Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Teaching Innovation in Canberra

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where the Innovation ACT 2014 Launch is taking place. For the last few years, the ACT Government has sponsored this competition to encourage Canberra's Higher Education students to learn how to turn their ideas into businesses. The completion was devised by ANU's Engineering and Computer Science College. Previously I have talked at the event and been a participant and later a mentor. This year I am designing a university course which will award credit for students undertaking this competition, or similar ones. Some argue that innovation cannot be taught in a formal course, it has to be experienced. However, I think it should be feasible to teach the theory in academic classes and then have the students innovate in practice (much as happens in architecture and design schools at university). If all goes well the new course will be available from second semester 2015. There are numerous innovation startup books , but I hope to avoid making the students read any of them. Universities interesting in running the course can contact me for details.

Innovation ACT has a format similar other "start-up" competitions. Teams attend presentations and workshops to learn how to prepare a pitch and business plan and then compete in various stages, winning prizes. The Innovation ACT competition broke with tradition by having only two short speeches at the launch. Most of the time was taken up with a short pitch competition. The first two were "InGiv" and "Butterfly Effect", proposing companies to assist social enterprise (that is non-profit organisations). There seems to be a lot of innovations with start-up companies offering services to non-profit organisations. The third Tradesmin was for small trades companies (an example of re-intermediation). Bio-Mine was offering authenticated electronic documents (I could not see how this was different to the Digitary certificates issued by ANU). BeeHub was to offer FAQs for university students. "Swap" was a barter system and "Hidden Talent" an online art gallery. The Winners were: 1. Bio-Mine; 2. Tradesmin; 3. InGive and BeeHub.

ps: There are also some free  online courses (MOOC), on innovation, such as:
  1. "Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer?" (MIT, edX), 
  2. "Social Entrepreneurship" (University of Pennsylvania, Coursera)
  3. "Innovation and Enterprise" (Loughborough University, Futurelearn).
  4. Coursera)
    "Entrepreneurship and Family Business" (RMIT, Open2Study)
    "Beyond Silicon Valley: Growing Entrepreneurship in Transitioning Economies" (CaseWestern Reserve University, Coursera)

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