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Summer Lab

Applications for the 2024 Summer Lab programme will open later this year.

Start-up your summer with this international award-winning programme.

Summer Lab is free for all current students and staff of the University of Auckland. No prior experience with innovation, entrepreneurship or business is required, nor do you need an idea for a start-up to participate.

Programme commitment: The time commitment for this programme is on average around 20 hours per week, which increases in the final week of the programme to 40 hours. Summer Lab is an in-person experience, conducted on campus at Unleash Space. Remote learning is not available for this programme.

About Summer Lab

Summer Lab is a 4-week experience that is designed to enable participants to make a difference in the world through instilling new knowledge, connections and practical skills. Participation in Summer Lab will show you how innovation and entrepreneurship are vital tools to enable people to make significant change in the world. Over the course of the programme you will learn about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), identify a problem to solve, form teams and come up with a business idea and plan based around your solution.

Through developing your business idea you will learn a range of transferable skills that will serve you well whatever you go on to do in life. We aim to inspire through action-oriented learning. This includes rapid prototyping, workshops, access to entrepreneurs and industry leaders as guest speakers, as well as using tools and frameworks to shape innovative thinking. We explore emerging technologies, minimum viable products, and concepts such as design-led thinking, using a range of business canvases. On the final day your team will share their ideas by pitching their venture to a panel of judges. You will then receive feedback and guidance.

Through Summer Lab you’ll get to be a part of an entrepreneurially minded community who want to turn ideas into tangible, robust ventures. You’ll connect with others also interested in making a difference, ideate solutions, learn tools to develop your ideas, work in teams, and get the support of mentors and facilitators. And have a lot of fun along the way! All you need to bring is your creativity, skills, and enthusiasm


What will I learn during the four weeks?

  • How to come up with an idea
  • You will learn about basic start-up tools to test your idea
  • Learn how to talk to customers
  • How to interact in a team environment
  • How to pitch your idea/product
  • How to interact with mentors/potential customers
  • How to talk to investors
  • Workshops about financial basics, negotiation, intellectual property (IP), raising capital etc.


What will I get out of the programme?

Summer Lab is an exhilarating experience. Come and be part of an accelerated learning environment that uses your creativity and problem solving skills to make a positive impact! Ideate solutions, learn new skills and tools, and build real-life projects and ventures that make a difference to our world.

Expand your networks. You’ll get to meet and learn from industry experts who will be your advisers and mentors throughout the programme. You will also get to work with a diverse group of people from a variety of backgrounds and study disciplines who all have the common goal of wanting to take ideas off the paper and into real life. You will challenge your thinking and be amazed by what you achieve.

Your participation in Summer Lab can be formally recognised through the co-curricular recognition programme. Summer Lab will earn you nearly half of what you need to obtain a University of Auckland Distinguished Graduate Award. This prestigious accolade is designed to formally recognise the more practical aspects of your university experience to signify to prospective employers the wide range of skills you have developed and the holistic approach you have taken to your university education.


Where can Summer Lab take you?

You’ll be truly surprised at where Summer Lab could take you. Be inspired by some of our past participants:

Develop new ideas for your future career
“I had a free summer in my second year of uni and I wanted to learn skills beyond my Law and Arts degree – Summer Lab was a great introduction to entrepreneurship and business generally. It showed me that it is entirely possible to turn ideas into reality. I got to know people in the social innovation sphere and did The Social Experiment (a design thinking workshop), co-organised a Social Hackathon, joined the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, and was a team mentor at a recent NZTA Hackathon. All of that came from the interest sparked and knowledge gained in Summer Lab.”
Janna Tay – Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws. Learn more

Develop networks and opportunities
Socius XR is a social venture that aims to help neurodiverse people into work. Their venture idea and team were first developed at Summer Lab. Since then they have been flown to Spain to present their venture at an international conference, have won numerous grants and established an Autism Advocacy Advisory Board. Learn more
Create something truly innovative
Nikau Robotics is utilising cutting edge technology to increase productivity for small and medium construction businesses. The team is developing a smart CNC router that can intake a stack of wooden panels and process them automatically to pre-cut, drill and carve wooden panels. The machine they have designed is highly portable to enable onsite machining for fast, accurate cuts of wood without the need for external suppliers. Since Summer Lab, Nikau Robotics entered the Velocity $100k Challenge business planning competition, winning prize money and a spot in the VentureLab incubator, where they have further developed their venture. Learn more
Take your ideas to the world
In the case of science student Neil Birrell, Summer Lab took him all the way to India, where he established a production plant with full-time employees. Neil’s venture Hexacycle uses maggots to process waste into fertiliser and chicken feed. He first developed the idea during Summer Lab. Learn more
Practice entrepreneurship for when you do get your Big Idea
Commerce student Toby Thomas-Smith took part in Summer Lab. The idea he came up with during the programme isn’t one that he wanted to continue with. However, Toby says that Summer Lab was invaluable in learning entrepreneurial skills that have helped him with his current start-up EasyRent, which he is passionate about. EasyRent aims to connect landlords with students solving pain points for both stakeholder groups. Learn more


“Taking part in Summer Lab gave me a healthier perspective on my abilities, and I overcame a fear of making mistakes. It was a unique and extraordinary experience and it taught me how an idea can flourish and grow; having complete faith in your plan and committing yourself fully to its realisation. I learnt that setbacks are steppingstones to success, and essential for achieving success. It was a fantastic opportunity to expand my network of friends and gain valuable professional insight.” – Hansi (Health Science)

“Fantastic preparation for the new semester, the new school year, the new decade. Big thank you to the team at Unleash and CIE for being so open minded about individual approaches, personal backgrounds and opportunities outside of the traditional academic route.” – Aloisio De Manila (Business)

“Summer Lab is challenging and exciting. We solved an idea/social issue without technology which is impressive in itself.” Would recommend Summer Lab 100% – Ashwini Maheandran (Education and Social Work)

“Discover the recipe for innovation and unlock your inner entrepreneur!” – Harrison Lawton (Engineering)

“I enjoyed Summer Lab with all problems and failures. I think Summer Lab gives you more live skills that our academic education.” – Irina Rerikh (Business)

“Summer Lab is like running on a treadmill that’s going just slightly faster than I can run whilst being surrounded by excitement and ideas!” – Annabelle Collins (Science)

“Summer Lab was an insightful & empowering experience – do it!” – Leah Beaumont (Law)

“Summer Lab is a rollercoaster that made me experience really high highs and really low lows, all within the space of an hour, multiple times a day, every day, for the past four weeks.” – Suvarna Swaraj (Engineering)

“A programme that fosters students’ ability to turn their ideas into a feasible reality.” – Jane Ngo (Science)

“An incredibly amazing programme like no other (believe me it’s worth it!)” – Srishti Bhardwaj (Arts & Science)

“Summer Lab: Empowering people to build a brighter future.” – Calvin Kart (Engineering)

“A fast-paced learning experience that teaches you a lot of different skills (including general/life skills) that is also super fun along the way!” – Pooja Nagaraj (Medical and Health Sciences)

“I would do it all over again!” – Carolina Muthyala (Arts & Law)

“Summer Lab can change your life!” – Aashritha Santhan (Business)

“The smartest decision I made this summer was to join Summer Lab.” – Hang Zhao (Science)

Summer Lab schedule

Schedule TBC


09 923 4526