Sippy Downs, the Sunshine Coast’s rapidly growing university town, is gaining an international reputation as a hotspot of innovation and entrepreneurship, thanks to the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Innovation Centre, according to leading business magazine CNBC European Business.
In fact of 17 hotspots to be featured by the magazine in special monthly reports, which have been running since April 2008, Sippy Downs is the only location featured outside of Europe. It was tagged as ‘Australia’s no-worries-answer to Silicon Valley’, and recognised as becoming Australia’s first dedicated university town.
In a feature article published this month in the magazine with a monthly readership of over 650,000 readers (http://www.cnbcmagazine.com/story/sippy-downs-queensland/1175/1/), Sippy Downs is identified because of the $8 billion private and public investment that will see the population double in the next ten years, the approved master plan that includes the new Business and Technology Precinct with the potential to employ 6,000 knowledge workers, as well as the location of the University and the Innovation Centre, the Sunshine Coast’s leading hub for entrepreneurship and knowledge-based business.
Innovation Centre Chief Executive Colin Graham said that the development at Sippy Downs was increasingly gaining national attention and he was pleased to see the area now getting this sort of international recognition.
“With the expertise and networks of entrepreneurs and professional service providers already located here and the future investment for the Business and Technology Precinct, the town centre and surrounding residential areas, the potential of the area is massive,” Mr Graham said.
“The Business and Technology Precinct will help the Sunshine Coast’s economy develop towards maturity, when it will no longer be so reliant on tourism, retail and construction for survival and when it will provide outstanding career opportunities for our next generation of knowledge workers.”
Sippy Downs has much in common with other hot spots identified by CNBC – although at an earlier stage of development – as well as having many advantages over them.
Mr Graham said there were some very strong themes shared by the hot spots identified including:
- conscious planning to develop them and transition or reinvent themselves as knowledge based communities;
- location of universities and research facilities within the districts;
- a champion organisation to promote developments, attract businesses, promote networking and linkages
- use of distinctive, sustainable architecture;
- emphasis on mixed use and self-contained communities;
- positioning and emphasis on accessibility and public transport;
- long-term commitment to concept by government and stakeholders; and
- major public sector funding allocations to catalyse private sector investment
“Sippy Downs as the centre of the Sunshine Coast’s knowledge economy already has many of these aspects but I think particularly there needs to be a stronger commitment from all levels of government and the stakeholders of Sippy Downs to bring forward the funding for this growth,” he said.
In terms of planning, Germany’s Duisburg is transitioning from a steel city to a knowledge-based economy; the harbour side area of Cologne is aggressively pursuing a 21st century knowledge-based revamp following the decline of the port town. Others are, like the Sunshine Coast, trying to diversify their economies – for example Vega in Venice is developing a 15ha Science Park to reduce their reliance on tourism.
“While the Sippy Downs Business and Technology Precinct is trying to lead the reinvention of the Sunshine Coast as a region that is not solely reliant on tourism, this reinvention does not include having to demolish 19th century infrastructure before rebuilding.
“In many ways, we are fortunate to have a greenfield site so we don’t have to turn around a declining district – we have a real opportunity to focus solely on building a 21st century university town from scratch and to get it right,” Mr Graham said.
Many of the global hot spots also have universities and research facilities at their heart. Cologne is home to Germany’s biggest university and largest technical college and has staked a claim as a centre for biotechnology and games research and development. Orestad, Copenhagen began with a university of a similar size and growth rate to that of the University of the Sunshine Coast and has since grown to become the centre for global businesses such as Dell, Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline – all taking advantage of the specialist IT institution and facility of humanities of Copenhagen University.
“This shows that in the 21st century knowledge economy, it’s all about mining talent and knowledge, and its not just about mineral resources and ports which are so important in our traditional economy,” Mr Graham said.
Like Duisburg, Germany and Cuatro Torress in Madrid and Fjord City in Oslo, Sippy Downs has already established itself with distinctive award-winning architecture – with USC winning 33 awards for planning, architecture and construction – which helps to identify the areas and give them a point-of-difference and Sunshine Coast Regional Council’s town plan sees this continuing throughout Sippy Downs as it develops.
Mr Graham said there had been more than $100 million committed in the last two years to the development of underpinning infrastructure in the area with at least $8 billion in investment expected in housing, commercial premises and more infrastructure in the next 15 – 20 years.
“What is vital in this development is that all the stakeholders remain focused. We already have a strong framework with the University of the Sunshine Coast, its emerging research centres – including the award winning Sustainability Research Centre – the Innovation Centre and our proximity to the $1.97bn University teaching and research hospital opening in 2016.
“There is real potential to expand all of these areas and to tailor the precinct to service the knowledge economy industries the Innovation Centre has been nurturing since it was established in 2002.
“We have already achieved a great deal including supporting the start-up and growth of over 55 businesses and creating around 350 jobs.
“Now we are moving into a new stage of development, steadily expanding the services we offer – beyond the 30 plus businesses located within the Innovation Centre – and running business events to build a productive entrepreneurial network across the Sunshine Coast region.
“Our biggest priority is to continue to advance the development of the Business and Technology Precinct at Sippy Downs, working closely with public and private stakeholders, to ensure we maximise the potential of the area.”
“If we play our cards right, our international reputation as an entrepreneurial hotspot will grow further still, and with it the Sunshine Coast’s economy,” Mr Graham said.