David Gonski to chair Advisory Council to new startup accelerator designed to prepare school-age students for jobs of the future

10 March 2020

SYDNEY -- David Gonski AC will chair a high-calibre independent Advisory Council for a new startup accelerator programme aiming to tackle a looming skills gap in Australia’s future workforce.

Part of a AUD $10 million investment in the EdTech sector by Rio Tinto over four years, the Future Minds Accelerator programme will take a new, disruptive approach targeting school-age learners by supporting startups.

The Future Minds Accelerator is a collaboration between Rio Tinto, leading startup accelerator BlueChilli and Amazon Web Services (AWS), the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. It aims to prepare young Australians for the digital future by helping fast-track skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, automation, systems design, and data analytics.

The Advisory Council of business, education and innovation leaders, will help select startups for the Future Minds Accelerator and will be actively involved in creating networking opportunities and providing advice to businesses, schools, communities, and startups.

Rio Tinto chief executive J-S Jacques said “We are honoured that David Gonski, one of the most knowledgeable and passionate advocates for the future of Australia’s education, has agreed to chair the independent Advisory Council of the Future Minds Accelerator.

“While the national push to increase highly trained STEM specialists is gaining momentum, Australia is also facing a significant gap in broader transferable skills such as complex and creative problem solving and advanced communication.

“Guided by its Advisory Council, the Future Minds Accelerator is designed to help prepare young Australians for the future of work as the need for these skills, which are even now in high demand, accelerates dramatically.”

David Gonski, Chair, Advisory Council, Future Minds said “I complement Rio Tinto on initiating and funding the Future Minds Accelerator.  All steps towards preparing and equipping the youth of today for the needs and requirements of tomorrow is commendable and I am delighted to support this innovative way of doing so.”

The first phase of the Future Minds Accelerator will identify startups with existing projects that can be scaled quickly to enhance the skills of students, teachers and parents, with a goal of helping 100,000 Australian school students this year.

Up to 15 startups at the scaleup stage will be selected to take part in the programme in 2020. They will gain access to new customers and markets and a AUD $50,000 grant from Rio Tinto. They will also receive training and mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs through BlueChilli, including ongoing support for strategy and capital raising and up to USD $100,000 in AWS Activate Credits.

Startups with an existing product or technology that address any of the programme’s challenge statements are eligible to apply, with no criteria around revenue numbers or capital raised. Applications close on Monday 23 March at 23:59 AWST.

Non-startups, such as not-for-profit organisations, will also be considered if they apply.

BlueChilli Program Director Filipa C. Araújo said “Our mission at BlueChilli is to help people solve the world’s biggest challenges with technology. Equipping young Australians with the skills they need to thrive in a tech-driven, ever-changing world is crucial. We’re excited to work with Rio Tinto and AWS to support startups solving this challenge, accelerate and scale their reach and impact. The Future Minds Accelerator expects the startups supported to positively impact 100,000 K-12 students already in 2020 and for this figure to increase as they expand their activities across the country.”

AWS’s Head of Resource Industries for Australia and New Zealand Sarah Bassett said “As the global digital economy continues to evolve, we want to ensure that we are upskilling future generations with the critical skills required for them to thrive and remain competitive for businesses and as individuals. Together with Rio Tinto and BlueChilli, we are delighted to work with the startup community to bring to life their innovative ideas through technology and prepare young Australians for the digital future.”

To stay up to date with programme news and opportunities to be involved, please visit https://www.futuremindsaccelerator.com/

About the Future Minds Accelerator Advisory Council

The independent Advisory Council has 23 members, with a wide-range of experience across education, technology, business and policy. It will provide strategic guidance to the Future Minds Accelerator project team and broader engagement across the companies - Rio Tinto, BlueChilli and Amazon Web Services. The Council includes school principals, teachers, departmental representatives, independent schools representatives, education entrepreneurs and digital transformation experts. Individuals on the Advisory Council include former Federal Education and Training Secretary Lisa Paul AO, Chief Scientist of Western Australia, Professor Peter Klinken AC, Indigenous education expert Dr Christine Evans and well-known maths teacher Eddie Woo. Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury will be Rio Tinto’s representative on the council. The members are being announced every week till 23 March on https://www.futuremindsaccelerator.com/about.

About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto has committed to invest AUD $10 million in a four-year national programme, targeted at school-age learners, that aims to fast-track the development of skills needed for the digital future. As the primary affiliate of the Future Minds Accelerator, Rio Tinto knows first-hand the capabilities and skills needed in the workers of the future. Being on the forefront of a traditional industry that has successfully navigated massive change, Rio Tinto also understands the importance of innovation. The company is committed to investing in people — in startups that can solve future challenges, in communities that embrace change, in schools and administrators, and in students of all ages across Australia.  The Future Minds Accelerator complements the AUD $14 million Rio Tinto already invests in education programmes each year with universities, schools, governments and the not-for-profit sector to help meet growing demand for new and emerging skills.

About BlueChilli

BlueChilli Technology is the leading tech accelerator in Australia. For eight years, BlueChilli has worked with thousands of entrepreneurs across Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia and supported over 140 startups to build their technology companies. Working with Rio Tinto and Amazon Web Services, BlueChilli aims to address the future of work and the looming skills revolution for businesses of the future. By evaluating challenges facing Australia in the future and sourcing startups with innovations that can impact our country, BlueChilli will support startups with a five-month programme to accelerate commercial success and create social change.


For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Rose, Rio Tinto

T +61 3 9283 3088

M +61 447 028 913

Matt Chambers, Rio Tinto

T +61 3 9283 3087

M +61 433 525 739