Launched last month, the New Venture Institute (NVI) at Flinders University has embarked on two new initiatives to strengthen the University’s enterprise culture. Leading business luminaries will be presenting at the NVI’s new Entrepreneurs in Conversation series, and students will be working on ‘real world’ startup case studies.
Rather than hypothetical scenarios, students from Flinders Business School and the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics (CSEM) are working as consultants to two startup ventures. One is a food safety assessment innovator and the other is a labour hire company looking to disrupt traditional business models in the industry with a web based matching and deployment tool.
For the former, students are working on a commercialisation and market growth plan for the founders who have developed an assessment device that they believe will disrupt the food industry. For the latter, students have researched similar products and technologies to use and are now building a cloud-based system.
“Both projects have industry project managers and mentors who advise and guide the groups to ensure an industry and solutions focused approach to the project,” says Orren Prunckun, a prominent personality in the Adelaide startup scene who will be bringing his intimate knowledge of startups to the NVI community.
NVI Director Matthew Salier, who has taken on the role after seven years as national manager of the Smith Family, says the Institute’s aim is to “infuse innovative and entrepreneurial thought and practice” among Flinders students and staff and the broader community.
“The NVI’s activities are starting to take shape. Internally, we are modelling the University’s existing, successful programs such as NanoConnect and the collaborative example of the Medical Device Research Institute,” he says.
“Externally, we are focused on harnessing the University’s intellectual horsepower, by using the business connections of our Council and our many partners, to bring some exceptional value into the start-up and entrepreneur community.”
Early next year, NVI will be running Venture Dorm, an entrepreneurial education and training program for potential and existing startup founders in conjunction with the the digital entrepreneurship masterclass program, MEGA. Venture Dorm was designed by the University’s commercialisation arm Flinders Partners and “fulfils an important role for NVI” by bridging its internal and external focus.
“We’d like students to get involved and we’d like researchers and academics to consider jumping into it as well. But it is also attractive to the external community,” says Salier.
NVI’s ranks have risen with the appointment of Prunckun – a Flinders Arts and Law graduate well-known in the South Australian entrepreneurial sector for his leadership of the global Startup Weekend events locally.
“I think Orren coming on board reflects the fact that universities have a really important role to play [in the entrepreneurial sector] and that it isn’t only one of being the thought-leaders and the thinkers: it’s about being the do-ers in that space as well,” says Salier.
“The real value from a university comes when you can bring cutting-edge thinking and research to actually strategically doing it on the ground.”
This concept will manifest itself in a range of different entrepreneurial education initiatives, such as a ‘toolbox workshop’ which aims to give budding entrepreneurs advice and skills to determine the commercial viability of their product and a market assessment of their ideas.
In the long haul, however, NVI plans to be the ‘front door’ of Flinders’ presence at the Tonsley development.
“Tonsley is about having the University, TAFE and business in the same space and all collaboratively working together. Being on the ground floor of our new building, we consider NVI as the software through which the School of CSEM will enhance its already excellent external engagement,” says Salier.
“It is not yet known what the next big thing will be. What is known is that you need to create the conditions through which people can come together: where you can bring the intellectual horsepower of the University, the experience of your business connections, mentorship and capital to bear to create an environment where these new products and services are likely to flourish.”