Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award

Calum John Drummond

Finalist of the Lifetime Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award

"Sculpting research and innovation ecosystems to provide exceptional societal value"

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It is very important that universities employ their capability to provide optimal value to society beyond that of a student receiving a higher education. Otherwise the university is an underperforming societal asset. Professor Drummond has led a comprehensive remodelling of the research and innovation ecosystem of RMIT university to deliver far greater economic, community and environmental benefit.

His exceptional contributions to innovation through the conduct, management and entrepreneurial translation of research have been recognised by some of Australia’s most prestigious awards including:

• Appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO; General Division) within the Australian Honours system in 2019 for distinguished service to chemistry and materials science research, to commercialisation initiatives, and as a mentor.

• Recognised in The Educator’s inaugural Higher Education 2019 Hot List. The list identifies Australian higher education professionals who are among the global community driving cutting-edge research, innovation and positive educational change.

• Elected as a Fellow of the United States National Academy of Inventors (FNAI) in 2019 in recognition of exceptional accomplishments in innovation and invention to benefit society.

• Awarded the Ian Wark Medal and Lecture from the Australian Academy of Science in 2018 for outstanding contributions to the prosperity of Australia through the advancement of scientific knowledge and its application.

• Awarded the Weickhardt Medal from the Royal Australian Chemical Institute in 2017 for significant contributions towards the economic advancement of Australia.

• Awarded the Victoria Prize for Science and Innovation by the Australian State of Victoria in 2015 celebrating leadership, determination and creativity.

Key People

Prof. Calum Drummond
Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation and Vice President
Research and Innovation Portfolio,  RMIT University

Mr. Martin Bean
Vice Chancellor and President
Chancellory,  RMIT University

Prof. Swee Mak
Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Capability and Innovation
Research and Innovation Portfolio,  RMIT University

Ms Jane Holt
Executive Director Research Strategy and Services
Research and Innovation Portfolio,  RMIT University

Prof. Denise Cuthbert
Associate Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Training and Development
Research and Innovation Portfolio,  RMIT University

Further key people


Order of Australia Award from Victorian State Governor

US National Academy of Inventors Fellowship Medal @ NASA Houston Ceremony

Ian Wark Medal from The Australian Academy of Science

Victoria Prize from the State of Victoria

Global Rankings Trend - RMIT University


Impacting lifes

Being the father of two daughters challenged by visual and auditory processing difficulties, and dyslexia, has taught me the importance of persistence, patience, and resilience in assisting individuals to deal with barriers impeding their progress. I have also learnt that advancement is frequently neither linear nor monotonic. I have learnt the importance of servant-leadership.

My leadership style is collegial and one of inspiring and empowering others in order to achieve shared goals. As a leader I am committed to service. My history is one of guiding, mentoring and sponsoring others. The importance of mentoring and being a role model was impressed upon me from the very early stages of my own research career. Being the beneficiary of exemplary mentoring myself and experiencing the difference that it can make to one’s motivation, research contributions, and career trajectory has meant that I have continued the tradition.

One of my main approaches to leadership is by exhibiting a strong work ethic with an achievement focus, and modelling values and behaviours. The modelled values and behaviours are articulated in the high level guiding principles of communicate openly and honestly; demonstrate trust and reliability; show respect, appreciation and recognition; show resilience in the face of change or adversity; be bold; and be engaged. In essence, I am driven to make a positive difference. I am someone who can envisage a desired future and then inspire others, and harness the resources, to realise that future.


Lessons learned

A systemic approach to creating value beyond academia from entrepreneurial research and innovation activities was established through the following strategic initiatives:

✓ 8 themed cross-disciplinary Enabling Capability Platforms (ECPs) were built to activate a multi-disciplinary approach to research and innovation.

✓ A new research translation function was established to enable more impact to be generated through the entrepreneurial translation of research outputs.

✓ RMIT’s research active staff and graduate researcher (HDR student) capacity was increased to enhance research intensity.

✓ RMIT transformed the university’s research support services model to enable researchers to further focus on conducting world-changing research and engage deeper with research partners.

From a key learnings and leadership perspective:

It was important to deconstruct old structures that were holding the university back. For example, all the Research Institutes were closed and a very different construct, Enabling Capability Platforms, was stood up at the same time. This allowed fresh unencumbered entrepreneurial approaches to research translation and industry engagement to be readily introduced.

Obtaining ownership of the initiatives by key RMIT senior executives and the academic workforce was critical. The executives held many of the resources that needed to be released. The initiatives were introduced to support the academic mission and the academic workforce deliver this mission. Pleasingly, 70% of the academic workforce has affiliated to one or more ECPs. Each of the four initiatives were major change processes. The initiatives had to be formally managed within a change management framework in order to ensure success.


What's coming?

Looking to the future, RMIT plans to build on the aforementioned strong foundations and further cement RMIT as a research-intensive university dedicated to entrepreneurial translation – from a focus on value creation to working alongside partners to ‘capture’ that value for the benefit of the economy, society, and environment.

The RMIT roadmap sees the university move from enhancing ‘value creation’ (past) to enabling ‘value capture’ (future) – strategically expanding the RMIT role within the global innovation system.

Specifically, RMIT’s research and innovation aspirations for the next 6 years are to further evolve so that:

1. RMIT is recognised as a leader in enabling value to be captured for the benefit of the economy, society, and environment;

2. RMIT is a partner, employer and destination of choice as a result of our entrepreneurial research and innovation capabilities, values, and ways of working;

3. RMIT is a sector leader in the strategic deployment of research and innovation capability;

4. RMIT HDR graduates are sought-after for their future-relevant skills, expertise and attributes.

The key enablers for achieving the aspirations are RMIT’s research and innovation capability and internal research ecosystem. Where the focus has been on transforming the internal ecosystem over the past 5 years, RMIT will now move the focus more towards strategic development and deployment of the research and innovation capability. Research and innovation capability is defined as people (talent); skills (including subject matter expertise); partnerships (including collaborations, networks and connections); and infrastructure (physical and virtual) – underpinned by culture, values and ways of working.



Academics affected by RMIT research & innovation ecosystem


Students affected by RMIT research & innovation ecosystem


Number of new RMIT Enabling Capability Platforms


Number of organisations working with RMIT on research and innovation projects


Growth in external research revenue (2013-2019)


Compound growth in the RMIT patent families


Growth in annual refereed RMIT journal articles


The percentage of RMIT articles published in quartile one impact factor journals


Entrepreneures provided with mentoring and sponsoring by Drummond

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