Job growth and liveability — unlocking the potential of employment and innovation clusters
22 March 2018: AECOM, a premier, fully integrated global infrastructure firm, launched today its Victorian Employment and Innovation Clusters (EICs) report in Melbourne along with The Federal Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities, The Hon Paul Fletcher MP. According to the report, the creation of physical spaces that bring together new, high-value businesses, researchers and related service providers, so called EICs will drive job growth, attract investment and underpin the future competitiveness of Victoria’s economy.
Based in part on a series of industry workshops, the report identifies the key attributes of successful EICs, with reference to four archetypes in Victoria: Fishermans Bend, the ‘emerging’ cluster; Monash, the ‘established’ cluster; Sunshine, the ‘long shot, suburban’ cluster; as well as Greater Bendigo, the successful ‘regional’ Victorian cluster.
AECOM analysed these existing and planned Victorian cluster locations, as well as numerous international examples, to uncover lessons that will help to design and create stronger innovation clusters and boost Victoria’s innovation economy. The report introduces the AECOM “EIC index” — a framework of 18 key performance indicators to help policy-makers, developers and the community understand the potential of an EIC, its evolution over time, and areas that might require support or intervention.
According to Tim O’Loan, who leads the Cities practice for AECOM in Victoria, these clusters of high-value jobs, knowledge workers and fast-growing industries will not happen by accident: “This is a highly competitive race and Melbourne needs to be bolder to win it. To be truly successful, our employment and innovation clusters need to be carefully planned, actively nurtured and well-funded. These locations also need to be multipurpose, livable, well connected and able to promote local interaction if we want to attract the entrepreneurs, talent and investment that will drive sustainable economic growth.”
Fashioning Fishermans Bend
According to AECOM, there needs to be better coordination of the support that is available from all levels of government to make this emerging, high-potential contender into the globally significant innovation cluster it can be.
That is why AECOM is calling for the creation of an ‘innovation concierge’ as a one window entry point to all government services. An innovation concierge would make life easier for startups, small and medium-sized businesses by promoting access to information and resources to help them grow.
In addition, boosting both purposeful collaboration and even unplanned interactions among knowledge workers within the cluster is expected to have significant benefits, and ways to do this can be designed into the cluster’s physical setting and through a program designed to showcase local innovations to a broad audience.
With its planned future connections and its proximity to the Melbourne CBD, its existing network of high-tech employers, its potential for providing significant local housing and with the right support from government and the education sector, Fishermans Bend has enormous potential to generate knowledge-rich, innovative products and services and the well-paying jobs that they create.
“Innovation is a collision sport and the best way of developing attractive locations for innovative, high-growth companies and the employers of Melbourne’s existing and future population is to make that interaction as friction free as possible,” said Mr O’Loan. “We need to be bold and invest in a direct transit connection that extends the Collins Street corridor via a bridge over the Yarra River.”
Super charging innovation in Monash
After several decades in which Monash has been close to the demographic centre of Melbourne, the population is moving north and west, and Monash is losing one of its natural advantages. Fortunately, though, the precinct’s key strengths in education, health and future technologies are aligned with Victoria’s priority innovation sectors. With needed reforms to improve its public transit connectivity, Monash is well placed to attract the commercial tenants necessary to super charge the commercialisation of innovative research.
Rise and shine Sunshine
Sunshine is a suburban Melbourne cluster that can develop to serve as a focal point for jobs outside of the city’s core. Sunshine already offers: relatively low land values; sound transport infrastructure which is due to be enhanced by a future rail link to Melbourne Airport and other works to improve rail travel passing through Sunshine; a growing local population base; and high investment by the state government in major social infrastructure, such as education and health.
Bendigo is one to watch
As a key regional city in Victoria, and while only ranked 18th by population in the country and behind Geelong in Ballarat in Victoria, Bendigo boasts two important attributes: a very high proportion of residents work in the city as opposed to traveling to Melbourne; and the local council have been very focused on gathering a range of data on how their city operates. This, together with a focus on independent, locally sourced financing and strong support by local government and business to develop innovation and foster a range of interlinked employment opportunities means that Bendigo is a strong contender as a regional employment and innovation cluster, and a model for other regional Victorian cities to consider in setting out their own plans to boost innovation.
Our report also offers eight recommendations aimed at helping government policy-makers and planners, and the business and development communities, to strengthen our state and its communities in the global innovation competition:
- A ‘one window’ innovation concierge
- A flexible planning framework
- High-quality urban design and architectural application
- Setting measurable performance targets
- Planning for Melbourne as a collection of cooperating clusters
- Providing financial and economic support
- Creating an economic ‘mega-region’ with adjacent cities
- Flaunting your talent, showing your innovation and connecting with all Melbournians.
AECOM hosted a series of four workshops between June and October 2017, drawing on the deep knowledge and extensive experience of local and international leaders in the fields of urban development, research and innovation, and transport policy.
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Director, External Affairs Australia New Zealand
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