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Universities vital for Australia’s startup economy

1 March 2017
New survey reveals impact of university incubation programs

The University of Sydney has welcomed a new report from Universities Australia that recognises the crucial role of universities in job creation and boosting Australia’s economy.

Photo of a group of students in discussion.

The University of Sydney has welcomed a new report confirming universities as the driving force in Australia’s startup economy, in the  same week it launched its reimagined undergraduate curriculum, designed to equip students with the skills they’ll need to lead and thrive in a changing world.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), said the report – Startup Smarts: universities and the startup economy – affirms the direction the University is taking in preparing students for the jobs and opportunities of the future.

“Numerous well-established, extra-curricular accelerator and startup initiatives are available to our students and the broader University community, including the award-winning INCUBATE program, Cicada Innovations, Sydney Genesis and the Sydney Accelerator Network,” Professor Iverson said.

“These programs have had remarkable success in supporting our people and their ground-breaking ideas, while helping them to capitalise on their potential.

“We’ve embedded the importance of developing these entrepreneurial skills in our students as part of our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, and this is a core pillar of our new undergraduate curriculum that will commence in 2018."

Soon every student will have the opportunity to take on real-world entrepreneurship and industry projects, to learn from leaders in their field, to study and work across disciplines and to gain the skills and understanding to work effectively across cultural boundaries.
Professor Duncan Ivison, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research)

“With start-ups predicted to create more than half a million jobs in Australia over the coming decades, our students will be in an ideal position to take advantage of opportunities in this changing world of work and to significantly contribute to Australia’s future economy,” Professor Ivison said.

The report, a joint project between Universities Australia and Startup Muster, reveals more than four in five startup founders in Australia are university graduates, and that there are more than 100 startup support facilities and entrepreneurism centres at Australian universities.

Drawing on a Startup Muster survey of 600 startup founders in 2016, it found around one in five founders benefited from an acceleration or incubation program while at university.

The report will be launched today at the National Press Club by Universities Australia Chair Professor Barney Glover.

Success story

A photo of Angela Liang

University of Sydney alumna Angela Liang (photographer Lisa Fahey).

University of Sydney alumna Angela Liang features in the report as an example of a successful entrepreneur.  Having completed a double degree in commerce and law, she began a career in investment banking in Hong Kong. On her return to Sydney, Angela began working on transferring the skills she’d learnt from the finance world to the fashion world. She has since established Lustre, a business that matches fashion-conscious shoppers’ styles with emerging designers while helping the designers break into markets normally dominated by big brands. The business was launched with the support of global accelerator program AngelHack.

“Angela’s story is inspiring, and there are many, many hundreds more examples from the University of Sydney community,” Professor Ivison said.

“We have a proud tradition of assisting aspiring startup founders in a variety of ways on campus. I’d encourage all of our students with big ideas to find out more about the support available.” 

Startup support on campus

A number of programs providing support and mentoring to aspiring entrepreneurs are on offer at the University of Sydney including:

  • INCUBATE:  An award-winning startup accelerator and entrepreneur program founded by the USU. In 2016, the University of Sydney announced it would provide INCUBATE $1m in funding over five years in order to double its size and expand its support for on-campus startups. 
  • Cicada Innovations: Australia’s first and largest business incubator, Cicada Innovations, has a client portfolio of more than 70 high-growth advanced technology startups (including several from the University of Sydney), with more than 500 patents filed and $500M in revenue earned since 2006. The University of Sydney was one of four founding University partners of Cicada, which was voted ‘World’s best incubator’ in 2014.
  • Sydney Genesis:  A cross-faculty start-up program where students, alumni and staff can bring their business idea and develop it into a launchable venture. Has supported more than 800 students and alumni start their own business ideas since 2008.
  • The Sydney Accelerator Network: Fostering innovative new ideas in ICT, and helping ICT-related startups put their ideas into action. The Network usually works with around four startup businesses at a time, helping these companies give life to their ideas.
  • Sydney Social Innovation Hub: Provides a facility for undergraduate and postgraduate students from all faculties across the University to co-create and innovate with other students, academics, alumni, industry and community.
  • The USU also supports societies that connect entrepreneurial students with business opportunities while they are studying. 180 Degrees: Social Innovation Group, Inside Enterprise and the Network of Women (NOW), are just a few of the societies on offer that aim to get young businesspeople inspired and involved. The Young Entrepreneurs Society also acts as a hub for student entrepreneurs on campus.

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