Inspiring Australia ACT is continuing to develop our networks to increase connections between STEM and entrepreneurship. Back in January, we partnered with Questacon’s National Invention Convention, to introduce 24 young inventors from around Australia to the concept of networking.
The Invention Convention is an opportunity for 14-18 year olds from around the country to really explore STEM and innovation. They run National and regional workshops where students can work with techsperts from Questacon and innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs to turn ideas into reality.
At the National workshop in January, we helped bring entrepreneurs together with the young inventors for a Networking Night at CBRIN. The students had a session before hand on what networking is, why it is important and how the evening would run. When they arrived at CBRIN, they got a guided tour of our program and coworking spaces.
Then, down to the business at hand! Meeting strangers and telling them about yourself and your project! Most of the kids (14-18 year olds, remember) were very nervous. This can be a difficult thing for adults to engage in, so they did very well in engaging in the exercise. We set up the room so that each student (or sometimes pairs of students) got to meet with real-life, actual entrepreneurs who were running their businesses in Canberra. They got to explain what project they were working on and the entrepreneurs had tokens representing money, other resources (including time, access to space or technology) or referrals that they were able to distribute to the students (they were representative, not real!). The students in return were encouraged to pass on their email details to the entrepreneurs, and some contact was made after the event! A bell rang and everyone moved on to the next entrepreneur.
Food and (soft) drinks were served, and the students learned the difficult real-world issue of juggling food, a glass of drink and talking, without spillage!
The evening was a big success, if the reluctance of both the students and entrepreneurs to leave their conversations was any guide! Many of the students indicated that once they got over their initial nerves, they were really interested in hearing and talking to the entrepreneurs to get hints, tips and maybe even some future leads and investments in their ideas! The entrepreneurs reported that they were very impressed with the innovative ideas that these young people had created!
We will definitely run another networking night at next year’s Invention Convention! Meanwhile, applications are open for both Regional and National workshops in 2016 and 2017, so if you are or know a young person with bright ideas, click HERE!
Success for Inspiring Australia will mean a more scientifically-engaged Australia. A big part of this is building partnerships and influencing all levels of government. Our decision makers need to understand the value of our sciences, and how important science and technology is to our economy. Research is a major driver of economic growth. Advanced physical and mathematical sciences are responsible for 11% of Australia’s economic activity, underpinning 760,000 jobs. Future prosperity will rely on the decisions made now.
Inspiring the ACT has been playing a key role in engaging our decision makers and explaining the role of the Inspiring Australia strategy in the ACT as well as the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship. In the ACT, we are particularly focussed on leveraging the work that the CBR Innovation Network does in innovation and entrepreneurship with our important task of engaging more school-aged people in STEM – encouraging them to see opportunities past academia for the sciences.
Under Chief Minister Barr, the ACT Government has been focussed on accelerating local innovation to create wealth and jobs, as outlined in the business development strategy Confident & Business Ready: Building on Our Strengths. It was very much a push from the ACT Government that the Inspiring the ACT program be housed at the CBR Innovation Network, so that where possible, increased science engagement is linked to innovation and entrepreneurial programs.
Minister Karen Andrews, herself an engineer and a champion for STEM and in particular, encouraging women and girls in STEM, is now the Assistant Minister for Science. A week before that change, she spoke at our launch, emphasising the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the Australian economy. It is estimated that 44% of Australian jobs are at risk from digital disruption over the next 20 years. She is perfectly placed to commit to working with industry and the science sector to ensure the development of a national STEM strategy puts us on the right trajectory to capitalise on the jobs of the future.
We also had Jeremy Hanson MLA, Leader of the ACT Opposition visit. This was another great opportunity to explain the programs at CBR Innovation Network, which Inspiring the ACT is part of. He was very interested to hear how we are incorporating STEM and entrepreneurship as a way of delivering science engagement in the ACT.
Next up, in one of his first actions as the new Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy MP, Australia’s youngest ever Minister, visited the CBR Innovation Network. We were able to discuss the importance of STEM and how innovation will drive fundamental change. From his perspective, he said we need research, higher education, science and innovation to work together. And Inspiring the ACT is certainly trying to help that and it was great to have him come and sit on our famous pink beanbags, where all good ideas come from!
It was also fantastic to have Bill Shorten MP, Federal Leader of the Opposition, Ed Husic MP, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary assisting with Digital Innovation and Startups, and Andrew Leigh MP, Shadow Assistant Treasurer come and visit us too! It was great to explain to the Opposition what achievements and plans Inspiring the ACT has for STEM engagement in the ACT.
I have also had the honour of being invited to a couple of events here in Canberra that continue to put science front and centre in the minds of our decision makers. The first was the launch of the John Howard Walk of Wonder at Questacon. This is a great Science Tourism initiative – a self-guided walking tour, guided by an app around the Parliamentary Triangle to discover the hidden science in the heart of the Nation. The former Prime Minister John Howard, famous for his morning walks, was in attendance, as was the current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull MP.
On entering Questacon, Mr Turbull said to the gathered crowd of school kids that “you are living in the most exciting time, and the key to that is science”. He went on to say during his speech that “the key to innovation is science”.
And finally, we’ve had the Logies of Science, the Prime Minister’s Awards for Science, held in at Parliament House. There was so much optimism in the room that night for the future of science – he again stressed the importance of science to the future of Australia and that he would be putting it “front and centre of the national agenda.”
So if Inspiring Australia aims to develop strong partnerships and shared vision to better engage Australians in science, I think that we can be hopeful that all levels of government are also aiming to support science and that can only be a good thing for the future of this country.