Laura Bygrave, innovation and ventures lead at Deloitte Legal

In a move that promises to tie up domain expertise with venture science, Deloitte Legal has become the exclusive legal and professional services partner of technology entrepreneurship programme Conception X, a venture builder that trains PhD students to create deep tech startups. 

Through the university-as-an-incubator premise, PhD students in tandem with their degree will apply their original research to help solve future problems within the legal sector and other industries. It was launched in UCL Engineering but is now open to PhDs from all top universities.

Of more interest, students will be paired with mentors from across Deloitte Legal and Deloitte Ventures to help identify application areas for nascent technology – what’s interesting is the recognition that PhD students often conduct research without a clear application area, and it will be critical that they do work alongside a Deloitte domain expert if this partnership is to have real-world relevance rather than be just another attempt to create technology in a relative vacuum.

While the Conception X programme lasts nine months, a spokesperson for Deloitte told Legal IT Insider that the partnership programme won’t have the same time limitations, and Deloitte is working with Conception X on a long term basis through its Deloitte Legal Ventures startup programme launched in December.

Laura Bygrave, innovation and ventures lead at Deloitte Legal, commented: “Through our Deloitte Legal Ventures programme we re-imagined how lawyers could engage with early stage companies. Working with Conception X allows us to take the premise a step further by seeding talent at the earliest possible stage to explore technology solutions to the unknown legal problems of tomorrow.”

Conception X accepts applications across several research areas including artificial intelligence (‘AI’), machine learning, genetic engineering, blockchain and quantum computing.

Bygrave added: “From augmented reality to quantum computing, deep tech will transform virtually every aspect of business and society. This programme is designed to encourage the brightest students to experiment in fields that will shape the future of multiple industries.”

Many legal departments are in reality still trying to come to terms with the fact that what they do has a process and the market is highly wary of big and often unrealistic promises over future tech. However, this tie-up is certainly one to watch and Dr Riam Kanso, chief executive officer of Conception X, said: “Conception X attracts PhD candidates from the best UK research universities. Today’s announcement means we can now pair these talented students with professional services experts throughout Deloitte’s broad network.”

Deloitte Legal Ventures companies operate in areas such as execution technology, artificial intelligence, data analytics and predictive analytics. The programme will see Deloitte Legal become a user of the products and services offered by the chosen start-ups.

The other companies are Autologyx, Avvoka, CourtQuant, Crafty Counsel, Define, Genie AI, Juralio, Kormoon.ai, PING, Reynen Court, Sente Advisors and Tabled.io.