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U Queensland’s new ‘chief student entrepreneur’ helps spread the word

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: May 9th, 2018

Universities pretty much all want to promote student entrepreneurship, which is becoming a bigger factor not only in terms of tech transfer and getting more start-ups created, but also in terms of drawing top students who increasingly see entrepreneurial education as a major draw. To further those aims, the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia has hatched a rather brilliant idea — appointing a “chief student entrepreneur.”

Not only is the concept a marketing winner, but it’s filling a need on campus to help mentor other students with entrepreneurial aspirations.

Nimrod Klayman, director of Idea Hub, the university’s start-up incubator, conceived the idea and says the chief student entrepreneur position was designed to harness the interest, energy and enthusiasm of the student body and to inspire more students to take steps along their entrepreneurship journey.

“The approval process was concise,” Klayman says. “There was no need for an additional budget for this appointment and it was closely aligned with the university’s student strategy, which is to provide our students with the best opportunities and practical experiences and to empower them to create change.”  

The buzz created by the appointment, he adds, has also created “a new marketing channel” for student entrepreneurship.

The chief student entrepreneur, Ben Coughlin, is a third-year economics student who’s been deeply involved in several of the university’s student start-up programs. He’s the first person to hold the volunteer position, working within the university’s “pre-incubator” in a role that is really an extension of existing tech transfer outreach efforts, Klayman explains.

Coughlin spends a lot of time in the Idea Hub space socializing with students, engaging them, learning about their projects, and educating them about support resources available. He’s well placed to advise and mentor students because he’s already participated in the UQ Idea Hub program, progressed through its on-campus accelerator program at ilab UQ, and been involved in the UQ student innovation and entrepreneurship society. He also completed a fully funded four-week, intensive international internship in Shanghai as part of the UQ Idea Hub China Mobility program. He’s started and run his own successful business (Backyard Coach, offering private swimming lessons), and won the Brisbane Lord Mayor’s Budding Entrepreneurship Grant for emerging start-ups.

It’s this combined experience that allows Coughlin to provide a student’s perspective on the benefits of participating in entrepreneurial activities, while demonstrating how this has added value to his formal learning and built his skills and networks.

“Students feel more comfortable with other students; they are informed in a more relatable way,” Klayman says. “And other students can aspire to achieve this role in the future too.” He notes that the appointment is for one year, and each year a new student will occupy the position.

A detailed article on the Chief Student Entrepreneur program appears in the April issue of Technology Transfer Tactics. To subscribe and get the full article, along with more than 10 years of archived best practices and success strategies for TTOs, CLICK HERE

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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