Education - IT students offered new entrepreneurial skills at Macquarie

Macquarie University and Sun Microsystems have launched Australia's first Undergraduate commercialisation of technology course to develop the entrepreneurial skills of Macquarie's computing students.

The seminar-based course is part of the University's new Undergraduate Program in Human Language Technology, which involves the computational processing of human language in spoken or written form.

The course explores the problems and issues faced by developers and provides practical skills for moving technologies from the laboratory phase to market.

It is designed to equip students with the skills to explore and plan commercial exploitation of information technologies. The major elements of the course include: identifying applications of a technology; determining the economic potential of the application, evaluating the value chain delivery and; designing the product to meet market needs.

According to Macquarie's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Mr John Loxton, the Technology Commercialisation course was instrumental in its recent win of a $1 million grant from the Federal Government's Science Lectureship Initiative.

"A key factor in our successful application was the integration of industry players in the development of our undergraduate curriculum. The Federal Government was looking for unique, industry driven programs that not only develop new pools of technical talent but graduates that are commercially skilled," said John Loxton.

"The integration of Sun's commercial and technical expertise into the curriculum played a critical role in securing the Federal Government's support.

"It is our aim that this course makes the difference between brilliant technology languishing in the lab and making it to the market successfully. To do this we needed to leverage the commercial knowledge of a technology partner like Sun, that had global exposure, resources and experience."

According to Sun Microsystems National Industry Manager, Education and Research, Andrew Boulus, "Language Technology is widely recognised as constituting the next major challenge for computing, and a critical technology for the 21st century.

"A good example is the Nova Conceptual Indexing project which analyses text, such as Web pages, to search for actual meaning rather than just key words. The language technology group at Macquarie University has been collaborating with Sun Labs to apply this technology to assist teachers."

"We are seeing some of Australia's brightest IT talent drawn to this sector. For the local market to grow, our IT talent needs to have access to the world's best technical tools and exposure to entrepreneurial and commercial realities.

The new Undergraduate program will begin in 2001 and is comprises six semester-long courses, two in each of second, third and fourth year. The content of the course is designed in consultation with the program's Management Advisory Board, which carries representation from industry partners.

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