First published 22 October 2019

Entrepreneurship is at the heart of QUT and the QUT foundry is the place where it beats loudest. 

The start-up space, housed almost at the front door of the university’s city campus, hosts over 300 students whose activity ranges from dropping into almost full-time occupation.

The Executive Director of QUT Entrepreneurship, Professor Rowena Barrett, sees the newly created space as a home for students to practice entrepreneurship and find resources that will help build their entrepreneurial careers.

“It’s a place where students can come, work with us to understand where they are and then be concierged through the support they need,” she says.

“There are opportunities to talk and work with others, to attend events, find a mentor, work with our entrepreneurs in residence and build the skills and network which will help turn their ideas into something more tangible.”

It’s also home base for the range of student groups that pursue entrepreneurship.

The QUT foundry has existed in various forms at QUT for three years. The new space illustrates both the appetite of the university community for a start-up zone and the willingness of the university administration to fill it.

In effect, it’s a shop window into the broader entrepreneurial life of Australia’s university for the real world.

Professor Barrett sees it as operating in three parts.

The first is “elements of inspiration” for both the public and students. These include speaker series, hackathons, start-up weekends and the showcasing of entrepreneurship through Open days and Orientation Weeks.

The second is the building of skills through programs that can be delivered outside of the university curriculum.

“For example, there can be the engineer with an idea for a product or a business but with no knowledge of how to set up a company. We can look at what are the gaps we can fill, who we can connect them with,” she says.

And, thirdly, there is the importance of the wide range of curriculum elements available through the university - both specific to technical skills and business skills.

“Entrepreneurship is a discipline and it’s important to learn about the practices that make it succeed, the skills that make the difference between a struggling and successful start-up.”

QUT’s commitment to entrepreneurship extends to helping students find ways to get course credit for their entrepreneurial activities - either as a unit awarded credit or as part of the university’s work integrated learning (or internship) program.

Entrepreneurship can also be credited as evidence of prior learning, counting towards the credits needed to complete a course.

The QUT foundry at Gardens Point is not the sole home of entrepreneurship at QUT.

It also occupies space at the State Government start-up space, The Precinct, in Fortitude Valley and will extend next year to the university’s other campus at Kelvin Grove.

Creative Enterprises Australia, an established university-backed business that helps build creative start-ups, is also based at Kelvin Grove.

It’ll work with the foundry to run a TechStars startup weekend early in 2020 which will be open to participation from the broader community.

The QUT foundry has a team led by community manager Graham Fellows, assisted by Angela Young, Angela Dahlke and Vibhor Pandey.

Its expertise is boosted by entrepreneur in residence Wes Huffstutter and Eleanor Carey who brings experience in building start-up communities.

Professor Barrett sees it as still being early in its life.

“This is a place to build communities and the experiences people have here can build their skills and encourage them to stay involved whatever course their lives take.”