Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award

Ruari Elkington

Finalist of the Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award

"QUT – Prioritising Creativity and Entrepreneurship at the University for the Real World"

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Creative Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (KKB380) is the first Queensland University of Technology unit of study to address directly the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurship within the Creative Industries (CI). QUT is also the world’s first University to establish a Creative Industries faculty and it remains the largest CI faculty within Australia. Developed, and delivered by QUT Lecturer in Creative Industries Dr Ruari Elkington, student engagement in KKB380 has allowed the concepts of entrepreneurship and innovation within contemporary creative industries to be richly understood.

Through sustained collaboration with embedded Work Integrated Learning (WIL) partner Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA), students have gained crucial real-world insights into not only the dynamic nature of entrepreneurship, but of the distinct nature of Creative Industries entrepreneurial activity. This direct articulation of both the creative thinking of CI students with traditional enterprise skills is an important development for entrepreneurship education beyond that of traditional business education.

Key People

Dr Ruari Elkington
KKB380 Unit Coordinator
Lecturer in Creative Industries teaching into the Bachelor of Creative Industries (BCI) within the Creative Industries Faculty,  Queensland University of Technology

Philippe Ceulen
Programs and Engagement Manager
Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA),  Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology

Marvin Fox
Programs and User Experience Champion
Creative Enterprise Australia (CEA),  Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology

Dr Hilde Bennet-Heim
KKB380 Sessional Academic
Creative Industries Faculty,  Queensland University of Technology

Professor Gavin Sade
Associate Dean (Teaching and Learning)
Creative Industries Faculty,  Queensland University of Technology


The success of KKB380 is also a result of Professor Judith Smith’s Australian Technology’s Network’s (ATN) Edge Project. Funded by the Australian Technology Network (ATN) Grants Scheme for Excellence in Learning & Teaching this ATN network research project addresses the challenge of developing and evidencing enterprise and entrepreneurial graduate learning outcomes through emerging models of Work Integrated Learning (WIL). My fellow nominee in the 2019 Triple E Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year Award, Martin Bliemel, was also a partner in this multi-university program and his nomination is also testament to Judith Smith’s ongoing research leadership and practical support.


Dr Ruari Elkington prepping students for the Bootcamp component

KKB380 students at work

KKB380 students at work

Student creative project pitches

Students at work on their Business Model Canvas

Students at work on their Business Model Canvas

Composed groupshot

Not-so-composed groupshot

Jubilant creative pitch winners


Impacting lifes

Overall, student responses to the delivery of KKB380 were very positive. While feedback is welcome from all students, I was particularly gratified by the positive impact our international students felt during the Bootcamp component of my unit. International students from South East Asia and mainland China often express feelings of distance from tertiary teaching due to a lack of experience with the learning environments more familiar to their domestic peers. The positive impact of KKB380 lay in taking the whole student cohort, domestic and international students, into a new and growth space that was equally unfamiliar to all. The entire group struggled with the unrelenting nature of the Bootcamp over two consecutive days, but to see the change in confidence and to hear the responses from significant number of international students in attendance was particularly gratifying.

I confess while planning KKB380 I held fears about the unit’s potential for positive impact and good outcomes. In a spirit of risk-taking and transparency I carefully shared some of these concerns with students. I was particularly concerned about how the significant proportion of international students would respond to this approach. However, my strategy of implementing the entrepreneurship Bootcamp within the context of creative industries acted as a powerful “leveller” for all students. Both domestic and international students were confronted and challenged by the same fears, the same unknowns, the same lack of a familiar learning environment. I had forgotten, but was vividly reminded of John Maxwell’s statement that “there’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone”.


Lessons learned

As an educator of emerging entrepreneurs I find the most compelling advice in the field is often the hardest to implement - particularly in the area of risk taking and the “need to fail”. Both these elements of successful entrepreneurship are well established in the literature, but I have struggled to both convey these values to students and model these approaches in my own teaching. Universities are often risk averse. Students, increasingly, appear risk averse. But the requirement to take risks, considered and managed ones, remains fundamental to learning and to progressing in any endeavour. Running parallel to an environment that leans into considered risk taking is developing a culture that celebrates failure for the learning it can deliver. This learning can only occur if that same culture expects, welcomes and adequately reflects upon the failure process.

Developing a space to “fail safe” is often spoken about within higher education, but how often is this risk taking, failure and subsequent learning modelled by teaching staff in the design and delivery of a unit? A key learning from delivering my entrepreneurship teaching is the value students gain from a transparent approach to curriculum design. An approach that “brings students in” to the problem of how to communicate, design and deliver learning outcomes but also shows the risks taken (such as a blended online learning and an intensive two day face-to-face Bootcamp). To paraphrase Mark Zuckerberg, the riskiest thing we can do in our entrepreneurship teaching is to take no risks at all.


What's coming?

As a proud academic working within a world leading University, the forward momentum of QUT is always top of mind. As such, “Blueprint 6”, QUT’s most recent major policy step for the University released in November 2019 contains much optimism for fellow academics who seek to articulate the vital, yet underdeveloped, connections between leading edge creativity and established entrepreneurship. The Blueprint's role is to formalise QUT's ambitions and declare its strong sense of purpose as The University for the Real World. Of particular note in 2019, QUT has newly and unambiguously connected “Creativity and Entrepreneurship” within one of only seven University wide priorities. This is a significant and positive step towards a more holistic and nuanced understanding of entrepreneurship within higher education.

In light of this development, when I look to my future plans within entrepreneurship education I am filled with positivity at playing a larger role in connecting these two vital strategic elements for the over 50,000 students and 10,000 staff at QUT. Specifically, I want my activity to build on the success of KKB380’s positive connections with QUT’s growing international cohort of students. I wish to platform out the positive learning environment I was able to create for both international students not only within my own Creative Industries faculty but across QUT’s globally recognised “triple crown accredited” Business School and Australian business school faculty’s more broadly. A win at the 2019 Triple E Awards would significantly validate my approach in this area and allow me the recognition to share my learnings on a world stage.


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