Pictured: IMNIS Executive Director Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM introducing Professor Kym Beazley AO FTSE, Science Ambassador and Former Chief Scientist of WA for the STEM Careers in Industry event held at Core Hub in Perth this year [Photo: N. Sixsmith for IMNIS]

The first phase of the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) has delivered great outcomes from its medtech/pharma program. IMNIS saw significant growth in the initial uptake of its program with 217 students participating across 14 universities in five states, including Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. In 2018, MTPConnect continued to back the project by extending the funding to 2020.  

IMNIS launched in the second round of the MTPConnect Project Fund Program in 2018 initially starting in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia before extending its offering to Western Australia. The project – led by IMNIS Executive Director Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM – aims to break down barriers between industry and academia, advance skills and knowledge of the broader industry sector, and extend professional networks. IMNIS’s consortium collaborators – the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering and AusBiotech – provides links to Universities for Ph.D. students to gain access to industry mentors and enhance their skills.

Dr Evans-Galea believes the program is achieving its goal and that the ‘ripple effects’ of the program and the unexpected benefits have been most exciting.

“The ripple effects for mentees include valuing their time more, and the time of others. They also say they are more organized in their day-to-day research and have a fresh perspective on their PhD – seeing it as a stepping stone to their future, rather than the ‘be-all and end-all’,” Dr Evans-Galea explained.

“But it is when students say they have more confidence and hope for their future that you know we’re doing something right.”

Survey data of the 2017-2018 participants reinforces the positive impact of the program to improve the coordination and collaboration across the sector between researchers and industry; as well expanding the commercialisation pathway and process. Mentees are meeting colleagues and leaders in their mentor’s professional network, and over half of mentors (60%) say they did/will engage in their mentee’s research, their group and/or their organisation.

Through their industry mentor and the program’s education and networking events, more than one third of mentees (36%) said the most positive outcomes for them were increased confidence, better communication and networking skills, and gaining an understanding of industry overall.

Pictured: IMNIS Executive Director Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea with mentees at the STEM Careers in Industry event held at Core Hub in Perth this year [Photo: N. Sixsmith for IMNIS]

Almost all mentors (95%) are regularly discussing the careers available in industry, the broader industry sector, and innovation processes with their mentees. Most mentees (91%) have responded that they have a better understanding of industry, the skills needed to succeed, the careers available, and that they extended their professional network beyond academia.

Importantly, most mentees (86%) said they attained knowledge and skills to assist them in engaging and collaborating with industry. Almost half (48%) met or shadowed their industry mentor at the mentor’s workplace, and most mentees (86%) said their mentor regularly discussed industry career opportunities with them.

Mentors and mentees both highlighted additional benefits of the program, including enhancing their strategic planning skills and networking broadly across industry. This included the opportunity to connect more closely with their peers – other IMNIS mentors and mentees, including those in the same organisations.

BioCurate Senior Project Lead Lorna Mitchell said she found being a mentor very beneficial.

“The other mentors in my work place and I got together with all of our mentees, the unexpected outcome of this was learning a lot more about my work colleagues and their prior work and study experiences,” Ms Mitchell explained.

A Research Assistant at the Nossal Institute and a Ph.D candidate at The University of Melbourne Tianxin Pan, said she has found the experience of being an IMNIS mentee very “positive.”

“I gained a new perspective or say had a paradigm shift through this one year. I have a new perspective to view failure and have become more proactive and engaged,” Ms Pan said.

“This is beyond what I expected, it’s more than some knowledge of industry or a job opportunity, but these are values that might be useful throughout the life”.

The program is a flagship initiative of the Academy and it hopes to further increase the national profile of the IMNIS initiative to include more Universities and recruit more PhD students across Australia, and IMNIS is developing avenues for its past and current participants to act as champions for the program and continue to engage broadly across the STEM sector.

For more information and to get involved as a mentor or a mentee, visit IMNIS. You can also hear more about this project from the IMNIS Executive Director herself, Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea AM, on the MTPConnect Podcast Series now.

This article was first published on the MTPConnect site, 26 August 2019 here: https://www.mtpconnect.org.au/Article?Action=View&Article_id=106