Engaging a community and its leaders to build an innovative, entrepreneurial workforce is a huge challenge. However, Flinders University’s New Venture Institute (NVI), with support from Temple University’s Fox School of Business, has done just that — and the momentum is not showing signs of slowing down.
NVI’s work has helped grow more than 32 businesses, train more than 3,000 students and workers and implement an entrepreneurial curriculum in a region hit hard by the closing of a Mitsubishi plant in Adelaide, the capital city in the state of South Australia.
Matt Salier, Director at the New Venture Institute, TL Hill, Managing Director at Fox Management Consulting and The Center for Executive Education and Michelle Histand, Director of Independence Blue Cross Innovation, outlined NVI’s journey during their May 28 presentation “Transforming an Innovation Ecosystem in South Australia (or Looking Far Afield to Find Inspiration at Home).”
Universities have a responsibility to train the next workforce through an adaptable, enterprising curriculum, Hill says. In 2013, Flinders embarked on its mission of creating a path to innovative thinking that would benefit not only the university but also the 1.2 million residents who lived in the surrounding community.
Because of Fox’s strong business curriculum and the demographic similarities between Adelaide and Philadelphia, the partnership with Flinders seemed a natural fit. Fox Management Consulting used its expertise to help bring Flinders University’s vision for the future of education to life.
The key to being transformative in education is to be more industry-led, recognizing how businesses are developing and making adjustments to move forward.
“The research is to put industries’ needs at the center and say what is needed to be successful in the future. We tried to take that model to Flinders as well,” Hill says.
With an early framework in mind, Flinders brought 1,000 business people together to think about what competencies should be driving the university’s transformation as it moved toward being more innovative and entrepreneurial in its overall educational offerings.
“We believe that innovation stretches across all disciplines,” Histand says. “So the idea was not to do ‘innovation instead’ but to do ‘innovation with.’”
New Venture Institute successfully worked with government officials to create “entrepreneurial schools” where curriculum built around innovative thinking begins early in a student’s development.
“We better be working with the supply chain of students coming through, particularly from elementary (what Australia calls high school), but even beyond that,” Salier says.
Hill envisions bringing the work being done at Flinders back to Temple and the city at large.
Both Flinders and Temple recognize the importance of being good community partners, he said. To do that, it’s important to recognize the need to “keep one foot in the university setting and one foot in the community.”
Flinders is working with cities located near the campus to think more creatively in working with residents, businesses and industries to improve conditions.
“There are a range of things that have enabled us to have more of an impact in moving the needle on economic areas outside of our own closeted world of the university,” he said.
What is important to keep in mind, Salier said, is to keep pushing the edge of what is possible.