Light on the “Reproducibility Crisis”. Watch a video of the winning presentation:

The judges noted their excellent communication skills, their careful choice of an important policy problem and innovative proposed solution. Similarly, they were highly praised for how they had targeted their solution towards a specific policy audience.

Runner up

Geisha Sanchez and Li-Fan Su were runners up in the challenge and received £250 of book vouchers. Their presentation was about fostering refill innovation in the UK.

The judges were impressed with the clarity of Geisha and Li-Fan’s presentation and their system-wide approach to promoting refill culture.  They called on both disruptive policies to change existing plastic-use culture alongside policies to promote sustainable innovation in this area.

Audience prize

Ridwan Kurniawan’s presentation, ‘Bridging the Voice of Poor: Open Access Participatory Based Data and Machine Learning for Pro-Poor Development Project’ was voted the audience’s favourite and he won £250 of book vouchers. His presentation was fast-paced and charismatic, exploring the use of an open access and participatory information system to promote the voice of the poor in development projects. Ridwan skilfully drew on his personal experiences in Indonesia to illustrate his idea and to also make his presentation entertaining and engaging.

The panel of judges on the evening was:

-              Dr Hayaatun Sillem, CEO of the Royal Academy of Engineering

-              Professor Jonathan Grant, Vice-Principal of Kings College London

-              Dr Molly Morgan-Jones, Senior Research Leader at RAND Europe

-              Professor Johan Schot, Director of SPRU

The presentations were the culmination of a period of hard work from the students to develop their understanding of their chosen policy problem and their envisaged solution. In February and March of this year they received training on presentation skills from Toby Moore of TEDx Brighton and training on policy analysis from Dr Steven Wooding from the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy.

Jo Chataway said about the competition:

…it was just great to see students rising to the occasion in such an impressive way. Thank you to all who participated and to all who worked hard to make this happen.  We will learn lessons from this years’ experience and we look forward to organising the 2019 Prize with even more opportunities for students to learn skills and get feedback on their ideas.