Queensland has a program to bring together universities and startups

The Queensland government is providing a pipeline to graduates before they graduate. Joshua Lott/ Getty.

This week’s Federal Innovation Statement and Labor’s release of policies both want to better link universities with startups. But a Queensland government program may have got the jump on them.

It’s called the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships program (KTPP), and is part of the $180 million drive to create a knowledge economy.

KTPP aims to bring together startups and universities by subsidising the cost of hiring graduate students. Startups partner with universities to create a project and submit the application, and universities will provide a mentor for the student throughout the project.

Startups need only contribute one third of the costs of hiring the student – the government will contribute up to $50,000, but they have to have been operating for more than two years and have less than 200 full time employees.

Tanda, a Queensland startup that automates payrolls, is one of the companies that applied for the program, and hopes to find out if they were successful in January.

“Its basically about commercialising advanced university students” says Alex Ghiculescu, one of Tanda’s founders.

“You partner with the university, and the Advanced Queensland program funds the majority of the employment of a masters or honours student.”

“And then you work with a mentor in the university side, who gets a minority of the money, and this can be part of the coursework – [students] get credit towards the degree.”

Ghiculescu has a technical background, and his fellow founders were all in finance. The company has grown rapidly in the past year, but they need help with marketing.

“The reason that we are applying to that program is because we know we can improve in our marketing, and it’s an area that none of us have a background in.”

“Getting someone who has actually gone and done advanced research in that area, and really knows what they are talking about, and is willing to apply that into a commercial context, is a skill we wouldn’t really have ready access to straightaway.

“For us [the program] makes it that much more tangible and that much more reachable.”

Ghiculescu admits that without the program, or if they fail to get selected, they would eventually go out and find a marketing person – one with first-hand experience. But there are other benefits to the program. Not only will their graduate student receive mentoring from a professor at the university, it gives Tanda access to the university too.

“If you hire someone who has worked in marketing at five different companies before, you don’t get the added benefit of also working with the university and picking their brains,” says Ghiculescu.

The Queensland government has not announced which companies have been chosen for the program.

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