While seemingly the rest of the world has been on holidays, here in Canberra, we have been a veritable HIVE of activity in the STEM and entrepreneur space!

4 January 2016 (and again on the 18th) saw two hundred eager National Youth Science Forum (NYSF) participants descend on the Nation’s Capital. NYSF is a 12-day residential program in January for students going into Year 12, who are passionate about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM!). The aim of the program is to show the students the wide variety of study and career options in STEM fields. The NYSF program consists of a mix of scientific, formal, personal development, and social activities. These range from laboratory visits to sports evenings and from a swing dance to working on understanding group dynamics.


This year, for the first time, NYSF included a session on Entrepreneurial Thinking. So often, when we think of STEM careers, we picture academic or commercial research. You know, white lab coats and equations on blackboards!


But as we at the Canberra Innovation Network like to remind people, innovation and entrepreneurship are going to be key drivers in the Australian economy – the way we need to support innovation needs to constantly adapt. So the good people at NYSF decided to let the students in on another career avenue – entrepreneurship! What if you have a fantastic idea that is going to solve a big problem? What do you do with that idea? So in conjunction with us here at Inspiring the ACT, we gathered a range of Canberra-based entrepreneurs to hear about their journeys and what they thought about innovation and problem-solving and running their own business as a career option.

Hosted by PWC‘s Joshua Gilbert, the panel included:


You already know how enthusiastic we are here at Inspiring Australia about innovation – not just entrepreneurship, but encouraging innovative thinking and practices in the workplace. But we weren’t sure how these young high schoolers with PhD’s and research careers in their sights might feel about it.

The answer?

The LOVED it! Not only did they listen intently to the presentations, but they also had many intelligent, thought-provoking questions for our panellists during the Q&A session. And they pretty much mobbed them during the break!


We hope that we have opened their eyes a little to what the opportunities post-qualification (or maybe, even, pre-qualification!) might be – if they have a passion for solving problems and want to make the world a better place, there are opportunities in the innovation and entrepreneurial field that might take them further than they ever imagined! Amongst the pearls of wisdom were the following:

  • “I never thought I’d be able to change the way electricity works from an office in Canberra!” – Lachlan Blackhall, Reposit Power
  • “One of the biggest thrills in my life is that our technology helped make the world a safer place” – Murray Rankin, Rankin Securities
  • “There has never been a better time NOT to know stuff!” – Erica Hediger, Creative Element
  • “Innovation happens when you study lots of things and there is an intersection of knowledge” – Katie Doherty, Solution Solution
  • “Entrepreneurial thinking requires you to take risks and make mistakes” – Rish Ratnam

I don’t know about the students, but those entrepreneurs inspired ME to think more innovatively!! Actually, I do know they inspired the kids too, because many of them reported back, saying that session was a real point of difference and for some, it was even their favourite session out of their whole NYSF experience – I think we might do it again next year 🙂

Inspiring the ACT would like to thank the National Youth Science Forum for the opportunity to work with them in inspiring the next STEM generation and the entrepreneurs connected to CBRIN, for their time.