International collaboration: Innovation and enterprise

The Innovation and Enterprise program is educating entrepreneurs through an innovative research-led teaching program complemented by outreach activities that bring the real world into the classroom.

The Innovation and Enterprise program at The University of Sydney Business School is grounded in three fundamental activities: teaching, research and outreach. The teaching program is tightly entwined with research, and students are given the opportunity to engage their practice through outreach programs.

"We teach everything we research. We research everything we teach. Our outreach activities ensure our research is in turn driven by pragmatic needs on the ground, whether that be for technology-based businesses or social enterprises”, said Dr Richard Seymour, Programme Director of Innovation and Enterprise.

The program focuses on entrepreneurship, creativity, strategy and innovation. Each of these require the application and utilisation of core functional skills including finance, marketing, and operations..

Students engage in research throughout their coursework programs as well as being taught using problem-based learning methods. They are encouraged to consider the impact of their work and how it can be practically applied.

“We encourage students to think about how they can distil all their theory and knowledge into something valuable and useful for people in the real world”, said Seymour.

One testing ground for such work is an outreach project aimed at building female entrepreneurial skills in Vietnam. The project, supported by an AusAID grant,offers teaching, research and capacity-building opportunities for students and researchers. Working with the University of Economics and Business Vietnam National University, the project’s goal is to develop and launch locally-tailored training programs that will help women in micro- and small-enterprises develop their skills.

Closer to home, the Program’s local outreach activities feed into further research and teaching as students and researchers learn from their activities in an Action Research model.

To date the Program has worked with scores of businesses and entrepreneurs, with students working on real problems associated with building businesses around new markets, new processes, or new business models: “We’re all learning by doing: exploring the application of theories and conducting further research that will also feed into how and what we teach”, said Seymour.

This action-research model has recently been extended beyond the classroom, with the development of the Remote and Rural Enterprise (RARE) Program. Selected students are placed in a community to work alongside a remote enterprise (both indigenous and non-indigenous) to develop their vision.

It is a two-way learning exchange, whereby students apply their expertise and skills to support the community/entrepreneur in developing their enterprise, while also gaining valuable hands on experience and exposure to the challenges of doing business in remote Australia.

The Program also offers a Graduate Certificate for researchers in any area to develop their skills in commercialisation and the management of intellectual property.

“The Graduate Certificate has been very popular. It is a good opportunity for PhD students to gain knowledge that will help them take their research beyond their lab or their desk”, said Seymour.

“Generous scholarships for the Grad Cert have been available under the Government’s Commercialisation Training Scheme. Unfortunately that Federal funding will be closing. It will be a shame if this stops researchers from across the University, not just the Business School from developing their innovation & enterprise skills. We are currently exploring alternative ways to support the University’s research community.”