A new report says Bendigo is a model for other regional Victorian cities considering ways to boost innovation, as Melbourne prepares for a “fourth industrial revolution”.
The report by consultancy firm AECOM outlines how Melbourne and Victoria can turbocharge technological innovation by locating researchers, businesses and other services in the same geographic areas.
The so-called “employment and innovation clusters” were needed as world cities scrambled to attract the industries and start-ups which relied heavily on research and development.
Report author Tim O’Loan said locating those industries and employee’s housing near universities was one way to create such clusters, helping ensure Australian-based companies took advantage of local ideas.
He pointed to universities like Monash and Melbourne, saying their world-leading biomedical research was not necessarily commercialised in Australia.
“It’s a little bit like in the ‘80s and ‘90s when we were woodchipping our old growth forests, then selling woodchips to Japan, who were then selling us very expensive paper,” he said.
Part of the trick to a successful cluster was ensuring researchers and industry workers lived and worked in the same neighbourhoods.
“You can get very cleaver people who are interested in each others’ ideas bumping into one another. What we are starting to see is that ideas from nanotechnology can influence quantum computing, biotechnology, or advanced manufacturing,” Mr O’Loan said.
Bendigo on track to become an innovation cluster
Potential clusters might be located in a city, close to a university and lots of industry. Or they could be regional centres, like Bendigo.
In fact, the report said Bendigo is a “strong contender” as a cluster.
For a start, a very high proportion of Bendigonians work here, rather than travel down to Melbourne.
The city already has the Bendigo Bank headquarters, strong community leaders and a number of cultural institutions the report said could help it attract global talent.
The City of Greater Bendigo has also been collecting a lot of data, including on land use, employment, where people are moving from and where they might be moving to.
That has caught Mr O’Loan’s attention, because that data could help predict how Melbourne’s clusters might develop, as well as how to respond to shifts like a rise in population.
“When you get such a data-rich environment you can hopefully start to apply some of our digital tools around spatial analytics,” Mr O’Tool said.
“It can be more reliable than Melbourne because that city is just too big.”
Bendigo did face some challenges, the report said. They included preparing telecommunications and transport systems as the council eyed development in areas west of the CBD.
They were challenges the council’ manager of regional sustainable development was well-aware of.
“As the city grows the communication system has to grow with it,” he said.
“We know we have to get the broadband system up to speed, and the best possible coverage for wi-fi, mobile and other technology is absolutely essential.”
Mr Budge said the council was getting much smarter about their approach to transport in an attempt to break peoples’ reliance on cars.
He said people were also realising there were other options to get around.
“We are increasingly seeing people in this office using electric bikes … and we will see more people around town sharing cars, Ubers and the like,” Mr Budge said.