The sensitivity of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) depends strongly on nuclear spin polarisation and, motivated by this observation, dynamical nuclear spin polarisation has recently been applied to enhance MRI protocols (Kurhanewicz et al 2011 Neoplasia 13 81). Nuclear spins associated with the 13C carbon isotope (nuclear spin I = 1/2) in diamond possess uniquely long spin lattice relaxation times (Reynhardt and High 2011 Prog. Nucl. Magn. Reson. Spectrosc. 38 37). If they are present in diamond nanocrystals, especially when strongly polarised, they form a promising contrast agent for MRI. Current schemes for achieving nuclear polarisation, however, require cryogenic temperatures. Here we demonstrate an efficient scheme that realises optically induced 13C nuclear spin hyperpolarisation in diamond at room temperature and low ambient magnetic field. Optical pumping of a nitrogen-vacancy centre creates a continuously renewable electron spin polarisation which can be transferred to surrounding 13C nuclear spins. Importantly for future applications we also realise polarisation protocols that are robust against an unknown misalignment be ... mehrtween magnetic field and crystal axis.