Beauty and Innovation: Startups in Australia
Australia doesn’t (yet) have a space agency, and when I work with schools for the First on Mars program, I ask students how many Astronauts they think Australia has produced. Usually, the students hypothesize answers like 3, 8, or 10.
The truth is that there has been only one Aussie Astronaut, despite Australia’s long history of supporting NASA missions via radio telescopes and launching rockets in the 1950’s.
However, as the current crop of new-space companies like Queensland-founded Gilmour Space Tech proves, there are numerous other cutting edge ways for young people to join the space industry apart from being an astronaut.
As the Australian Government prepares to launch a national space agency to help capitalize on the rapid growth ahead, what can be done at the grassroots level to help young people gain the enterprise and problem solving skills they need to join in? All the while, 70% of jobs are impacted by AI and robotics.
FYA.org is one organization that has been working to inspire 15 to 25-year-olds through its $20 Boss challenge (where students must develop a commercial-focused solution to a local problem using only this small amount of funds), and it’s ongoing series of New Work reports, which emphasizes that students gain skills like empathy and entrepreneurship which are not traditionally taught in schools. Australia’s north-eastern state of Queensland is embracing them. Read on to hear about several efforts that are focused on these future-literacy type skills, all of which can serve as examples for the rest of the country and the world:
Formed in early 2017 as a systems-level approach to supporting innovation, the Gen[in] program is a consortium of over twenty Qld Universities, Government bodies and startup organizations. It has already supported 20 events around the state and is now taking registrations for its free online course. This online first approach is Gen[in]’s way of ensuring that its goal of going straight to a global focus can be achieved, with young people around the world able to access the expertise of the course’s top mentors, and compete for prizes.
North of Brisbane at the famed Fraser Coast, the region’s local government Libraries led by Information Services Librarian Kathy Shilvock are innovating. Kathy recently organized a Young Innovators forum to bring together local students, young adults, and startup mentors to help kickstart an eco-system in that region. Two days of talks and hands-on experiences, which included discussions like, “What would a Mars colony need first?” have led into a recurring hack-a-thon, where participants progress through three rounds of iteration. Winners of the hack-a-thon will be announced in October 2018.
Heading to the southern end of Queensland, the Gold Coast Libraries’ Emerging Creatives Bootcamp features numerous startup mentors and free sessions to provide 15 to 24-year-olds with an intense but encouraging environment where the focus is on bringing creativity and artists firmly into the conversation.
In the capital city Brisbane, an explosion of co-working spaces cater to the growth of young entrepreneurs in the city, but a new startup space just across the river is giving young innovators a chance to grow their ideas in a more community-focused space. Self-funded by founder Daniel Ngo and opened in late 2017, Entrepreneur Haus aims to be more than just a co-working space, by providing the extra elements that young innovators need, beyond just desk space and WiFi. This holistic approach is vital for startups, as it encompasses mentoring and guided planning that can help young innovators avoid common early mistakes.
Beyond these, look at the sessions being offered by Taj Pabari’s Fiftysix Creations, BOP Industries (run by 17 year old Scott Millar), Startup Apprentice, Edugrowth and the local Startup Weekends like this one – and you’ll see how strong the Queensland support for bringing enterprise skills to the space industry of tomorrow has become. After all, why should Australia send $1.4 billion (in 2014 dollars) overseas every time it wants to launch an internet satellite? Much better to help students gain the problem-solving skills they need to partake in the next great space race.