The Start Up Launchlab
Industry and Community Partner
University of Sunshine Coast
- Engaging multiple disciplines
- Community engaged
- Co-designed with industry or community
- Coach or mentor elements
- Being awarded the initial learning and teaching grant which facilitated the creation of Launchlab.
- Academic staff being supported through learning and teaching professional development initiatives and professional staff working in this space.
- Clearly articulating the expected (and eventually proven) outcomes of Launchlab for students and USC enabled Launchlab to win awards, which secures it sustainability as an initiative at USC.
- Ongoing relationships formed with mentors and other stakeholders that host the Launchlab Weekend has provided ongoing momentum for the program and showcased UCS’s engagement in the community and with SME’s.
The Start-up Launchlab consists of the semester long unit as well as the Launchlab Weekend. Students enrolled in the Launchlab unit must attend the Launchlab Weekend as part of their course requirements, however the Launchlab Weekend is open to all USC students, alumni and community members. Course work during the Launchlab unit involves developing a start-up idea, seeking feedback, canvassing a business model and pivoting when required, as well as discussions regarding how to run a start-up team.
The Launchlab Weekend is an intensive 54 hours entrepreneurial learning event that commences with a Friday evening introduction and ‘pitching’ session where participants pitch their start-up idea to 100-120 people. Based on these pitches participants form teams with the aim of working together over the weekend to formulate their start-up concept.
The teams formed during the Launchpad Weekend are quite fluid, participants can move to other teams however must commit to a team by Saturday afternoon. On Saturday morning the teams commence market research and test their idea and identify the problem their start-up idea aims to solve. Teams then develop a mock-up prototype of the idea.
During the Launchlab Weekend business and community mentors talk to the teams regarding their business models and product development. Teams continue working together until Sunday and present a final pitch on Sunday evening. A judging panel gives feedback and advice.
A significant component of the Launchlab unit is student’s reflection of their professional and personal learning during the Launchlab Weekend.
Impact / outcomes
Students: The Start-up Launchlab provides students with the opportunity to build their social capital and professional network. USC students participate in the Launchlab Weekend alongside alumni and community members, so they are all working together as equal peers. This opportunity provides USC students the opportunity to showcase their knowledge, skills and abilities as equals in this context. This enhances the formation of professional relationships which often continue after the weekend. Students have been offered WIL opportunities and part-time jobs following the Launchlab Weekend based on the professional networks they created. Further, USC students participating in the Launchlab Weekend are often 3rd year students, and many come back to experience the event as a mentor in the following years and develop their leadership and mentoring skills professionally.
Research following the Launchlab Weekend shows that ⅓ of participants develop their own start-up initiative, another ⅓ pursue employment with an entrepreneurial/innovative company following university and approximately 10% pursue academic research in the ‘entrepreneurial or start-up’ space.
Community and Industry Partners: report being able to tangibly and visibly contribute to the development of an entrepreneurial culture and to the professional development of the leaders of the future.
University: The Start-up Launchlab provides the USC with an avenue to actively engage with stakeholders and the community while also facilitating connections between students and SME’s and industry networks.
The Launchlab unit assessment requires students develop a concept statement based on feedback following the initial start-up pitch they make to the class.
Students also submit a reflection piece in relation to the weekend which must include an action focused business plan and/or videos relating to the next steps involved in their start-up.
The Launchlab Weekend has no formal assessment. This ensures participants can be free from judgement and feel free to make mistakes and learn from these throughout the weekend.
The Launchlab unit undertakes standard course evaluation requirements at USC.
Following the Launchlab Weekend a survey is sent to all participants from an external evaluator asking if they would recommend the Launchlab Weekend to others.
Start-up Launchlab has received a highly commendable award for excellence in community engagement by the National Association Tertiary Education Management (NATEM).