Australia's economy is being redefined.
It is being transformed by a rapidly changing digital landscape that is redefining how we live and work as well as the social fabric of our communities.
Those countries and regions with the technological infrastructure to support automation and artificial intelligence are forging ahead at the expense of traditional practice economies.
Looking towards 2030, Australia will need to be competitive in a global innovation race by scaling-up more high-growth industries and companies; commercialising more high-value products and services; fostering great talent; and daring to tackle global challenges.
Herein lies an opportunity, a digital city for regional Australia.
An opportunity to co-locate innovators and future services alongside those industries most prone to automation in a regional setting to create a vibrant heart of Industry 4.0.
A place where the technology, industry need and people capability co-exist to create digital solutions, services, future regional jobs and the exports of tomorrow.
The Regional Capacity
The concentration of population in capital cities as well as a heavy reliance on resources and agriculture, is contributing to a growing inequity in health, education and employment outcomes for regional Australia.
Through intrinsic foundations of lifestyle and affordable living, regional Western Australia has a unique potential on which to compete when attracting talent, investment and industries where the quality of life for workers is a key driver.
For every 100,000 Australians who choose to live outside of capital centres, an additional $50 billion is released into the economy over 30 years in reduced congestion costs and increased consumption.
With more than 2.6 million square kilometres of area, and no regional centres greater than 100,000, Western Australia is vulnerable to the challenges of rural-urban drift and the negative impacts of mega-cities.
A key element to this is how we embrace increasingly sophisticated passenger and freight transport technologies suitable to meet the unique challenge of Australia’s dispersed population and primary industries.
Strategic investment and planning will help overcome metropolitan capacity constraints, with the avoidable social costs of congestion in Australia’s capitals potentially rising from $16.5 billion in 2015 to around $30 billion by 2030.
Creating Regional Hubs of Innovators, Technology and Industry
A Digital City Blueprint for Regional Australia
States need regional economic service hubs to bring the technology capabilities closer to our traditional primary industries.
Where the land and capacity for future jobs and industries exist.
Imagine being able to work where you want to live rather than living where you work.
Through strategic regional investment, these capabilities and industries can be unlocked by removing the infrastructure and technology barriers to future growth and prosperity. This is not, however, a technology led evolution.
The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources identifies the need for a bold new push as an innovation-strong nation that thinks differently, collaborates in new ways and takes more calculated risks in tackling our nation’s biggest challenges.
Through a National Missions program that is bold and connects thinkers with industries and innovators, Federal and State Governments can design for success through strategic investment.
The creation of innovation districts as part of the National Missions program is fundamental to uplifting business investment into research and development from $24B in 20/21 to $42B (2.2 per cent of GDP), by 2030.
Education outcomes of these districts will be critical to delivering the 150,000 additional job-ready professionals in artificial intelligence needed by Australian industry in our push to be a globally competitive innovation nation by 2030.
CSIRO estimates that some 169,000 professionals in Artificial Intelligence will be needed by 2030 to support the demand from industry and create the products and exports of future economies.
Where will these jobs come from and where will they live?
Bunbury as an example is the heart of the Bunbury-Geographe region and has a diverse economic base as the service centre for the South West corner of Western Australia.
Centrally located between Perth and the major population centres of the region, Bunbury is the economic engine of the South West.
As a City, Bunbury supports the wider Bunbury-Geographe population of 104,300 and 41,700 workers, offering an enviable lifestyle and a unique platform to attract and retain a future work force.
Those primary industries prone to future automation and digital disruption including horticulture, livestock, food production and processing, timber, mining, energy generation, port and marine, heavy rail, road freight, oceanography and aquaculture are all on Bunbury’s doorstep.
With Bunbury’s access to major services and transport infrastructure such as Bunbury Port, rail, major highways, Busselton-Margaret River and Bunbury airport, and significant higher education opportunities, health and government services, Bunbury is well positioned to enable one of Australia’s fastest growing regions.
To meet these challenges and seize the opportunity of defining our future as an innovation nation, these foundational initiatives must be delivered to create a stage on which business and creatives can innovate, commercialise and compete globally.
1 - Regional Transport Connectivity
New models of integrated transport offer the opportunity to promote the development of Australia’s cities and regions by improving access to employment, education and services. Better transport connectivity improves economic and social ties and brings people and jobs closer together. At the same time, these connections can create broader economic benefits for regional centres.
2 - Digital Infrastructure Hubs
The future of Industry 4.0 and critical services such as healthcare will depend on an Internet of Things (IoT) powered by artificial intelligence and cognitive machine services. This capability requires extending high performing, resilient, high survivable networks, Cloud and edge compute into regional hubs with spokes into surrounding communities, to connect people to digital services and enable industries now and in the future.
3 - Alternate Energy Production & Storage
The secure supply of affordable, reliable, environmentally sustainable energy is essential to Australia’s future economic growth and prosperity. This creates opportunities across material sciences, light advanced manufacturing, and energy storage technology development, providing reliable, sustainable, and affordable energy able to power the future automation of Australia's primary industries.
4 - Advanced Heavy and Light Manufacturing
Dedicated precincts with the technology and infrastructure capabilities to attract private industries and incubate start-ups. In particular, light industries represent the Industry 4.0 opportunities of the future across areas such as:
- biopharmaceuticals such as immunotherapy, personalised treatment synthesis, vaccine development, and compound manufacturing
- 3D print manufacturing of custom biomedical implants, prosthetics, manufacturing components
- active pharmaceutical ingredients and medicinal chemistry (pharmaceutics) production
- advanced materials for use in alternate energy production, hydrogen, and energy storage, aerospace, building and transportation
- vertical farming and high-efficiency agriculture
These foundations will enable the decentralisation of command and control centres for automated industries such as telecommunications, banking, mining, and transport into the regions, where the total cost of ownership, lifestyle, and productivity costs are a fraction of those in capital cities.
During these particularly difficult times, there is a tendency to do the easy things to create stimulus, such as build roads and houses.
Although these investments provide an economic sugar-hit, they do not create ongoing, sustainable, and continuous economic outputs through the creation of new industries, economic advantage, or sustainable future jobs.
Courage, collaboration, and system thinking are needed to position Australia in how it connects our regional communities to the global markets of the future.
Strategic investment into the regions will help remove the technology and infrastructure barriers and unlock the research and educational capabilities for Australia to build resilience and prosperity through innovation.
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