SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Challenge

About the competition

Do you have a novel science, technology and innovation policy idea that could make an impact on the world? Are you interested in honing your policy analysis and presentation skills? Do you have what it takes to convince an expert panel of the brilliance of your idea in under five minutes?

The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Challenge is a new competition for 2017/18 open to all SPRU MSc and PhD students. It provides participants with the opportunity to develop novel science, technology and innovation policy ideas and then compete for a prize awarded to the idea with the most potential to solve a significant policy issue.

You can work either individually or in a small team of two to four people, and will receive training on policy analysis and how to give an engaging and effective presentation before pitching your idea to a panel of experts and a live audience in April 2018.

Stages of the competition

To enter, teams need to send an email to Charlie Dobson at cd352@sussex.ac.uk by 16th February 2018 containing the members of the team and their email addresses and a very short description of the idea (50 words maximum, please note this can be changed by teams at a later date and is just to give the organisers a general idea of the proposed topics).

The next stage will be to send a short policy brief detailing your idea to cd352@sussex.ac.uk by 23rd March 2018.  It should be a minimum of two pages and a maximum of three pages. If the idea can be expressed on less than three pages then it should be. Remember that less is often more! The brief should be easy to read and accessible to a wide audience and should identify the significant policy issue that the idea seeks to address and provide some detail on the proposed solution. Diagrams and figures can be used to illustrate key points. Minimum text font size 11 should be used. The format of the document should be either PDF or word document.

If more than 10 groups apply then there will be a process where the entries are judged on the strength of the policy brief by a group of senior members of SPRU, with the 10 strongest going through to the live final. Teams will be notified whether they have been selected for the final by Friday 6th April.

The presentations evening will take place on Wednesday 18th April with winners being announced afterwards. Presentations can be given using any chosen medium but must not last longer than five minutes.

Guidance on scope of entries

We are aiming to keep the scope as wide as possible with the aim of giving you room to explore your varying interests and to make it a diverse and interesting experience for SPRU as a whole. The idea can relate to any aspect of science, technology and innovation policy and to any region of the world.

However, we also want to ensure that there is some level of coherence to the prize so have limited it in three ways:

1. The idea must relate to SPRU’s broad research interests in science, technology and/or innovation. This would cover obvious areas such as science, research and innovation policies and policies involved in the regulation of scientific developments but it could also cover a much wider array of policy areas such as environmental and energy policies and industrial strategy policies.

 2. The policy idea must relate to policy ideas only and not to ideas for new technological, product or process innovations. Although, of course, the policy proposal could involve the use of technology in some way. For example, a proposal for the development of an innovative smartphone app on its own would not be accepted but a policy proposal for a public-sector organisation which utilises a particular app to improve public services would be.  

 3. The proposal must relate to public policy rather than to individual company strategies or management proposals.

Guidance on judging criteria and prizes

Judges will be asked to identify the proposal with the most potential to address a significant policy issue, taking into account:

  • Creativity and originality of thinking
  • Evidence that participants have considered the perspective of the policy maker and what the barriers to implementation of the policy could be and ways to overcome them

As well as the substance of the idea the judges will be asked to give equal weight to the way that the idea is communicated, taking into account:

  • How engaging the style of communication is. Judges will be looking for a style that grabs and hold attention
  • Clarity of communication. Judges will be looking for a style of communication that is easy to follow and uses language that is widely understandable

The criteria for the judging of policy briefs and presentations will be the same. Panel judges will make their evaluations based on both the brief and the presentation.

Please note that we do not expect participants to have done all the research that would be expected with a real-life policy proposal, as this would be too onerous for an extra-curricula activity of this sort, but rather to have drawn on some sound evidence and research and also to point judges in the direction of what further research would be needed and, if appropriate, where relevant information could be found.

There will be also be an audience prize which will be voted for anonymously as the audience leaves.*

The prizes will be:

Main prize- £500 in book vouchers

Runner up prize- £250 in book vouchers

Audience prize- £250 in book vouchers


If you have any questions about the prize then please email Charlie Dobson on cd352@sussex.ac.uk


*if the group chosen by the audience is the same group that the judges choose then the group with the next highest number of votes will receive the audience prize.