National collaboration award for IMNIS

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IMNIS, the Academy’s PhD student mentoring scheme, has taken out the award for the 'Best Higher Education and Training Collaboration 2016' at the Business/Higher Education Round Table national awards.

The B/Award was made jointly to the Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) and its key IMNIS partners – AusBiotech, Techin/BioSA, La Trobe University, University of Melbourne, Monash University, RMIT University, University of South Australia, Flinders University, University of Adelaide, University of WA, Edith Cowan University, Curtin University, Murdoch University and Mentorloop.

IMNIS is ATSE’s national industry-led mentoring initiative linking PhD students in STEM with experienced industry mentors who provide advice and act as role models for industry-based STEM careers.

The aim is to develop a new generation of industry-aware PhD graduates. Through engagement with industry mentors, graduate students expand their knowledge of, and appreciation for, research and development and commercial activities in relevant industries.

Over the past two years programs have been established in three States with 100 PhD students from 11 Universities partnering with groups including AusBiotech.

In a recent survey, the vast majority of participants said they would strongly recommend the IMNIS Program, saying it expanded their options outside academia.

In 2017, IMNIS plans to expand the existing programs into other states and develop mentoring programs in the agriculture and ICT sectors, with the aim of having more than 500 PhD students each year being mentored by Industry leaders. 

Last month Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt announced a grant of $200,000 over two years from the MTPConnect Project Fund Program to extend the IMNIS scheme. This funding will expand the successful Victorian IMNIS pilot in biotechnology to all States in collaboration with AusBiotech which will be responsible for recruiting mentors.

The focus will be on PhD students in all fields of relevance to the medical technology and pharmaceutical industry sector.

Currently there are 50 mentors and mentees in the Victorian program from four universities (Melbourne, Monash, La Trobe and RMIT). Mentors are recruited by direct approaches to professionals in the field and include people with skills in R&D, marketing, IP, finance and manufacturing.  These mentors are matched one-to-one with the PhD students and the program is administered using software from Mentorloop.

IMNIS Principal Professor Paul Wood FTSE said collaboration between business and publicly funded research organisations (PFROs) was crucial to improving the translation of research into productivity.

“By developing a new generation of PhD students who have a better understanding of industry and the skills it values we hope to create a more innovation-focused culture within the biosciences community,” he said.

“With only 10 per cent of PhD students finding long-term academic positions it is critical that they develop skills outside of their specific technical area. If the future PhD students do not see and understand the opportunities beyond an academic career then the number of people entering PhD programs may be significantly reduced.”