Flinders University’s Innovation and Enterprise offerings are going from strength to strength.  From our ambitious and forward thinking arrangement with the Fox School of Business (at Temple University) which established Flinders’ I&E suite – uniquely the only university programme in Australia that teaches innovation and Enterprise (future ready) skills and competencies across the whole university – we’ve subsequently developed a distinctly Flinders model from this strong base and continue to refine and evolve our offerings. 

What we do: Since 2017, when 167 students engaged in I&E, numbers have grown year-on-year an average of 20 per cent, and in 2020 some 653 students studied Innovation topics. So far in 2021 some 621 students have taken an INNO topic and we expect the full year figure to reach 720 plus.

We believe this success is borne of innovation in the actual programme’s structure. Cultural differences between academic fields often create silos, which make it difficult to teach across colleges. Our I&E suite have managed to overcome these challenges by developing a unique programme based on the innovation process and skills, which develop shared competencies no matter what field you are in, making it relevant for everyone.

In collaboration with the New Venture Institute (NVI), facilitators from Innovation and Enterprise also facilitate executive education and acceleration programs like Learning Labs, Venture Dorm, Innovative Manufacturing Accelerator and wine tech revolution FOMENT. This has led to synergies and serendipity, creating, for example, internships/placements for students and job creation (graduates taking up jobs).

How we do it: I&E uses the scientific method to cross the knowing-doing gap, not just teaching knowledge of innovation & enterprise but also teaching students how to apply innovation skills and process. For this we use an active learning, project driven pedagogy in which students solve challenges and create innovative solutions. There are numerous examples of students applying their innovation learning into their workspace, amplifying the impact of I&E in South Australia.

Covid-19 has opened up opportunities to offer our topics to a global (and regional South Australia) audience, combining in-class face to face teaching with remote learning. I&E does not teach lecture-tutorial style. All our three-hour interactive workshops, with class discussions and break out group challenges, can be attended in class or remotely (synchronous). Remote students zoom into the class and take part in the discussions, do project work while collaborating with their face to face (in class) team members. They split up in small break out groups and do presentations on screen. The digital skills students pick up in this process have become an important by-product of I&E teaching. Facilitators walk around with microphones (like TV-show hosts) to make sure that the sound quality is excellent, so on-line students do not miss out on a great experience. As we offer workshops across the week and at different time-slots, overseas students can participate at a time that suits them.

Although we are still learning about how to best combine remote learning with face to face, in 2021 between 25 per cent -33 per cent of our students have chosen to participate in I&E remotely.

Digital Diploma launched: Last year Flinders U launched a Digital Diploma to support Australia’s shipbuilding efforts. Developed in tandem with industry to up-skill traditional workers in leading edge technology, its first cohort of 51 students – who were facing redundancy – went on to full employment .

It might seem this would be a straightforward process for what is, after all, a digital shipbuilding course – but the fact is that its students were long time members of an existing workforce facing redundancy and had scant experience of  studying, let alone studying on-line. After a nerve wracking start these same people are now digitally literate and all have found ongoing employment based on their new suite of advanced skills.

It is a great post budget story as an example of how innovation in education and research is driving jobs and growth, underscoring the value of the contribution universities are making to the nation.

Colin Stirling is vice chancellor of Flinders University 


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education