Adelaide fosters innovation for new economy
The last Mitsubishi sedan rolled off the production line at Tonsley Park in Adelaide’s southern suburbs in 2008 sounding an early warning for the future of traditional manufacturing in South Australia: Innovate or perish.
Almost a decade on and the former car plant has been transformed into a leading innovation hub, bringing together advanced manufacturing companies, University STEM programs, renewable energy leaders and hi-tech pacesetters in the one precinct.
It was recently announced International optical and optoelectronics firm ZEISS would relocate to a new $6 million premises at Tonsley to join other high-profile tenants including Siemens, SAGE Automation, ZEN Energy, Micro-X and Flinders University.
Micro-X assembles the world’s first lightweight mobile x-ray machines at Tonsley. Managing Director Peter Rowland compared the interaction between like-minded thinkers at the hub as being like a trade show.
“That type of thing at Tonsley has the potential to be electric,” he said.
“Everyone talks about Silicon Valley being the cradle of innovation, and the only difference I see is scale and geography.”
The Tonsley Innovation Hub recently took out a prestigious Good Design Award in the Urban Design and Public Spaces category.
About 12 kilometres to the north, another hub is looming as a global centre for innovation.
Built in the northwestern corner of the Adelaide CBD, the $3.6 billion Adelaide BioMed City includes the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, the soon to open Royal Adelaide Hospital, the University of Adelaide Medical and Nursing School and University of South Australia’s Centre for Cancer Biology.
The hub is set to become one of the largest health and life sciences clusters in the Southern Hemisphere.
SAHMRI Executive Director Professor Steve Wesselingh said clustering had proven very successful in many parts of the world, particularly in the area of health research.
“We’ll have 10-15,000 people involved in research, teaching and clinical care in this precinct plus the patients and the groups that are lining themselves up along the other side of North Terrace because they see the precinct as being the epicentre of health and medical research,” he said.
“It’s incredibly exciting, it takes on the models that have worked the best around the world and it’s directly adjacent to our central business district.”
South Australia has also established itself as global renewable energy leader. Tesla CEO Elon Musk and the South Australian Government recently announced a plan to build the world’s biggest ion battery in South Australia.
The 100MW lithium ion system will be located at the Hornsdale Wind Farm in the state’s mid-north and will be active by the end of this year.
The project will join the Lyon Group’s 100MW solar-battery facility in the Riverland in helping to stabilise South Australia’s power grid and reduce energy prices. The size and diversity of both ventures have positioned the state as a global leader in renewable energy.
It already has one of the highest solar penetration rates in the world and is home to innovative companies such as Zen Energy that connects new housing estates to their own private electricity grids and 1414 degrees, which has developed an energy storage system using silicon instead of lithium.
Global innovation specialist, technology entrepreneur and CEO of Disrupter Tom Hajdu was this month appointed South Australia’s first Chief Innovation Advisor.
Dr Hajdu’s appointment follows his role in helping to establish GigCity Adelaide, which brings super-fast internet to 14 innovation precincts, including Tonsley and Adelaide BioMed City.
“With GigCity, Adelaide is smashing the tyranny of distance,” he said.
“We now have a seat at the table to participate in global innovation, enabling the city to become a place where start-ups and entrepreneurs can start and develop new ideas and attract clients from all over the world.”
Adelaide was the first city outside of the United States to join Smart City initiator and internet application development organisation US Ignite.
This technology and drive for innovation is also making Adelaide an attractive base for IT companies including Buddy Platform, Datacom and HappyCo and driverless car company RDM Group.
On June 9, leading software and cloud services company PrimeQ announced a major expansion in Adelaide following a $500,000 grant from the South Australian Government via Investment Attraction South Australia.