19 December 2023

ICN ACT benefits from young, fresh insights

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When ICN’s ACT business manager Louise Wakefield agreed to promote an Australian National University (ANU) opportunity to the territory’s small businesses, she soon realised how beneficial the program would be to ICN ACT itself.

The Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program involves high-calibre ANU student teams developing innovative solutions specific to each participating business. The students are supported by academic mentors to use the business model canvas to provide helpful insights and ideas, as well as different views into specific markets.

“Essentially you end up having a team of four students working on a particular real business challenge or opportunity that you define as a small business owner,” Louise said.

“The initial intention was for ICN to promote it to small business in Canberra, but rather than just promote the program I thought it would be a really good opportunity for ICN ACT.

“It gave me better insight as to how to then promote the program to other small businesses and speak to the benefits of it. And I’ve been able to give feedback to the university about how it could work more effectively for small business.”

The students asked Louise many questions and “challenged our communications” about how ICN helps SMEs.

“It was really interesting to be challenged by the questions that the students asked and to be able to describe ICN and what we do and why we exist.”

ICN ACT is the network’s newest office so, not surprisingly, what did come through from the students is that ICN is not well known in the ACT region.

“Although the Industry Capability Network has been supporting project proponents and local suppliers across Australia for almost 40 years, we fly under the radar. Its time to share more of the small business success stories from the ACT.”

The student teams Louise worked with were split into two groups. One group considered ACT ICN as a startup and the business model canvas.

“They looked at the sectors that we work with, potential new sectors, and providing more value to small businesses given that the nature of small business and what industry looks like in Australia is changing.

They also researched ICN Gateway and made business improvement suggestions around company profiles, and investigating the integration of other technology solutions to support SMEs.

The other groups worked on a concept of a program ICN ACT could run, based loosely around an student employability competition called Interchange. This NSW government-funded program offers a “Shark Tank”-like program for university students to build leadership and problem solving skills through pitching a business concept.

“With tertiary education a major sector in Canberra, it makes sense to tap into the availability of students as a resource for small businesses”.

Louise found engaging with the other small businesses through the program and receiving the students’ feedback so helpful that she intends for ICN ACT to take part again in the future.

“One of the things I’ve learned from the program is the opportunities and innovative ideas that come from tapping into a younger perspective., When you’re working in your business, you may not see opportunities yourself. Just having that those fresh eyes is so beneficial,” she said.

Louise encourages ACT small businesses to get involved in the program, run by Alexander Tietge
Associate Lecturer in Management at the ANU’s Research School of Management.

To find out more, email  alexander.tietge@anu.edu.au or contact ICN ACT

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