2020 has taught us that while you can never control the future, it’s always best to prepare for it. As the pandemic hit, businesses across the world scrambled to adapt to the “new normal.”
In Joondalup, the usually bustling city centre took on a new look as digital technology solutions like video conferencing replaced in-person meetings.
It was a challenging time for many. But in the confusing uncertainty of those early lockdown weeks something very encouraging began to emerge.
Businesses in Joondalup were adapting swiftly to the “new normal”, and in many cases thriving.
But these clever tweaks were no accident of circumstance.
For many years the City of Joondalup has been working hard to make Joondalup a centre for innovation, fostering a nimble network of businesses and community groups embracing technology, agile thinking and problem solving.
And as new generations of students and workers make Joondalup their home, this “can do” spirit is the foundation of the city’s future.
Joondalup is a magnet for innovation
In 2017, Joondalup became WA’s first ever recognised Innovation Hub tasked with fostering technological advancements, research and training so the City becomes an engine of creativity.
Though already well established as a forward-thinking place to do business, the Innovation Hub provides a focal point for Joondalup’s efforts as a positive example of making your own future.
From ECU’s Business & Innovation Centre to health, data and software groups in the city centre, Joondalup is attracting professionals and students making the technologies of the future.
Through the efforts of the City and associations like the Joondalup Business Association, Joondalup has established a forward-thinking business community with help always at hand.
Now that Western Australia’s economy is coming back to life, the City’s leaders are continuing the “can do” spirit and elevating their ongoing efforts to make the region a magnet for innovation.
But they also recognise that educating the next generation is crucial for maintaining the innovative edge the city’s business and community groups have worked so hard to create.
Future proofing Joondalup for the next generation
A major initiative for the City to foster nimble and agile ways of thinking and working for the next generation is the Joondalup Innovation Challenge, which was run in early July.
Designed to build the employability and resilience of university students, participants were challenged to create digital solutions to real world problems affecting the City’s residents, with the results now available for local businesses and groups to engage with.
Despite disruption by COVID-19, 150 students from Curtin University, the University of Western Australia, Edith Cowan University and North Metro TAFE took up the challenge, which was partnered by Study Perth and supported by Spacecubed and the Joondalup Business Association.
Split into multidisciplinary teams, the students took on real life challenges (identified through the City’s own business engagement program), facilitated by leading business minds like Natasha Munasinghe, CEO of education group FRANK, and Isabelle Goldfarb, programs manager at the co-working group SpaceCubed.
The challenges included cyber security, tourism and how SMEs (small to medium enterprises) in the Joondalup region can emerge stronger from the challenge of COVID-19.
Under pressure in a fast-paced environment that demanded excellence, the students were exposed to key entrepreneurship and startup methods so they could develop ideas quickly.
They learned how to wireframe and test their ideas, then pitch them to a live audience, all in the space of one supercharged week of activities.
Reflecting on the challenge’s impact, Ms Munasinghe said participants received valuable work-ready experience they can leverage in their career portfolios.
“By participating in a TedX style, rapid hackathon-type event, participants learn and apply technology skills, build crucial virtual teamwork skills working with teammates from over 17 countries and apply entrepreneurial thinking to real-world problems impacting humanity,” she said.
“All of us need to learn the new skills needed like distributed leadership skills, virtual communication skills and technology literacy. For the students who are willing to look to the horizon and be proactive with this skill building, there is an opportunity to build a thriving career for themselves and position themselves as leaders and influencers.”
Joondalup Mayor Albert Jacob said COVID-19 had made innovative thinking and business adaptability more critical than ever.
“The Joondalup Innovation Challenge brings together our local businesses and our future workforce and gives them the tools to innovate,” he said.
“As a City, our goal is to build Joondalup’s reputation as a place for innovation and creativity by enhancing growth in the creative industries and innovative businesses that expand local strategic employment.”
Keeping local connections strong
While the next generation of business leaders learns their craft through the Joondalup Innovation Challenge, the City is deepening the links between existing enterprises.
COVID-19 proved that connection is crucial for community and business continuity, so the digital Joondalup Business Catalogue (Catalogue) has become an integral part of the City’s business life.
For Business to Business (B2B) connections, members of the catalogue can search for other businesses in their field to network with. They can also post opportunities for jobs and connect with local suppliers, encouraging the ethos of “buy local, think global.”
For people looking for services, the Catalogue offers an easy to navigate service that provides up to date information and quick connection.
An example of this in action is the very first post to the catalogue from Quality Resort Sorrento Beach, which needed $10,000 worth of new signage for its seaside premises.
Managing Director Andrew Slomp said local suppliers who engaged with the catalogue quoted for the job, which was completed quickly to order.
“The benefits for participants are access to local suppliers and the opportunity to have locals more aware of your product or service if they need it,” he said.
“In some cases, due to COVID restrictions, existing interstate suppliers or contractors are unavailable so the Catalogue provides a quick reference to find locals to hopefully form ongoing future supply chains.”
Members of the catalogue can also access services like the Joondalup Business Diagnostic, an online digital tool that analyses businesses and helps identify areas that can be improved.
These services are another example of the agile and forward-thinking ways the City is strengthening its business community now and fostering an attitude of constant innovation that builds the businesses of tomorrow.
Innovation is universal
The City is accelerating its efforts to become a magnet for innovation, switching its local economy from one centred on population growth to one built on technology, new investment and agile thinking.
The Joondalup Innovation Challenge was a clear demonstration of the strong support the next generation of innovators will enjoy in the City.
And as COVID-19 proved, it’s not just the tech sector in Joondalup that can benefit from innovation, every business can.
With strong support from the City, the region is becoming more than a hub of innovation - it’s a place defined by it. Whatever challenge the future brings, the City is ready.