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Flinders University learning flexibility from start-ups and launching value-adding program

Wednesday, 18 September 2013 | By Rose Powell

Flinders University has launched a new program to better connect students with entrepreneurial opportunities and education.


New Ventures Institute director Matt Salier told StartupSmart the program was run alongside the academic structure, but had been given enough space to develop and iterate as needed.


“Universities tend to be very structured, and Flinders is trying to position themselves very differently,” he says.


“Entrepreneurialism is about passion and commitment to an idea. The value a university can bring to that is understanding what those challenges are, and adding value, rather than trying to put structure and form around something that by its very nature needs to be more flexible than universities are used to being.”


The program will have three focus areas: start-up development through revamped incubator program Venture Dorm, entrepreneur-in-conversation events and partnering students with start-ups to work on specific projects.


“Ninety-seven per cent of Australia’s businesses are small to medium businesses, so the reality is that many of the students who are exiting will be working for small businesses or having a go at launching their own start-up,” Salier says. “The university decided it was our responsibility to equip them the best way we can with more practical experiences.”


Groups of students are working with two local start-ups. A group from the business school are developing strategies with a food safety device start-up, and a group from the computer science faculty are working with a labour hire company.


Salier says the new direction Flinders University has taken is a positive step by the tertiary education sector to better support the start-up ecosystem.


“One of the things that universities have done in the past is to think about entrepreneurialism as a sociological experiment, to research them. But our approach is different, we want to connect with them and learn with them,” Salier says.