Swinburne University of Technology is calling for aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs to tap into its Innovation Precinct as a new report confirms universities are the driving force in Australia’s startup economy.
Startup Smarts: universities and the startup economy, a report collated by Universities Australia and Startup Muster, shows that more than four out of five startup founders in Australia are university graduates.
Swinburne Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Development) Professor Aleksandar Subic says the development of the Swinburne Innovation Precinct has positioned the university as a centre for entrepreneurial activity.
“We are committed to creating a culture of innovation across the entire university by connecting our students and staff with businesses and industry and by creating opportunities for ideas to be scaled up into commercial products, services and businesses,” Professor Subic says.
Investing in innovation
The Innovation Precinct, which includes a $7 million redevelopment of the old Fire Station on Swinburne’s Hawthorn campus, is offering an intensive business accelerator to students, staff and alumni that includes seed funding and expert mentorship by experienced entrepreneurs.
The Fire Station, scheduled to be completed in October, will also house a business incubator supporting at least 10 resident startups each year.
The report, which draws on a Startup Muster survey of 600 startup founders in 2016, shows that around one in five startup founders have benefited from an acceleration or incubation program, such as the one established at Swinburne.
Giving students a hand up
Swinburne’s students can engage in Innovation Precinct activity through a new Innovation Minor, open to all undergraduate bachelor students, or by taking up a Masters of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MEI).
“Our focus is on providing students with the skills and support needed to take on real world challenges and produce innovative practical solutions that not only have impact, but are commercially successful as well,” Professor Subic says.
David Nicolaides applied the knowledge he acquired through his Masters at Swinburne to cofound Tessellate Modular, a startup that reengineers shipping containers into luxury backyard offices.
“The MEI gave me the framework and the support to develop my initial business idea into a realistic and affordable launch product that minimised risk and maximised opportunity,” says Mr Nicolaides.
“The whole course is geared towards innovation and really encourages participants to think about global business opportunities.”
As of this year, all Swinburne PhD students will also undertake an embedded Grad Certificate in Research & Innovation Management that will provide them with a foundation in entrepreneurship and innovation, irrespective of their discipline area.