Mining giant Rio Tinto is investing $10 million in a new startup accelerator to tackle potential skills gaps in Australia’s future workforce.
The four-year Future Minds Accelerator program, supported by startup accelerator BlueChilli and Amazon Web Services (AWS), will target school-age learners, with prominent businessman and University of NSW Chancellor David Gonski chairing an advisory council tasked with overseeing the pus to prepare young people for the digital future by helping fast-track skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, automation, systems design, and data analytics.
The first phase of the Future Minds Accelerator will identify startups with existing projects that can be scaled quickly to enhance the skills of students, teachers and parents, with a goal of helping 100,000 Australian school students this year.
Up to 15 startups at the scaleup stage will be selected to take part in the 2020 program, with Rio Tinto providing a $50,000 grant, alongside training and mentoring through BlueChilli, and up to US$100,000 in AWS Activate Credits.
The advisory council of business, education and innovation leaders will also assist the startups and help create networking opportunities and provide advice to businesses, schools, communities, and startups.
Rio Tinto CEO J-S Jacques said Australia was “facing a significant gap in broader transferable skills such as complex and creative problem solving and advanced communication”.
“The Future Minds Accelerator is designed to help prepare young Australians for the future of work as the need for these skills, which are even now in high demand, accelerates dramatically,” he said.
BlueChilli Program Director Filipa C. Araújo said: “We’re excited to work with Rio Tinto and AWS to support startups solving this challenge, accelerate and scale their reach and impact. The Future Minds Accelerator expects the startups supported to positively impact 100,000 K-12 students already in 2020 and for this figure to increase as they expand their activities across the country.”
Startups with an existing product or technology that addresses any of the program’s challenge statements can apply, and there no criteria around revenue numbers or capital raised. Applications close on Monday, March 23.
Non-startups, such as not-for-profit organisations, will also be considered if they apply.
Details on the Future Minds Accelerator are available here.