Australia’s universities aren’t doing enough to promote entrepreneurship, says chief scientist

Australia’s universities aren’t doing enough to promote entrepreneurship, says chief scientist


The higher education system isn’t doing enough to encourage entrepreneurship, according to Australia’s outgoing chief scientist professor Ian Chubb.

A report released today by the Office of the Chief Scientist found universities are a “central concern” when it comes to boosting entrepreneurship and, in turn, the economy.

Australia should look to countries like the US for guidance on how we can commercialise research and encourage the next batch of business leaders to take a risk and start their own companies, according to the report.

For example, Stanford and MIT have produced graduates who have gone on to create around 39,900 and 25,800 companies respectively in the technology, software, biotech and advanced manufacturing sectors.

“Our policies have struggled to work coherently across school education, higher education and research,” the report said.

“Educators, in particular, have often lacked the incentives, encouragement and resources to approach their role in the very different way required.”

Chief scientist Ian Chubb said Australia needs to become better at turning creativity into fast-growing businesses.

“To be a more innovative country, we need to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset at every level of education – starting in schools, continuing in higher study and enduring throughout working lives,” Chubb says.

“In other countries, forward-looking universities are the epicentre of vibrant startup economies. Universities should be at the core of building a culture of entrepreneurship in Australia.”

Seb Eckersley-Maslin, chief executive of startup incubator BlueChilli, told SmartCompany everyone in Australia – both inside and outside of the education system – has a duty to make sure more students understand starting their own business or studying science is a viable career path.

“We need to create more STEM-based students and I don’t necessarily think this is a massive problem entirely – it’s unfair to blame the education system,” Eckersley-Maslin says.

“It’s something we as a community need to evangelise. We need to get kids excited about being scientists and engineers. The way we do that is to create successful role models. Kids need to aspire and say, ‘I want be that guy’.”

Eckersley-Maslin says one thing the federal government can do to ensure more young people study science, technology, engineering and maths is to expose children to coding in primary school.

“All kids need an exposure to coding, not to turn them into programmers but to understand the world they live in,” he says.

“You don’t learn maths to become a mathematician. Computing is so fundamental to the way the world works – the more kids that we can get exposure to that, the better.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Chubb’s replacement, Dr Alan Finkel, earlier this week.

The government is set to release a suite of innovation policies before Christmas.




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