Industry mentors critical for STEM students and graduates


Life science companies can unlock the potential of Australia’s STEM students and graduates and build the biotech future, thanks to new initiatives bridging the gap between the classroom and industry employment.

A range of mentoring programs are emerging, bridging the university and industry sectors, to deliver benefits to both life science companies and students in science industry, engineering and maths (STEM) courses. Companies can work with potential employees and access students with the latest knowledge in their field, while new graduates receive a valuable opportunity to launch their multinational, SME or start-up careers in Australian life sciences.

Australia is seeking to raise its level of industry-university collaboration, as Australia ranked nearly last among OECD nations in collaboration between industry and public researchers. Only 30 per cent of our PhD students enter into industry or government compared with over 70 per cent in most industrialised countries.

Home to one of the largest groups of graduate students, Australia’s quality of education and workforce support for biotechnology innovation, ranks fourth in world, measured in proportion of PhD graduates in the life sciences per million population (Bio-Savvy, The McKell Institute, 2016). There is a growing pool of new employees in the pipeline, representing the future of Australian biotechnology, and the industry is ready to hire. 70 per cent of companies who participated in AusBiotech’s annual CEO survey expected to hire new staff. Employment in the biotechnology industry is expected to grow steadily, increasing 4.3 per cent annually until 2020 (Australian Government Department of Employment).

To maintain its competitive advantage in the life sciences, Australian life science companies are encouraged to take part in initiatives that prepare students for the workforce and enhance collaboration opportunities with higher education institutions, via the following programs.


The Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) is an initiative from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) that links motivated, commercially-aware mentors with second year doctoral students. The long-term objectives of the program seek to provide students with a better understanding of the opportunities outside the academic environment, enhance networks and narrow the cultural gap between industry and universities, to prepare a new generation of industry-ready PhD graduates. IMNIS was awarded the ‘Best Higher Education and Training Collaboration 2016′ at the Business/Higher Education Round Table national awards.

AusBiotech implemented the IMNIS pilot in Victoria, which placed 50 PhD students with biotechnology industry mentors. The program is now preparing to expand nationally and has received funding from MTPConnect’s Project Fund Program to support graduates to become workforce-ready for the medtech, biotech and pharmaceutical (MTP) sector

Industry projects for Master of Biotechnology students

The University of Melbourne is developing students in the Master of Biotechnology programs with industry projects, where small teams of final-year students are placed with companies in the Australian biotechnology and pharmaceutical, agricultural and related industries. The program is seeking companies to host and mentor teams. Companies participating in the program can tailor the project and brief to suit their needs. Providing companies with direct access to students with the latest knowledge in their field, industry projects can help companies to complete projects and research; meet and “road-test” potential future employees; and strengthen connections with higher education institutions. To find out how you can become an industry host, see the University of Melbourne’s Master of Biotechnology Industry Project.

Student Volunteer Program

AusBiotech is also supporting students to engage in industry as part of its Student Volunteer Program, which involves students in the largest life science conference in Australia and one of the most vibrant scenes of Australian biotechnology, the AusBiotech national conference. Students gain a competitive edge in the race for employment, with opportunities to improve communication skills, practice networking and discover industry trends first-hand.

AusBiotech 2017 will be held from 25-27 October in Adelaide and the Student Volunteer Program opens each year around June.