As the 13th largest economy in the world, Australia has always been an attractive place for business and commerce. But, whether it’s the fact that it’s so far away, or that we rarely hear news from this continent, you probably haven’t considered Australia as a land of innovation. But smart entrepreneurs are starting to head down under to enjoy a culture ripe for innovation.
South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide, is an example of a city that is rapidly transforming into a hot spot for entrepreneurs, innovators and investors. Let’s take a closer look.
Adelaide - Australia’s First Gigabit City
South Australia’s Chief Adviser on Innovation, Tom Hajdu, who migrated from Los Angeles to Adelaide in 2015, shares some of the reasons why Adelaide is fast becoming a hot spot for innovators and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
“Adelaide recently became Australia’s first gigabit city,” says Hajdu. “In an Australian-first partnership between the Government of South Australia and Adelaide’s three world-class universities, 200km of dark fiber has been laid to create a high-speed broadband backbone across the city, in university campuses and 14 strategic business innovation precincts.
With students, teachers and technology businesses enjoying internet speeds of up to 10GB per second, which is 100 times the national average, Adelaide has built the essential infrastructure for success in the digital economy.
Last year, Adelaide enhanced its competitive advantage by becoming the first city outside the US to join the US Ignite Smart Gigabit Communities network of cities, which includes Adelaide’s sister city, Austin, Texas. This was not only a coup for Adelaide, it transformed US Ignite from a national program to an international program.”
The Fifth Most Liveable City in the World
Hajdu describes one of the things that attracted him to leave the US and move to Adelaide. “The Economist Intelligence Unit has voted Adelaide the fifth most liveable city in the world the last five years in a row. Adelaide is the only capital city in Australia, and one of only six places in the world, to have a Mediterranean climate.
The beaches and natural environment are breathtaking and in close proximity to the city. It has Australia’s best wine regions and its fresh produce and multi-cultural food and culture are amazing. It’s vibrant and filled with culture. It has the second biggest annual arts festival in the world (the Adelaide Fringe), is Australia’s only WOMAD city, and has some of the coolest small bars and restaurants in Australia.”
World-class universities & research and technology commercialization expertise
The Future Institute was established by the University of South Australia in 2015, and brings together the research activities of the Ian Wark Research Institute, the Mawson Institute, and the Centre for Environmental Risk Assessment and Remediation.
Research within the Institute covers four strands: energy and advanced manufacturing; minerals and resource engineering; environmental science and engineering; and bioengineering and nanomedicine.
In an Australian-first, Adelaide business Availer, led by entrepreneurs based in New York and Adelaide, is leading a program known as the South Australian Rapid Commercialization Initiative.
The goal of the program is to rapidly spin out a diverse portfolio of technologies from South Australia’s universities and research institutes, into new technology companies founded in Adelaide that have a global focus from day one. Availer’s presence in Australia and the US is key to the program’s success.
Adelaide has also established partnerships with some major private-sector players in the innovation arena.
These include Buddy Platform, a leading US-based company that is working on the “Internet of Things” and recently set up its Australian headquarters in Adelaide.
Global IT firm Cisco naming Adelaide as a Lighthouse City – the first in the Southern Hemisphere and Hewlett Packard Enterprise expanding its presence through an Innovation and Collaboration Centre at the University of South Australia.
South Australia is also home to a rapidly growing AUD$3.6 billion health and science innovation precinct, known as Adelaide BioMed City, where the ground-breaking South Australian Health Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and brand new Royal Adelaide Hospital are based, as well as soon-to-be opened state-of-the art university research and innovation facilities. Due to be completed later this year, this cluster will be one of the biggest health and research precincts in the Southern Hemisphere.
Defense Industry and Aerospace
Adelaide is the center of Australia’s multi-billion dollar defense industry. During the next decade, the Federal Government of Australia will invest billions in new defense spending, which will include a new fleet of submarines, to be built in Adelaide, as well as the construction of numerous new frigates and offshore patrol vessels.
There is also a burgeoning aerospace sector in South Australia. The most advanced space rocket range in Australia is situated there and new aerospace technology companies like Fleet are forging a path that is seeing world-leading nano-satellite technology being developed in Adelaide to enable global connectivity for the internet of things. The fast-growing aerospace sector will be celebrated at the world’s largest aerospace conference, the 68th International Astronautical Congress, in Adelaide from September 25-29 this year. All of this suggests that Adelaide will be at the forefront of the next wave of space technology over the next decade and beyond.
Transforming old industrial centers into new innovation hubs
Following in the footsteps of the world’s most famous innovation centers and campuses, South Australia has also established an extraordinary new innovation district, called Tonsley. The idea, according to Hajdu, is to bring businesses and investors together with creative entrepreneurs.
Transformed from the old Mitsubishi auto manufacturing plant into a high-tech, high-speed internet innovation precinct, Tonsley houses leading research and education institutions, established international companies as well as local startups, business incubators and accelerators, all under one roof.
This country also has its finger on the pulse of emerging technology, IoT and AI. As Hajdu enthuses, “South Australia was the first jurisdiction in the Southern Hemisphere to legalize on-road testing of driverless vehicles.” This has led a wave of investment in the creation of mobility solutions.
Startups are springing out of South Australia at a rapid pace; and they’re killing it on a global stage. Humanihut, a temporary refugee refuse solution, was recognized among the world’s most disruptive businesses in 2016. Micro-X, a medical devices company, is making waves in radiology and defense applications. Myriota, a telecommunications startup, won second best startup at the Internet of Things Summit in Silicon Valley (the world’s largest), as well as best industrial startup. The list goes on.
Renewable energy leader
South Australia is also the leading State in Australia for renewable energy. More than 50% of the State’s energy is supplied by renewable energy, which has led to a wave of investment in the State, as well as recent international interest in South Australia as a test bed for the development of world-leading renewable energy technology, most notably from Elon Musk and Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.
The Government of South Australia has established a AUD$150 million Renewable Energy Technology Fund. The first project to be funded will be a grid-connected battery – the largest in Australia – to provide the State with 100 megawatts of storage. The battery will modernize South Australia’s energy grid and begin the transformation to the next generation of renewable-energy storage technologies. There are a number of large-scale projects under consideration in South Australia, including solar thermal, biomass, hydrogen energy and pumped hydro. The Fund will provide AUD$75 million in grants and AUD$75 million in loans, to eligible projects, to support private innovative companies and entrepreneurs.
A supportive government
As any US-based scientist will testify right now, government support is vital in allowing new innovations to push through. With such supportive measures as an $80 million investment to modernize the Australian economy, the government is helping to accelerate South Australia’s transformation. What was once an agricultural and traditional manufacturing economy is fast becoming a modern, innovative economy that supports and creates the jobs of the future.
The Government of South Australia is strongly supporting the development of a deeply connected and successful ecosystem for entrepreneurs. Initiatives include a AUD$50 million South Australian Venture Capital Fund to help businesses secure investment, including a AUD$10 million Early Commercialization Fund to help startups commercialize products and services.
TechInSA is another government-supported program in Adelaide. It brings government and industry together with innovation and local technology, and helps to roll them out to global markets. This is driving creative jobs and making South Australia a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.
As Hajdu explains, “all of this investment, in infrastructure and people, is enabling Adelaide to become a leader in innovation and a place where people, entrepreneurs and investors will thrive.”
So, if you’re beginning to see more and more forward-thinking entrepreneurs looking down under, perhaps you’ll understand why. When the conditions for innovation are ripe, game-changing entrepreneurs will soon follow. Get ready to start hearing about South Australia in the news. For any global investor or entrepreneur looking to discover a secret new innovation and investment location that is in the early stages of rapid global growth, before the rest of the world comes knocking, South Australia and its capital city, Adelaide, could just be the next big discovery.