Sarah Jones takes out inaugural Innovation Leadership Award

Stuart Mason

The InnovationAus 2023 Innovation Leadership Award has been given to Sydney School of Entrepreneurship chief executive Dr Sarah Jones for her guiding of the iconic institution through a major change in direction.

The InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence were presented on Wednesday night at a black-tie gala dinner at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney.

The Innovation Leadership Award was a new category at this year’s award to honour people who have demonstrated exceptional leadership of their team for the successful development of a product or service, or driven a successful commercial research outcome.

The Innovation Leadership Award was presented on the night by New South Wales Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology Anoulack Chanthivong.

Sydney School of Entrepreneurship chief executive Dr Sarah Jones

These individuals have acted as mentors for a number of high-performing individuals and have shown an ability to get their teams to perform at their best to achieve maximum commercial value and social impact.

Dr Jones demonstrated these abilities through her leadership at the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship over the last four years.

When she joined the school in early 2019, it was in need of a significant change in direction, with altering market conditions, supply and demand challenges and a business model under large amounts of existential pressure.

Dr Jones was the leader the school needed at this time, undertaking an audit and competitive analysis of the business and an unparalleled research and analysis of the local innovation ecosystem, including universities, incubators and industry.

The Sydney School of Entrepreneurship was launched in 2016 as a collaboration between all of the state’s universities and TAFE NSW, with an investment from the NSW state government. It aims to help build a nationwide culture of entrepreneurialism and shared prosperity.

“Entrepreneurship isn’t just about setting up your own business,” Dr Jones said.

“That’s a great outcome, if that’s how it is, but it really is about that entrepreneurial mindset — how do you really develop those skills of critical problem solving and innovation?”

That can happen anywhere from a classroom to a large corporate, but what links successful entrepreneurship is building it into culture and focusing on impact, Dr Jones said.

“It is about the change you make every day. How do you think about problem solving in your community, and really looking to make a deliberative impact every day.”

There are signs Australia’s wider attitude to entrepreneurship is changing for the better, Dr Jones said, including accepting failure.

“That’s why the work that we do at the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship is so important. Because it is about teaching that failure doesn’t mean the end of the journey,” she said.

“In fact, it’s about what can you learn from that and come back and re-innovate. And create those networks of peer support, connect back into your community and then find that find that support to do that over and over again.”

Dr Jones leads a team aiming to create the next-generation of entrepreneurs and innovators, combining her professional and industry expertise.

“I have an amazing team of really true high-performing individuals, and through the work that we do with communities we learn a lot,” she said.

“It’s a two way reciprocal relationship. We need to be co-designing and co-deliver with community every single day.”

Dr Jones has a PhD from the University of Sydney and more than two decades of experience in the industry.

The other nominees in the category were ANDHealth CEO and managing director Bronwyn Le Grice and RMIT University professor and director of Discovery to Device and president-elect of Science and Technology Australia Professor Sharath Sriram.

The InnovationAus 2023 Awards for Excellence are proudly supported by Investment NSW, AusIndustry, Australian Computer Society, Technology Council of Australia, Agile Digital, CSIRO, TechnologyOne, IP Australia, METS Ignited and Q-CTRL.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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