Innovative course brings theory and practice together

1 Jul 2008
UQ Business School offers students the chance to team with Australia's leading university-based research commercialisation company in the unique Commercialisation in Practice course next semester. The course (TIMS7325) is a collaborative effort between UQBS and UniQuest - which ranks in the top ten percent of university technology transfer organizations in the world - and is designed to allow each student to take a hands on role in the journey of a start-up company. One of the first projects students were involved in was XeroCoat. The high-performance anti-reflective coating for solar energy systems was developed by UQ researchers and progressed by business students enrolled in Commercialisation in Practice (then called Advanced Entrepreneurship). The successful entry of XeroCoat into the highly competitive renewable energy market in California was announced by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh in San Diego in June. UQBS course co-ordinator Martie-Louise Verreynne said TIMS7325 was invaluable in bringing together theory and practice. "The course ensures each student has the opportunity to work with a UniQuest commercialisation project as part of their coursework and industry experts are engaged to teach students the parts of the syllabus in which those experts specialise," Dr Verreynne said. "Students doing this course are constantly faced with real life business decisions and have to develop methods to deal with these situations by drawing on previous learning," she said. "The opportunity to work with real companies, to network with industry leaders, and to learn from experience is viewed as a highlight in their education by the students who take this course." UniQuest Entrepreneur-in-Residence Clint Ramsay, who is responsible for choosing and co-ordinating commercialisation projects for students to work on, said it was not only the students who benefited from the course. "It is a win-win situation because (the companies) get very intelligent, very enthusiastic volunteers, which is a good thing for a start-up company. The companies do appreciate all the work the students do and every bit helps when you are small," Mr Ramsay said. He said the course had been offered once a year for three years and in the first two years alone, the students' efforts had assisted in UniQuest securing more than $20 million of venture capital investment for its portfolio companies. In addition, many of the students who completed the course went on to get jobs in technology commercialisation, other start-up companies or big name companies that recognised the benefit of having graduates with real-world skills. UQBS MBA student Cameron MacMillan said the subject had already assisted him in his current role as State Manager (QLD) for the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade). "The subject gave me practical insights into the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, commercialising companies and emerging exporters. The Industry contacts developed through the program led to a speaking spot at the recent AAAI National Angels Conference and opened the door to new relationships with venture capitalists, incubators and the commercialisation community in Queensland," Mr MacMillan said. MBA graduate, Samuel Festa, went even further saying the "Commercialisation in Practice course was the highlight of my MBA program". "The fact that the course partnered students with real businesses and therefore real business issues allowed each student to apply all the business acumen they had acquired throughout the entire was the lessons I learnt in this course that have since helped me start my own consulting business (Red Circle Consulting)," Mr Festa said.