The University of Newcastle, Australia

Scholarship boosts lessons in entrepreneurship and innovation

Monday, 11 December 2017

As a recipient of the 2017 International Development Scholarship for UON professional staff, Three76 Innovation Hub Operations Manager, Siobhan Curran recently spent two weeks in the U.S. and Canada to explore the best practices in entrepreneurship education and new venture creation.

Siobhan Curran

Siobhan attended the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centres (GCEC) annual conference in Halifax, Canada – the premier organisation representing professional and academic staff working in more than 225 university-based centres for entrepreneurship and innovation. Siobhan also spent time in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Boston visiting innovation ecosystems and meeting with entrepreneurial program developers.

“The scholarship was an excellent opportunity to immerse myself in innovation ecosystems that are globally acknowledged as best in class, so I could discover first-hand how elements critical to nurturing entrepreneurship, venture creation and research commercialisation combine and thrive,” Siobhan said.

Siobhan highlighted that universities play an integral role in the development of innovation ecosystems by providing the research capability to drive innovation with industry and provide a pool of talented students and graduates that can pursue careers as startup founders or as employees of these high-growth businesses, and she believes UON is on the right track in this area.

“Entrepreneurship activity taking place in the Bay area and Boston and the universities located there are very similar to what is on offer at UON and in the Hunter, just on a smaller scale and at an earlier stage. The opportunity for us is the growth potential, particularly as our ecosystem matures. The big point of difference is our level of community engagement. The establishment of our Integrated Innovation Network (I2N) includes the wider community in addition to UON students and researchers. Everyone I met was very impressed by that aspect,” Siobhan said.

A key takeaway of Siobhan’s scholarship was seeing what she can implement at UON’s Innovation Hubs.

“I visited a number of University-run co-working spaces and innovation hubs at Stanford, MIT and Harvard. They presented some useful initiatives and programming ideas that we can implement at our Hubs, including business hours for entrepreneurs to get pro-bono advice from support industries.

“I have 100% conviction that our plans are on the right track and I’m looking forward to continuing to roll these out over 2018,” she said.

Another outcome of Siobhan’s scholarship was the confidence it has given her of her knowledge of entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems.

“I would feel very comfortable presenting a workshop on what UON does at a GCEC conference,” she said.

Siobhan strongly recommends UON professional staff to apply for future International Development Scholarships.

“I am very grateful for this opportunity and would encourage any professional staff who want to take a deep dive in their area of work to make an application.

“This experience has really been life-changing for me. I entered the world of entrepreneurship and start-ups just over a year ago and this opportunity has accelerated my understanding of this industry one hundred times over,” she said.

About the scholarships:

Launched in 2016 as part of the University’s NeW Futures commitment to increasing global engagement, professional staff scholarships of up to $10,000 support overseas travel for professional development. The experience will also benefit UON by growing our international networks for collaboration. The applications for the 2018 scholarships will open in February 2018.

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