YES! The search is on for young sustainability heroes | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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YES! The search is on for young sustainability heroes

Young innovators are being called on to help set the research agenda and create sustainable solutions to the some of the biggest challenges facing our planet through a new research initiative called YES.

A youth research forum next month is part of the Youth Engaged in Sustainability (YES) initiative – led by University of the Sunshine Coast – to champion young people’s involvement in research with impact, based on the United Nation’s 17 Sustainability Goals.

“We are searching for young sustainability heroes, keen to come up with ideas that have social impact, and we will provide the platform to take those ideas from concept to creation,” says UniSC Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Ross Young.

The UN’s goals address global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.

Professor Young says UniSC’s YES research program will create opportunities for youth across its regions to be involved in setting research priorities and co-designing and executing projects based on what youth identify as being the most  

“UniSC is recognised in the Times Higher Education rankings as the top university in Queensland for its commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and we aim to extend our impact by actively strengthening research engagement by 18-35-year-olds in our regions,” he said.

The Youth Research Forum will involve a Techstars Sustainability Startup Weekend on 5-7 August at UniSC’s Innovation Centre at its Sunshine Coast campus.

For 54-hours, young innovators will have a platform to transform their ideas into reality, with support from mentors, including academics and business leaders, to develop market research, product prototyping, business modelling planning and pitches to social impact investors.

UniSC is hosting the event in collaboration with Silicon Coast, a leading body for entrepreneurship and innovation across the Sunshine Coast. More information available at

After the weekend, UniSC academics will work with youth to develop research projects, linked to startup and the UN’s sustainable development goals from the weekend.

Ten projects that meet UniSC competitive criteria for research grants will be awarded seed funding. These teams will conduct and finalise their research by January next year and present their final findings at Queensland Youth Week in April 2023.

UniSC has received financial and organisational support for the YES imitative from the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, aligned with the government’s Queensland Youth Strategy.

It will be led by Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Management Dr Retha de Villiers Scheepers, with the support of UniSC experts.

“YES gives our youth a forum to pitch sustainability priorities and ideas at the Startup Weekend. These startups will reflect what they see as the most important needs and challenges for the future,” Dr de Villiers Scheepers said.

“Teams of USC academics will partner with our youth to build through research projects that provide a solid foundation for building a resilient future in Queensland and globally.”

One of the key objectives is to support and develop the research skills and capacity of youth through research project activities that are mentored and supported by UniSC researchers,” Dr de Villiers Scheepers said.

 “And we will enable them to present and share findings from their research projects to diverse audiences.”

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