Forum: Building stronger links with industry

The panel discussion at the forum
Tuesday, 13 October, 2015
Deborah Smith

Representatives of Cochlear, Dow Chemical Australia, NSW Water Solutions and CSIRO have participated in UNSW Science’s annual Industry Forum, which is aimed at strengthening the Faculty’s partnerships with industry.

Associate Dean for Strategic Industry Engagement Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla welcomed the guests, who spoke in a panel discussion during the 8 October event at UNSW.

Delivering the keynote address to the forum, NSW Department of Industry senior representative Tom Durick said Australia was an inventive country and universities were the fonts of new knowledge. It was the role of the government to be a “catalyst” to help develop “effective collaboration” between universities and industry, so NSW could reap the economic and societal benefits of innovation.

Mr Durick highlighted two NSW Government initiatives helping this process. The TechVoucher scheme assists small-to-medium enterprises to collaborate with public sector research organisations in NSW. TechVouchers worth up to $15,000 might be used, for example, to carry out a joint research project, to access sophisticated scientific instruments, or to conduct product testing.

The state’s Knowledge Hubs also bring businesses, research organisations and industry associations together to share information and help drive innovation. There are currently five Knowledge Hubs in the areas of energy innovation, financial services, digital creative, medical technology, and transport and logistics.

UNSW Dean of Science Professor Merlin Crossley said that UNSW Science cared greatly about engaging with industry and had introduced a range of initiatives to forge new links and strengthen existing ones.

These included the Bachelor of Science and Business for students who enjoy science but do not necessarily want to work as research scientists or academics. “We want these scientifically confident people to be out there in the world of business, or even in the world of politics,” he said.

The rising proportion of young people going to university meant that having a degree no longer guaranteed you would get a good job, he said: “It is a profound change with far reaching consequences. The only answer is to strive for excellence and relevance.”

UNSW’s minimum ATAR entry score of 80 made it the most selective university in the state, and provided an opportunity for the most promising students to learn from each other and develop teamwork skills that are valued by industry.

Other UNSW initiatives include the new Michael Crouch Centre for Innovation, which provides opportunities for entrepreneurial students to develop their gifts for innovation while being mentored by staff and alumni. “It is important that from the undergraduate level up we try to encourage entrepreneurship,” Professor Crossley said.

The new university strategy developed by UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs will also introduce a new career structure which will encourage and support UNSW staff to undertake their sabbatical leave in industry.

UNSW’s Easy Access IP scheme is also helping turn more discoveries into real-world applications, by offering most of the University’s intellectual property to companies for free. “I think this is a game changer in the sector,” Professor Crossley said.