Cummins local Kellie Taylor has been named as one of four South Australia women in the finals for the 2020 AgriFutures Rural Women's Award.
The award helps rural women start an initiative to benefit rural industries and communities, with a bursary of $10,000 to go toward their planned project.
Mrs Taylor runs EP analysis in Cummins, an environmental sampling and testing business, and said she has been planning a pilot program that connects local industry and schools to collaborate on research that businesses have identified as relevant to the community.
"What we'd like to be able to do is nuture students to be innovative and recognise opportunities locally before they leave the area," she said.
"I completed my schooling here and I left because I didn't see any opportunity for innovation and science...I returned to the area and now I'm a small business owner.
"Students aren't always sure what they want to study, and on the flip-side small businesses are problem solving everyday.
"Long term I want a booklet of ideas presented by small business to schools so students can apply to undertake research like a collaboration.
"So the hope is a small business has an idea they want to look into further and for the student there will be potential research undertaken (by them) but it's also creating a career pathway."
Mrs Taylor said she is already in talks with the school to roll out the program immediately if successful, with the aim of running it in conjunction with Year 12 Research Project or stage one subject Community Studies.
She said it was important to educate students on the opportunities locally before they left as she wanted rural youth to have a sense of belonging and ownership on regional issues.
"I've already had eight interested small businesses...but for the pilot program I will run it myself (using my small business) to iron out any wrinkles," she said.
"This idea is similar to the university summer research project, and I undertook two of them when I was at uni.
"So I thought why don't we roll something similar out in rural country towns when country towns have some amazing attributes that really suit a project like this.
"Schools correctly teach career pathways however the pilot program will educate students in innovative and entrepreneurial thinking utilising the fact...there is opportunity for problem solving on a regional level for students."
The state winner will be announced on March 10, with the winner to attend the national Rural Women's Award gala dinner in Canberra later this year.