New entrepreneurship and innovation-driven courses with AGSE re-launch

Saturday 1 October 2016

David Niccolaides standing in front of a shipping container

In summary

  • This article originally featured in Swinburne’s Venture magazine

Swinburne will offer a suite of entrepreneurship and innovation-driven courses when its Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship (AGSE) is relaunched in 2017.

The courses will be led by the refreshed Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MEI) and complemented by other postgraduate courses within the Faculty of Business and Law.

The MEI will combine design-thinking, creativity and technology transfer, opportunity discovery and business-model innovation. The collaborative nature of the course will allow students to do field work with industry mentors and be supported as they launch their own ventures.

Faculty of Business and Law Executive Dean Professor Michael Gilding says the AGSE courses will be relevant to startups, small to medium enterprises, large corporations, social enterprises and not for- profit organisations.

“The course is structured to be practical, with many students using the subjects offered as a way to develop, improve and validate their new ideas.”

Professor Gilding says the school will draw on its years of entrepreneurship education experience and its value to the innovation economy.

“Swinburne introduced entrepreneurship education in 1975 and AGSE was Australia’s first dedicated school when it opened in 2001.

“Our industry links are extensive and our courses are taught by academics who are still practising in their field. This is a huge benefit to students who are creating business solutions or developing new business ideas.”

Supportive environment

The refreshed courses in the AGSE will include short introductory modules designed to get students up to speed with postgraduate study.

“We understand that, for many students, going back to university can be a daunting thought. We want students to feel supported right from the start,” Professor Gilding says.

Students also will be offered one on- one career planning meetings with academic staff, as well as networking opportunities, events and seminars.

“So much of a course in entrepreneurship is about the people you meet and the networks you form. The Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship is a hub for collaboration, where you can develop your own set of contacts.”

Opportunity docks

David Nicolaides saw his first architecturally designed modular home office studio arrive at the docks in late October. The re-engineered shipping container’s wiring and luxurious, modern interior was manufactured in Malaysia; its external timber cladding will be added onshore in Melbourne and the completed product will be delivered by crane into his first customer’s back yard.

The modular construction business is a career reinvention for the former mechanical engineer and property developer, who enrolled in Swinburne’s Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MEI) course when his 15-year career with Holden came to an end.

“I had been working as an engineer in product development at the Port Melbourne centre, but I had to find a new plan,” Mr Nicolaides says.

He did some career counselling and decided to see the bombshell as an opportunity. “I did the first two subjects while I was still working at Holden. The MEI gave me the framework and the support to develop my initial business idea into a realistic, affordable launch product that minimised risk and maximised opportunity. I wouldn’t be where I am without it,” he says.

“The whole course is geared towards innovation and really encourages participants to think about global business opportunities.”

Mr Nicolaides has two Malaysian co-founders helping to develop the business, Tessellate Modular, which promotes sustainability by converting used shipping containers to office studios. The offices come complete with LED mood lighting, ethernet wiring, a 32-inch computer monitor and speakers.

“The idea came from my own experience. I had been involved with several property projects over the years and found the industry did not often offer consumers convenience, professionalism and value for money,” he says.

“Our studios are designed for people who need a more effective space at home to work; whether they run their own business or just spend a lot of time outside of office hours working at home.

“The process is easy for customers. You order it online, it’s delivered into your backyard and within a couple of days it’s ready to be used.”

The next stage in Mr Nicolaides’ business plan is to add products such as holiday houses, hostels and motels to its range.

He knows that might take time, but the Swinburne course has taught him that entrepreneurs possess resilience and persistence.

“Through the Swinburne course, I’ve learned entrepreneurship is about using your ideas, your skills and your networks and putting together something completely new,” he says.