Tuesday, August 15, 2017

History of Innovation ACT in Canberra

renewable energy entrepreneur and rocket scientist, Dr Lachlan Blackhall,
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where renewable energy entrepreneur and rocket scientist, Dr Lachlan Blackhall, is recounting the history of Innovation ACT. This started in 2007 as a start-up competition for ANU students (Innovation ANU) and  opened to students at other Canberra higher education institutions in 2009.

Apparently at the first launch event I was so surprised by the large amount of prize money being offered, I asked the distinguished senior academic doing the launch: "Is this a scam?". After ten years of completions, I have concluded it is not a scam.

Students form teams and learn about how to turn an idea into a product or service. To give them incentive, there are prizes. The prizes are now in kind help with furthering their business idea, rather than just cash.

Innovation ACT has helped normalize the idea at Canberra's universities that it is okay to aspire to start a business, rather than just work for one, or be a researcher. With the popularization through media and many government and business programs on
entrepreneurship, perhaps it is time to remind everyone this is not easy.

here is a belief in some of the entrepreneur community that formal higher education is not needed any more and school kids should just learn on their own and go into business. I challenged Steve Baxter, best know for Shark Tank, at at River City Labs in Brisbane. Steve suggested that a tech entrepreneur could obtain business advice and training, but a business person without the needed tech training would have more difficulty. I think I managed to get him thinking that some formal training in both tech and business was worthwhile.

Currently I am tutoring ANU Techlauncher students, mostly computer science, with a few engineers and some interns. The students are learning what are referred to as "soft skills" but are hard, particularly for STEM students. Students who have mastered very technical computer skills soon discover that planning, management, estimating and communication are not easy. Competitions such as Innovation ACT help with this.

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