Tag Archives: STEM talent

Science Meets Business summit

Teachers and postdocs key to innovation

Featured image above: a series of four panels discussed STEM and innovation at the Science Meets Business summit

Australia should ‘hang its head in shame’ over our lack of support for teachers, says Ian Chubb AC, the ex-Chief Scientist of Australia, at the second national Science Meets Business event in Melbourne.

The gathering of CEO’s, board members, government, research leaders and start-ups focussed on improving collaboration and innovation in Australia’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) and startup sectors.

As well as ensuring a strong STEM talent pipeline by improving support for teachers, a ‘simple but elegant’ national, industry-led PhD program is key to an innovative future, ANSTO CEO Adi Paterson said at the summit.

The summit heard how developing visible pathways to careers and skilling up students across humanities and STEM was important both to creating startups and improving existing business.

Labour’s Senator Kim Carr and Liberal Assistant Minister Craig Laundy brought the political grunt to a richly experienced series of four panels that covered taking startups to small to medium enterprises; Australia’s tech expertise; improving collaboration between research, government and industry; and looking for Australia’s ‘next big thing’.

The Science Meets Business summit is run annually by Science and Technology Australia. Science Meets Business publishers Refraction Media support the summit as media partner.

There is a need to refocus what we mean by innovation away from “hipster app developers” Senator Carr said, and towards innovation in existing business.

“It’s not possible to foster innovation without substantial investment in science and research,” said Senator Carr.

In a rare bipartisan agreement between the Liberal and Labour factions, The Honorable Craig Laundy MP also called out the need to solve problems in current business in a largely off-the-cuff speech that emphasised his own background as a publican, where innovation could be a new way to clean the taps – which could have involved three staff previously.

Laundy pointed out that there was a need for business to meet science as well as ‘science meets business’.

Developing language to bring together business, investment, researchers and students was one of the areas where Australia could be doing better, the summit heard.

“Innovation is not startups. We’re talking about the transformation of a whole economy,” said Adrian Turner, CEO of Data 61 and chair of the Cyber Security Growth Centre.

Turner went on to say that Australia must look away from Silicon Valley and towards its own opportunities where deep science meets fast-paced entrepreneurship.

Tech capability, biotech, agricultural innovation and defence were some of the strengths which set Australia apart from the rest of the world, the Science Meets Business summit heard.

“We need to lift the scale of our business-science ambition,” Turner said.

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– Heather Catchpole

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Innovation breathes new life into old business

STEM talent

What can STEM learn from sport?

Australia is a passionate nation.

The recent Olympics triggered my thinking on how passionate we are about winning. I remember a time when Australia was unable to compete against the world class American, Russian and German teams.  Our nation reacted by establishing the government funded Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra (AIS). The AIS acknowledges they are responsible and accountable for Australia’s international sporting success. Australia’s top sporting talent is selected, nurtured, and trained for the purpose of competing against the world’s best. Their success is celebrated, and the cycle continues.

Growing the number of STEM experts in our workforce is no different. If Australia wants to be recognised as a world-class STEM nation, commitment to developing our talent through established strategic programs funded by sustainable investment is essential.

When measuring STEM talent, our focus is on numbers that come out of university. However, consider our athletes for a moment. They have already been training for the better part of a decade.  They don’t arrive at the institute ready to be trained. Junior athletics, swimming squads and after-school sport training are part of most schools and parents’ agenda to develop their children’s skills from a very young age.  If the success of sport is to be replicated for STEM disciplines, then school years should not be overlooked.

Creating a foundation for young women

Traditional education should always be respected and never replaced, however there is always room for flexibility and balance. My own career in IT was shaped by the foundations provided to me by my high school environment. The all-girls school I attended offered Computing Studies as a subject for the Higher School Certificate.  It was only the second year it was offered and approximately 20 students signed up.  It was here, along with my home environment of a tech-savvy family, where I developed foundations in IT.

I pursued a tertiary education in commerce as I initially had no interest in computer science. Nevertheless, my first significant role was working as a computer engineer in IT – a job I landed based on the foundational skills I had acquired through my high school studies. I had found a position where I was able to solve problems while continuing to learn and gain additional certifications. I was the only female in a team of 12, but I didn’t focus on the gender inequality at the time.

Developing Australia’s STEM talent

Innovation requires novel thinking and raising Australia’s STEM IQ to world-class requires a considered and committed long term strategy, including initiatives for supporting women in STEM.

I work for Deloitte in the technology industry alongside women who have studied econometrics, law, accounting, engineering and arts. Deloitte recognises the importance of driving Australia’s STEM agenda and (amongst other initiatives) have selected two female directors from cybersecurity and technology consulting to share their expertise and experiences with young Australian women through an online mentoring platform, Day of STEM.

Our aim is to inspire Australia’s future STEM generation and highlight the real-life opportunities available in professional services firms like Deloitte.

Elissa Hilliard

Partner, Risk Advisory, Deloitte Australia

Read next: Chair of ATSE’s Gender Equity Working Group, Dr Mark Toner, compares the national need for women in STEM with the barriers faced by women on a personal level.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on STEM talent using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Graduate Futures Thought Leadership Series here.