Equipping students for the future through entrepreneurship
2017 was a year of transition, with key investments made into the future of innovation and entrepreneurship at UTS. As we begin 2018, we’re now in an even stronger position to bring those two key elements to the forefront of our student journey, writes Professor Margaret Maile Petty, Executive Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship.
While a vast array of entrepreneurial efforts and activities have been delivered across campus for some time, it became clear last year that it was time to consolidate, strengthen and amplify our efforts to better and more broadly offer valuable entrepreneurial experiences to our students.
The university’s senior leadership further committed to a major restructuring of the Deputy Vice-Chancellors portfolios, and as you may already know, formulating a new DVC Innovation & Enterprise and appointing Professor Glenn Wightwick to this important role. Additionally, an international recruitment process was undertaken to appoint an Executive Director, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which I’m delighted to say, brought me to UTS late last year. For those of you I’ve yet to meet, I look forward to working with you.
In what is perhaps the most significant investment made by UTS in 2017, the new DVC I&E portfolio now has the strategic remit to coordinate, support and scale innovation and entrepreneurship across all UTS faculties, units and centres. The ultimate goal is to secure our position as a global leader in the space, and as a significant contributor to the growth of a inclusive, dynamic, and resilient Australian economy and society.
This means empowering our students to fulfil their potential and turn their ideas into ventures that can fuel the Australian economy. As a university, we’re committed to supporting student entrepreneurship through hands-on, real-world collaborations with industry and community partners. It’s these collaborative experiences that give our student entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop and hone the vital 21st century skills that will prepare our graduates for the jobs of the future - whether they set out to disrupt the corporate world or develop their own startups.
Startups are, according to StartupAUS CEO Alex McCauley, now recognised as leading job creators worldwide, and high-growth startups are the primary driver of Australia’s new jobs growth. According to the 2017 Crossroads report he authored, startups have the potential to contribute as much as $170 billion to Australia’s economy by 2020.
However, he also cautioned that talent is the single biggest challenge facing Australian startups: “There is currently no mechanism for these fast-growing tech companies to attract overseas workers to fill a range of high-demand digital roles, particularly in product development and management. At a time when Australian startups are crying out for talent and top-tier tech workers are considering roles outside the US, this gap requires immediate attention.”
Both of these factors - the role of startups in leading new jobs growth and the current skills gap in Australia - are central to UTS’s mission to scale up support for entrepreneurial education and ensure that we are equipping our graduates with the capabilities, skills, and confidence necessary to thrive within the Australian workforce.
We view this as very much connected to the importance of diversity and inclusion in driving robust and sustainable innovation - and we’re already seeing the impact entrepreneurship can have here. According to Startup Muster, for example, one in four startup companies in Australia are now launched by women.
And I’m proud to say that UTS’s Hatchery Accelerate program has consistently reported twice the national average of female founders. Across four cohorts since its inception in 2016, about 60% of Hatchery Accelerate startup teams have had a female founder.
This kind of shift doesn’t happen by accident - rather it’s testament to the approach we’ve developed. This includes having a strong female leaders, managers, and facilitators in the Hatchery, all of whom bring great diversity and talent to our programs, marketing activity, and recruitment. We also support the development of confidence and other soft skills through our mentoring network and industry partnerships.
We also pride ourselves on a wider diversity in founders, be it across faculty, discipline or cultural background. Through our network, we’re seeing the impact entrepreneurship can have in transcending barriers and empowering people to create their own opportunities and not simply settle for a place in the status quo.
We already have some incredible businesses and business leaders coming out of UTS, not just out of the Hatchery, but other key programs like the MBA in Entrepreneurship, our Hult Prize representation, and through our partnership with the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship. As 2018 progresses, and the Innovation & Enterprise portfolio delivers more fully, we look forward to sharing more of our success stories with you.
We might have our work cut out for us, but we’re certain 2018 will be a year of growth and development of innovation and entrepreneurship activities and opportunities at UTS, as well as across the greater Sydney ecosystem we’re fortunate to be a part of. We’d love to keep you in the loop, so I would encourage you to sign up to our mailing list to find out more about how you can get involved or get in touch.