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What’s behind the lights?

The next Silicon Valley in Fishermans Bend

10 Sep 2019

The next Silicon Valley in Fishermans Bend Image

Since forming 18 months ago, the Fishermans Bend Business Forum (FBBF) has provided a voice to some 400 forward-thinking businesses already operating in the urban renewal precinct.

While it has maintained a strong focus on the policy and planning issues associated with the state government’s vision for Fishermans Bend, addressed through the Fishermans Bend Taskforce, it has also been determined to make a positive contribution for future business growth.

With the state government ambitiously forecasting 80,000 jobs in the future Employment Precinct by 2050, the FBBF has been has been actively engaging with current businesses having developed a new database with support from the taskforce.

While development across the other four precincts – Montague, Sandridge, Wirraway and Lorimer – has been relatively stagnant, FBBF president Richard Blackman told Southbank Local News that the forum had been keen to help keep things moving for industry.

“We are aware that the Taskforce was engaging with some of the larger employers in the Employment Precinct such as General Motors, Boral, Boeing and the Defence Science and Technology but many of the small to medium enterprises were not becoming involved, and there was a sense of uncertainty about the plans for the future and how that might affect local businesses,” Mr Blackman said.

“In building our database we became aware of a number of clusters of similar businesses that had located in Fishermans Bend for historic reasons,” he said.

One of the drivers behind the cluster analysis is David Weston – the group’s executive officer. In a former life, Mr Weston has worked in various roles across business, government and tourism and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in January 2019.

“We are all aware of the power of the industries that have clustered around well-known areas such as Silicon Valley, but clustering of industries goes right back to the craft guilds of the early industrial revolution,” Mr Weston said.

According to David, the original concept of a “business cluster” was described by American academic Michael Porter as “a geographically proximate group of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field”.

“As we move into the what researchers call the fourth industrial revolution, the concept of clusters of innovation that generate new employment has evolved. Silicon Valley is one example, but other local examples include the bio-medical hub around Parkville,” Mr Weston said.

A published paper in the California Management Review defined clustering as “global economic hot spots where new technologies germinate at an astounding rate and where pools of capital, expertise, and talent foster the development of new industries and new ways of doing business.”

Educational and research institutions, in particular universities, can foster innovation as knowledge creation and diffusion centres, providing companies with valuable background expertise and skilled workers. They can also act as a source of entrepreneurial activity.

Richard Blackman said the decision of the University of Melbourne to locate its school of engineering at the former General Motors Holden (GMH) site would provide a catalyst for innovation.

“We are encouraged that the government is looking to locate at least one other technical university in the area,” said Mr Blackman. “The development of a master plan for the whole GMH site is the next important step.”

Other factors that support Fishermans Bend’s future as a national employment and innovation cluster (NEIC) are; support from government and public institutions, the presence of multinational companies and collaboration of players with a common interest.

Having developed a deep understanding of the businesses that are located in Fishermans Bend through its database, the FBBF has proposed three industry sectors as existing dynamic clusters: mobility and automotive, heavy construction materials and digital creative technology.

With cars, progressively over time, transitioning to electric or hydrogen fuel cell technologies, autonomous driving and shared use vehicles, General Motors and Toyota are both currently increasing their design and engineering teams in Fishermans Bend.

Also located in Fishermans Bend is the Nation Transport Research Centre operated by the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) and iMove, which is the Cooperative Research Centre for Transport and intelligent transport systems (ITS). ITS Australia delivers safer, more efficient and environmentally sustainable transport solutions and is part of a global network.

Other commercial businesses include, Sensys Gatso Australia – a Swedish based company that is the leading provider of traffic safety solutions delivering systems, software and services primarily for automatic traffic enforcement globally such as red-light cameras and speed monitoring systems.

The heavy construction materials industry is vital to our building and construction industries and underpins the development of Australia’s physical infrastructure. It generates approximately $15 billion in annual revenue and employs approximately 30,000 Australians directly, and a further 80,000 indirectly.

The Melbourne Cement Facilities at Wharf 26 and 27 on Lorimer St each day welcomes ships to discharge their loads of raw cement. New silos for holding and transhipping this are currently under construction in order to fulfil the current and future infrastructure projects undertaken by local and federal governments to cater for the rapidly growing population of Victoria.

Fishermans Bend is also home to over 30 companies involved in film and digital postproduction, studio hire, camera equipment hire, outside broadcast equipment and set design. The advent of digital effects offers an opportunity to expand including the further expansion of the digital games industry.

FBBF is assisting government to identify the opportunities through the creation of the “Creative Tech Hub” concept.


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