PLENTY of stellar ideas have emerged from gen[in] in its first two years as Queensland’s first internationally focused innovation challenge for young people.
But for Project Manager Megan Short, the real value of gen[in] students’ ideas lies in the mindset that evolves along the way to shaping them into viable enterprise concepts.
“We need to ensure that we’re creating the next generation of future leaders who can solve world problems,” Megan says.
“The whole purpose of the gen[in] project is to make sure we’re building an entrepreneurial mindset in young people, so we’re about skill building and the educational journey.
“I talk to young people about the importance of having an entrepreneurial mindset in the future world of work. Nothing’s guaranteed and they’re going to have multiple jobs and multiple careers when they get out of school and they need to be building skills now that they can transfer no matter where they’re going.”
This weekend, 13 teams will compete for a share of a $15,000 prize pool after four months of refining their ideas as part of the statewide program created and led by Indooroopilly State High School and its business, university and start-up partners.
gen[in] is aimed at 14-24-year-olds in any registered educational organisation across Queensland, including high schools, TAFE institutes and universities.
Megan leads workshops that encourage students to identify a problem, come up with an idea and pitch their solution in front of the class. She also works with teachers on how they can implement design thinking principles in the classroom.
Students don’t need an idea to join gen[in] – they get access to a treasure trove of resources that draw on the expertise of the gen[in] consortium of mentors and are nurtured through the process from ideation to collaboration, planning, networking and pitching.
“It’s a program that’s run online, so students can do it in their own time, and they can do it no matter where they are,” Megan says.
“We designed gen[in] to be able to take it anywhere, into nearly any context, and it works. It’s basically all about understanding their local community and giving students the ability to be the leader and become the advocate in whatever problem they think needs solving.”
Students are competing this weekend for three top prizes of $4000 and three runner-up prizes of $1000 across three categories: the Unicorn Entrepreneur Prize, awarded to the most creative pitch; the Community Entrepreneur, for the best environmental or social innovation; and the Profit Entrepreneur Prize, for a scalable proposal with an effective business model that can be sustained into the future.
Indro’s team of Jemila, Isabella and Hannah will pitch their ideas along with 12 other teams on Saturday at Queensland University of Technology after a day of coaching and talks from mentors on Friday to prepare them for their presentations.
Last year’s Indooroopilly High finalists, Maxim and Nitai, are in the process of developing MUSO, the music app idea that won them the Community Entrepreneur Prize.
“They wanted to help local artists to get more money for their work and be recognised more readily,” Megan says.
“Maxim and Nitai developed an app that would pick up local artists around you and here’s a list of some of the artists, you could play a snippet of their song and swipe left or right to add it to your playlist or get rid of it. They developed a different model for the revenue so local artists would be getting good revenue, you’d pay per stream.”
Indooroopilly State High’s teams in the 2018 and 2019 gen[in] finals have benefited from their experience in the school’s Social Innovation Project, run in partnership with QUT.
The whole Year 10 cohort works over a semester to develop a social enterprise that is environmentally sustainable. Students receive mentoring from a gen[in] consortium member and present their ideas for community feedback at an expo each year.
The top team from each Year 10 Connect class progresses to a QUT Shark Tank pitch for a chance to win mentoring to develop their idea.
“Both years Indooroopilly teams who have been part of that program have been able to move into the gen[in] project with quite a bit of confidence,” Megan says.
Flynn Brien from Brisbane Boys’ College is another student on the way to bringing his idea to market.
“The problem Flynn identified was that for kids who were training for cricket, it was hard to train by yourself,” she says.
“You would have to go to the cricket pitches and drag a parent or a sibling along to help you practise. He developed a kit where you could train by yourself. He had a prototype at the finals and won $4000 as our Profit Entrepreneur Prize winner. He had done research on how to go into other markets … he’d already bought domain names for India and Sri Lanka. Flynn used the money to get the kits made and he went to Sri Lanka and India to pitch his product. He’s a good example of a nice progression.
“All of them have progressed in different ways. gen[in] is not necessarily about the idea, it’s more about them building the skills they need.
“A good example of that was a student from Craigslea High School who wanted to go to medical school. She used gen[in] to develop a medically focused innovation that she could add to her portfolio and she’s now studying medicine.
“We like that story just as much as Flynn selling cricket bat kits because she got what she needed out of it as well as getting the skills that she will need in the future.”
The gen[in] innovation challenge is run across three rounds, from January to May.
“The first round is ideation and pitching. Students are asked to identify a problem in their local community and then ideate using design thinking principles to come up with a solution to that problem,” Megan says.
“They have to submit a 60-second video pitch where they give an overview of the problem, their idea and what potential impact it will have. Every single student who does that video pitch automatically goes to round two. We give them feedback on their video pitch so they can refine and update.
“In round two, they do collaboration and planning. They develop a two-page innovation plan and we also connect them with industry mentors online. We have mentors across different sectors who volunteer their time and we facilitate the online sessions so the students can get feedback and key advice on their idea. They submit their two-page innovation plan and that is what is considered for the finals, which is round three.”
Day one of the finals, today, is dedicated to supporting the students in getting their pitch ready. Jacqui Hayes, part of a team of QUT students who run a social enterprise called Best Foot Forward, will Other industry leaders will offer inspiration on pitching, branding and where the finalists can take their ideas after the challenge.
Gen[in] is funded by Study Queensland, an arm of Trade and Investment Queensland, as part of their International education and training partnership Fund (IET).
The consortium is chaired by former Indooroopilly State High School Head of Department Nathan Pugliese from Education Queensland International, and includes University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University, Sarina Russo Group, Department of Education International, Study Queensland, CarAdvice, Holden Capital, Study Brisbane, Future We, AlphaCrane Intercultural Specialists, TAFE Queensland, Independent Schools Queensland, Australian Catholic University, Lutheran Schools Queensland, QUT Creative Enterprise Australia, LittleTokyoTwo and Be Social. Be Smart.
“We have an international focus,” Megan says.
“We are about bringing international and domestic students together to collaborate and come up with innovative ideas to make sure Queensland is a destination for innovation in young people and helping international and domestic students build their employability skills.
“The project helps students build key skills like how to take risk, how to work with different people and how to refine ideas.”
This year’s judges are Kathleen Newcombe, CEO of the Sarina Russo Group of Companies; Alborz Fallah, founder of CarAdvice; and Professor Rowena Barrett, Executive Director of the QUT Entrepreneurship Initiative.
The gen[in] finals are on Saturday from 8.45am to 12.45pm at QUT Gardens Point P Block, 2 George St, Brisbane. Tickets are free and are available here.
For more information on gen[in], visit www.studyqueensland.qld.gov.au/genin
Megan Short has been project manager of gen[in] since its launch in January last year. A graduate of Kedron State High School, she studied Environmental Management majoring in Sustainable Development, at University of Queensland. She worked for a small tourism sustainability consultancy for three years across areas such as economic development, energy efficiency, certification for tourism operators and sustainability training. Her next role was with Griffith Online, mapping student behaviour and online programs and coming up with strategies to improve the university’s online presence. She developed and delivered the online content and resources for gen[in] in conjunction with the consortium. Megan was recognised in 2018 as a leading influencer in advancing international education in Queensland. She was highly commended for her efforts as Department of Education Queensland International Influencer across the state.