Victoria’s PhDs get golden opportunity to engage with industry

There was standing room only at the breakfast launch of Victoria’s MedTech-Pharma program of the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) at KPMG Australia in Melbourne last week. The program was formally opened by the Hon. Philip Dalidakis, Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade with the Victorian Government.

IMNIS is an award-winning national initiative of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) that connects high profile industry leaders with motivated PhD students in a one year mentoring program. Thanks to funding from major partner MTPConnect, the IMNIS MedTech-Pharma program is rolling out across Australia, with support from consortium partner AusBiotech.

Victoria’s MedTech-Pharma program has 64 mentors and 64 mentees. Mentees are PhD students from four Universities: La Trobe University, RMIT University, Monash University and The University of Melbourne. These Universities are breaking new ground to expand the professional horizons of their trainee researchers before they graduate.

IMNIS Executive Director Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea said “These four Universities have demonstrated outstanding leadership by offering their PhD students the golden opportunity of engaging with industry leaders. Not only will they get sage advice and become more informed about the industry sector, but they will also extend their professional network beyond academia”. 

Inspiring everyone in the room, Minister Dalidakis shared his own professional journey and the impact that his mentors had on empowering him to accelerate his career to a high level leadership role in a relatively short time. The Minister also emphasised the tremendous value of the STEM sector to all in Victoria and how STEM infiltrates every part of our lives; as well as the growth potential of the medical technologies and pharmaceuticals industries in Victoria.

Minister Philip Dalidakis shares his inspiring mentoring journey [Images: A. Bizzarri Photography; click on each photo to enlarge].

Wisdom, impact and respect

IMNIS partner representatives Dr Michael Wilson, Director of Molecular Biology at CSL and David Gelb, a partner at KPMG Australia, also shared the benefits industry mentoring had on the future workforce of their organisations. Sue MacLeman, the CEO of MTPConnect and an IMNIS mentor, and Claretta D Souza, the Events Project Officer at MTPConnect and IMNIS mentee, shared their mentoring journey, emphasising that open communication, preparation and goal-setting were all key to the success of their partnership. Glenn Cross, CEO of AusBiotech closed the event by highlighting the importance and impact of medical technologies and pharmaceuticals internationally.

In recognition of its positive impact, IMNIS won a prestigious B/HERT Best Higher Education and Training Collaboration Award in 2016. IMNIS was kick-started by passionate Foundation donors working with ATSE. This was a collaborative effort with multiple partner groups and ‘friends-of-friends’ involved. Many of these generous professionals continue to support IMNIS today as members of the Expert Advisory Panel, including the new Chair, Ms Ronnie Wood, who attended the Victorian launch along with Panel members Tony Radford and ATSE Fellow Peter Laver.

IMNIS mentors and mentees are carefully matched by an experienced state-based panel of STEM experts using a range of criteria including professional expertise, skills, discipline areas and career interests. IMNIS mentees learn about commercialisation, start-ups, entrepreneurship and innovation, and the professional skills needed to lead and excel within the STEM ecosystem. For mentors, IMNIS is an opportunity to ‘give back’ and contribute to the professional development of the next generation of STEM leaders.

All mentor-mentee pairs are encouraged to be open and respectful of the person on the other side of this new partnership. IMNIS MedTech-Pharma Program Coordinator, Dr Janet Yeo communicates with all participants using the Mentorloop platform which allows the team to monitor the program’s impact and success, and gather data nationally while maintaining full confidentiality. Dr Yeo said “Mentorloop provides a convenient platform to easily communicate with participants in each program. It allows us to check-in with participants throughout the year to ensure everything is on track”.

Peter Laver AM FTSE shared ATSE’s excitement to champion IMNIS and thanked MTPConnect CEO Sue MacLeman for backing the program. Sue was also an IMNIS mentor and with her mentee Claretta D Souza, shared some pointers for a positive mentoring journey. IMNIS Executive Director Dr Evans-Galea also welcomed speakers from other partner organisations who spoke about the value-add to the organisation and the broader STEM ecosystem [Images: A. Bizzarri Photography; click on each photo to enlarge].

What’s ahead?

The future for IMNIS is bright! The ATSE Board is excited to see IMNIS rolling out nationally and a number of esteemed Academy Fellows participating as mentors, advisers and champions. IMNIS is also rapidly gaining a broad public profile. The website has blogs, mentor and mentee profiles and program information. IMNIS also actively engages via social media and has students around the country (and beyond) writing to ask “Is IMNIS at my University?”.

Excitingly, IMNIS has also partnered with two other industry growth centres – METS Ignited and NERA – to host Energy and Minerals programs in South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia. All of these programs will be getting underway in the next two months. IMNIS has been approached by many organisations keen to get involved and strengthen the program. In the next two months IMNIS programs will also launch in NSW, WA, SA and QLD. Such strong engagement from the broader STEM ecosystem ensures IMNIS will achieve its goals. The need is real, the need is large and with generosity, time and commitment, the need can be met!

The IMNIS MedTech-Pharma program promises to be fun! The IMNIS team looks forward to supporting all Victorian mentors and mentees on their mentoring journey. Let the mentoring and networking begin!

University mentees: PhD students from each university as indicated. Not all mentees were able to attend [Images: A. Bizzarri Photography; click on each photo to enlarge].

Further Information

` Visit the IMNIS website www.imnis.org.au and/or contact admin@imnis.org.au. See more photos at the IMNIS MTP VIC Launch Event Gallery.

Acknowledgements

IMNIS respectfully acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land – the Kulin nation – on which KPMG Australia, Melbourne is located, and pays respects to their Elders, past and present; as well as Elders and representatives of other communities who may have attended the launch.

IMNIS thanks the Minister, University leadership, partner organisations, mentors and mentees, many of whom spoke, engaged positively and attended this event. We gratefully acknowledge funding from our major partner MTPConnect, and support from our consortium partner AusBiotech and sponsors CSL, KPMG Australia and FB Rice.

Thanks to David Gelb, Alun Needham and Jessica Pavicic at KPMG Australia for providing a stunning venue and logistical support. Thanks also to Dr Janet Yeo and the AusBiotech Events Team for their logistical support of this event.

Thanks to Adrienne Bizzarri Photography for terrific images.

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