Entrepreneurship and innovation. Two big words starting to make an even bigger impact at UWA and Professor Thierry Volery is right there in the thick of it all.
As UWA’s Professor of Entrepreneurship and Head of Marketing in the Business School, Professor Volery wears two hats and has a portfolio of different roles. While born and bred in Switzerland, he started his career in Perth so when he returned at the beginning of the year it was somewhat of a homecoming.
“I joined Curtin in 1995 as a Visiting Fellow and what was meant to be one year turned into five. My wife is originally from Perth so returning to the city was always on the table,” he says.
Following his time at Curtin, Professor Volery went onto EM Lyon Business School in France, and was most recently the University of St Gallen’s Professor of Entrepreneurship and Director of the Swiss Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business.
“As Institute Director at St Gallen, I was essentially running a small profit centre. The Institute was self-funded but sat within the University. We had the best of both worlds - a lot of autonomy regarding our hiring decisions and services we provided, but also the checks and balances required of a university institution,” he says.
“It generated nine million Euros a year and business engagement was essential to its success. We had the freedom to operate in the business world in a way that is not usually possible within a university setting. This type of operating model allowed us to develop strong relationships with the private sector and be really nimble. We could sign a contract with a business partner today, and start working with them tomorrow.”
While successful, it isn’t common for university institutions to be operated as private profit centres, and Professor Volery’s UWA role is more traditional.
“My focus is on research and teaching. In general there’s less industry engagement however there definitely is a shift occurring. The National Innovation and Science Agenda emphasises how important entrepreneurship and innovation are to the economy, and there’s a willingness within UWA to go down this path but it will take time,” he says.
“We have a vibrant community of start-ups and incubators here in Perth. If the resource boom is ending, then what’s the next thing? It makes sense for the University to increase its engagement with business, but to fully optimise opportunities we need to be more business friendly and flexible, and develop the entrepreneurial spirit within our students.”
Whether it be starting their own businesses, or having the know-how to seize commercial opportunities within a large organisation, Professor Volery says every student can benefit from being business-minded.
“There are a lot of great initiatives within UWA, but we need to make some changes first and develop an entrepreneurial mindset from within. Once this is achieved UWA will be in a strong position to lead the way in how universities and business engage, collaborate and succeed.”