The QUT innovation space : a trans-disciplinary learning environment for entrepreneurship education : final report

Collet, Christopher & Roberts, Jessie (2014) The QUT innovation space : a trans-disciplinary learning environment for entrepreneurship education : final report. Office for Learning & Teaching, Sydney, NSW.

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In the current climate of global economic volatility, there are increasing calls for training in enterprising skills and entrepreneurship to underpin the systemic innovation required for even medium-term business sustainability. The skills long-recognised as the essential for entrepreneurship now appear on the list of employability skills demanded by industry.

The QUT Innovation Space (QIS) was an experiment aimed at delivering entrepreneurship education (EE), as an extra-curricular platform across the university, to the undergraduate students of an Australian higher education institute. It was an ambitious project that built on overseas models of EE studied during an Australian Learning and Teaching Council (ALTC) Teaching Fellowship (Collet, 2011) and implemented those approaches across an institute. Such EE approaches have not been attempted in an Australian university. The project tested resonance not only with the student population, from the perspective of what worked and what didn’t work, but also with every level of university operations. Such information is needed to inform the development of EE in the Australian university landscape.

The QIS comprised a physical co-working space, virtual sites (web, Twitter and Facebook) and a network of entrepreneurial mentors, colleagues, and students. All facets of the QIS enabled connection between like-minded individuals that underpins the momentum needed for a project of this nature. The QIS became an innovation community within QUT.

This report serves two purposes. First, as an account of the QIS project and its evolution, the report serves to identify the student demand for skills and training as well as barriers and facilitators of the activities that promote EE in an Australian university context. Second, the report serves as a how-to manual, in the tradition of many tomes on EE, outlining the QIS activities that worked as well as those that failed. The activities represent one measure of QIS outcomes and are described herein to facilitate implementation in other institutes.

The QIS initially aimed to adopt an incubation model for training in EE. The ‘learning by doing’ model for new venture creation is a highly successful and high profile training approach commonly found in overseas contexts. However, the greatest demand of the QUT student population was not for incubation and progression of a developed entrepreneurial intent, but rather for training that instilled enterprising skills in the individual. These two scenarios require different training approaches (Fayolle and Gailly, 2008). The activities of the QIS evolved to meet that student demand. In addressing enterprising skills, the QIS developed the antecedents of entrepreneurialism (i.e., entrepreneurial attitudes, motivation and behaviours) including high-level skills around risk-taking, effective communication, opportunity recognition and action-orientation.

In focusing on the would-be entrepreneur and not on the (initial) idea per se, the QIS also fostered entrepreneurial outcomes that would never have gained entry to the rigid stage-gated incubation model proposed for the original QIS framework.

Important lessons learned from the project for development of an innovation community include the need to:

  1. Evaluate the context of the type of EE program to be delivered and the student demand for the skills training (as noted above).

  2. Create a community that builds on three dimensions: a physical space, a virtual environment and a network of mentors and partners.

  3. Supplement the community with external partnerships that aid in delivery of skills training materials.

  4. Ensure discovery of the community through the use of external IT services to deliver advertising and networking outlets.

  5. Manage unrealistic student expectations of billion dollar products.

  6. Continuously renew and rebuild simple activities to maintain student engagement.

  7. Accommodate the non-university end-user group within the community.

  8. Recognise and address the skills bottlenecks that serve as barriers to concept progression; in this case, externally provided IT and programming skills.

  9. Use available on-line and published resources rather than engage in constructing project-specific resources that quickly become obsolete.

  10. Avoid perceptions of faculty ownership and operate in an increasingly competitive environment.

  11. Recognise that the continuum between creativity/innovation and entrepreneurship is complex, non-linear and requires different training regimes during the different phases of the pipeline. One small entity, such as the QIS, cannot address them all.

The QIS successfully designed, implemented and delivered activities that included events, workshops, seminars and services to QUT students in the extra-curricular space. That the QIS project can be considered successful derives directly from the outcomes. First, the QIS project changed the lives of emerging QUT student entrepreneurs. Also, the QIS activities developed enterprising skills in students who did not necessarily have a business proposition, at the time. Second, successful outcomes of the QIS project are evidenced as the embedding of most, perhaps all, of the QIS activities in a new Chancellery-sponsored initiative: the Leadership Development and Innovation Program hosted by QUT Student Support Services.

During the course of the QIS project, the Brisbane-based innovation ecosystem underwent substantial change. From a dearth of opportunities for the entrepreneurially inclined, there is now a plethora of entities that cater for a diversity of innovation-related activities. While the QIS evolved with the landscape, the demand endpoint of the QIS activities still highlights a gap in the local and national innovation ecosystems. The freedom to experiment and to fail is not catered for by the many new entities seeking to build viable businesses on the back of the innovation push. The onus of teaching the enterprising skills, which are the employability skills now demanded by industry, remains the domain of the higher education sector.

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ID Code: 72840
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Keywords: creativity, innovation , entrepreneurship, higher education, HERN
ISBN: 9781743613160
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > OTHER EDUCATION (139900) > Education not elsewhere classified (139999)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Biomedical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Office for Learning and Teaching
Copyright Statement: With the exception of the Commonwealth Coat of Arms, and where otherwise noted, all material presented in this document is provided under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License
Deposited On: 16 Jun 2014 22:42
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2014 22:52

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