Education has always been a strong contributor to the bottom line of the Australian economy as well as one of this countries greatest exports. Our proximity to Asia and our reputation there as being clean, fresh and eco-friendly has bolstered the revenues of our universities, private colleges and exchange programs for many years.
Other major exporters like the resources sector are no longer in the midst of a boom which is why technology and innovation is such an important area for us as a nation to execute efficiently and effectively.
Efficiently because we are already many decades behind most countries when it comes to being an “innovation nation” and having that embedded in our culture from our early stages of education. Effectively because although the opportunities are abundant they are also global and that means highly competitive. As a country we need to make a name for ourselves in a number of key areas and leverage that success commercially to continue to prosper.
At all levels of Government local, state and federal we are starting to see signs of what these focus areas will likely be moving forward. Because of the way our banking industry is viewed globally FinTech has emerged as a primary focus followed closely by AgriTech / FoodTech supported by the new Sparklabs Cultiv8 Accelerator Program due to be based outside of Orange in NSW and another AgTech Accelerator due to launch soon in the area of Armidale.
There is also talk of a new regional focused AgriTech venture capital fund being announced soon to help support the growth of this sector where there are many lucrative opportunities for Australian startups to make significant inroads in the China-Australia food and beverage market.
But what about Education? One of our most profitable export markets and one of the easiest to apply digital thinking around. Looking at the Australian EduTech landscape platforms like OpenLearning with its success breaking into the Malaysian school and university system or Literatu and the traction it has achieved throughout South-East Asia and lets not forget the success that startup ParentPaperwork has seen over the last two years seeing the platform launching into overseas markets from the United Kingdom to Pakistan.
In the last two years forty six (46) local EduTech startups have received funding from investors.
It is no surprise that Sydney and Melbourne are the dominant players in EduTech – they are the primary destinations for those overseas students which make the industry such a profitable export. Not to mention the knock-on effect for industries like real estate, property management and construction – all who enjoy economic growth because of the education sector.
The data over the last two years by investors in the Australian EduTech space suggests that there is an appetite to invest in the long-term success of the education sector in Australia.
Overwhelmingly investors have been most active in supporting EduTech companies that focus on STEM (20%), Entrepreneur Education (18%) and B2B platforms (18%) that allow companies to create their own educational offerings such as courses or internal training etc.
The activity in the B2B stream makes sense. Australia has always been strong when it comes to creating tech that specifically caters towards the small business and enterprise space and given the history of success investment in that space is likely to be successful.
When it comes to STEM and Entrepreneur Education however an interpretation of the data quite likely shows an investment in ensuring that post the University / Private College monopoly in the Australian education sector we have an entire generation of brilliant minds equipped with the necessary skillsets needed to grow the local education economy leveraging a variety of new and emerging technologies.