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Students will come to industry armed with relevant insights

23 May 2017


On the 24th of May, The Australian published an article by John Ross about Melbourne Polytechnic and the Centre of Applied Innovation, titled "Polytechnic’s patent for future-proofing students." Following are excerpts from the article:

A resurgent Melbourne TAFE is redefining education-industry engagement, drafting an American finance guru and his analytics engine to give its courses high-street smarts.

Melbourne Polytechnic has established a Centre of Applied Innovation housing what it claims is the world’s most complete record of patents and associated financial analytics. At its helm is David Martin, a biomedical engineer turned intellectual property expert, who went from running the University of Virginia’s technology transfer arm to become the world’s “knowledge underwriter”.

The centre’s aim is to orient courses and careers around what the commercial world has decided is important, rather than somebody’s best guess.

“Big data has allowed the market to be able to measure the effect of innovation,” Martin says.

 Change what you teach

“Once you can measure the market consequence of the innovation — the science, the research, the development, the technology, all of those things at the cutting edge of thought — you’re not just going to change how you teach, you’re also going to change what you teach.”

“We have set up a mirror image of all of his technology at Melbourne Polytechnic,” says Rob Wood, the institution’s Canadian-born chief executive.

A former education chief in British Columbia and deputy secretary of education in Victoria, Mr Wood joined Melbourne Polytechnic soon after its rebirth from the financially troubled Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE.

“They had changed the name without a deep understanding of what a polytechnic was,” he says. “The rationale was, we have a failing organisation, we need to disrupt it with something that sounds better.”

Teaching our students about innovation literacy

Wood wants to disrupt the entire tertiary landscape. “What we are going to be doing, ultimately, is teaching our students about innovation literacy.

“If you think about a knowledge economy and where the future is going — not what we traditionally teach — what skills are students going to need? Things like business acumen, analytics, research skills, evaluation abilities, engineering and design.”

He says these “foundational building blocks” will be woven through Melbourne Polytechnic’s undergraduate offerings. The curriculum also features a heavy emphasis on work placements, culminating in “capstone internships” in the third year.

The incentive for companies to come on board is the data repository, which provides access to millions of innovations — most of them not even patent protected in Australia.

“Industry partners” will be required to bankroll scholarships and endowments as well as providing work experience.

A commercial difference to corporate partners

Wood says the students will come armed with “strategically relevant insights” delivering “real economic returns” to the companies. “We unabashedly expect to make a commercial difference to our corporate partners,” he says.

Martin says it’s a completely new take on industry experience, although he downplays the significance of the patents repository. “What transforms education is not having a database, what transforms education is the intelligent market-sensitive use of that information,” he says.

“We’re teaching students how to identify where there are interventions of value that are responsive to industry needs. You’re not hiring somebody because they have a technical competency with a degree. You’re hiring somebody because they’re solving your real problems today.”

“The index tells us where industry is placing their bets, where they’re making their value determination. That information can feed back into education, so that we train our students to be relevant to where industry is actually going.”

You can read the full article here.

Article written by John Ross, Higher Education Reports for The Australian

Picture by Aaron Francis