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Bloggers and thought leaders with a passion for regional economic development, innovation and business improvement.

Townsville Innovative Future

Resilient Townsville

Allow me to introduce myself and my region, Townsville. My name is Matthew Bulat and I have been a Townsville resident for the last 13 years including having the role of Chairman of the Australian Computer Society North Queensland Chapter for over 10 years. Networking has helped be participate in multiple community and industry groups. My background includes the industries of Information, Communication & Technology (ICT), Government and Education. This period and roles has allowed me a greater understanding of the region in terms of history, change, insights and the future.

Townsville has a City Deal signed by 3 levels of government to help define its 15 year future. This includes the topics of the port, defence bases, CBD, export growth, innovation, energy and infrastructure.

North Queensland Stadium begins construction this year bringing new construction activity up to 2020.

Both JCU and CQU universities opened new buildings this year.

Global mineral values have influenced how many fly in fly out miners operate from Townsville. We also provide some of the software used in the mining industry. Adani is expected to create a headquarters in Townsville for their new coal mine.

The port expansion to allow bigger ships has allowed large cruise ships to visit Townsville. It can also accommodate all the Australian Navy vessels types. This means more visitors to Townsville and boosts Tourism.

There are 2 solar farms starting this year to the south and west of Townsville. One solar farm is in response to high energy costs for the Zinc refinery. This bring new engineering and skills to Townsville.

Up to 14,000 Singapore troops will be trained in Townsville and Shoalwater Bay. This brings young people from all industries to see Townsville and possibly partner with local industry in the future.

Water availability is currently low in Townsville. There will be an options paper delivered this year. This may start new civil projects in the near future. There is a pilot wireless water meter system in place.

Energy Queensland will have a new headquarters in Townsville. This may prompt new research in energy efficiency, demand management, renewable energy and energy storage.

James Cook University created an off peak chilled water 12 million litre tank facility that provides daytime cooling for the campus buildings. This has flattened the energy use curve between day and night.

Kidston solar and pumped storage will begin construction this year. This uses 2 former open cut mines as a high dam / low dam hydro electricity generator. Solar is used to pump to the high dam when there is low demand.

Agriculture and the Great Barrier Reef have dependencies. Water flows need to be low in nutrients and silt. Earthworks and fertiliser application is avoided during the wet season. I helped design 3 fertiliser calculators to have just enough of the select nutrients to grow a selected crop. This saves money and avoids waste.

Townsville participated in the Solar City programme. This gained knowledge on how to manage energy creation and use. Magnetic Island provided the platform for new ideas such as solar, energy efficiency, smart meters and demand management. Magnetic Island now does not need to upgrade its electricity feed in transmission for years into the future. A Townsville house can generate 1000 kWh per month from solar.

Townsville participated in the IBM Smarter Cities programme. IBM helped create the future roadmap for a Smart City design. We now have a shared low powered wide area network that covers the whole city for projects like the Internet of Things. There are multiple environment IoT sensor network systems running.

NBN used Townsville as an early release site for testing. This helped establish 18 suburbs with NBN fibre to the premises. New high tech industries are now taking advantage of this infrastructure. The council also provides 500MB of NBN per day from the libraries, CBD, sporting stadiums and tourism attractions. I wrote up 74 ways to use and NBN connection. Business can update their business to take advantage of the NBN.

STEM education development can be seen in multiple ways in Townsville. CSIRO Scientist in School, Young ICT Explorer, Digital Careers, TechNQ / Tafe / CQU / JCU, Startup Weekend, iNQ Townsville Innovation Centre and Small Business Development Centre. My roles include teacher, participant, judge, mentor and lecturer. One of my interests is Skills Framework of the Information Age (SFIA) for ICT skills awareness, skills management and skills gap analysis. This is useful in planning startups, projects or organisations to meet their goals.

Other community desires include a Cooperative Research Centre, tropical energy, resilience from cyclones, energy security, water security, sustainability education, floating solar on our dam, cloud computing region management and fuel security. I wrote up 17 business models based on a community Resilient Townsville workshop.

Townsville of the future will be resilient, sustainable and smart. The article show how this is coming together. We can develop new ideas, confirm product market fit, create an advanced sustainable business model and scale up. The world can be our marketplace. If my website can reach 180 countries every month then so can yours.

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David Wallader
Reference is made to your report 'Resilient Townsville', Matthew and I am very aware of the political barriers of growth in the no... Read More
Friday, 17 March 2017 11:18
Matthew Bulat
One of the current issues that is limiting growth is water security. Townsville is on level 3 water restrictions and have been pum... Read More
Friday, 17 March 2017 20:30
David Wallader
As reported in a media release mid-February by Ashleigh James, Senior Policy Analyst of the Australian Water Association; "Diving ... Read More
Saturday, 18 March 2017 04:35
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What infrastructure would your region develop if you already had access to the money?

THERE is so much opportunity to enhance particular regions throughout Australia with astute development of major infrastructure. The problem, as we all know, is funding that infrastructure.

I know we can change that.

Australia has traditionally relied upon State and Federal Governments to take the lead in this area, but I can see that Australia has an even greater opportunity to get major infrastructure happening through private-led investment.

Region-changing projects such as rail (and fast rail), airports, ports, energy developments, tunnels, dams, major integrated agriculture projects … you name it … can happen faster, at lower cost, and with no impost on the taxpayer. That’s right – no project funding is needed from the government that ‘designs’ and facilitates this infrastructure, yet the government bodies that help create it still ‘own’ it.

At this point I usually hear the words, “it sounds too good to be true”. In Australia, it does sound too good to be true, because we have not seen, or perhaps understood, a financial infrastructure trading platform before.

To my understanding, there are only two infrastructure trading platforms in the world today that organise this type of funding and I have lobbied hard for one of them – based in the United Kingdom – to modify its foundation funding levels so that Australia can access it. My company, Infrastructure Financial Opportunity Pty Ltd, is helping this platform to find suitable infrastructure projects around Australia.

The system is simple and elegant, is closely audited by world financial compliance authorities – including the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve, with the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) overseeing the regulations and legalities of profit as a business venture – and the funding principle has been utilised for more than 60 years in Europe and for certain projects in Asia.

Greater portions of Japan’s fast rail development, for example, have been funded in this way – because it gets economy-changing major infrastructure supported and built more effectively than any other financial system.

The Governments, including their Statutory Bodies, and Private Enterprises that back this infrastructure funding method can more rapidly open up new economic growth areas, I believe.

I can see a day when several local governments would get together to develop, say, a rail loop that linked key agricultural production and tourism areas with a regional airport or port, and this loop could be augmented by solar panels to become an energy production system in its own right.

It’s possible, with the right kind of regional leadership.

I have been working for more than 15 years to introduce this type of infrastructure funding to Australia and the hurdle has been that the ‘price of admission’ has been too high for Australian companies.

Up until the past year, the bank guarantee required to open up this funding had been set at US$500 million – but through a lot of negotiations we have now been able to set it at €100 million (in the A$ equivalent).

This level of bank guarantee – an instrument required to demonstrate and prove the infrastructure developer’s worthiness, by way of a secure communication to his prospective business partner, in a process I will describe in my next blog – could generate enough cash to support a project of more than $1 billion.

At the completion of the trading period contracted, usually just a few years, that infrastructure would be debt free and effectively owned by the government entities that commissioned the project.

The reason the platform has been re-organised for Australia is that the European financiers see enormous prospects for our national infrastructure development and can see that a great many projects would get off the ground, given the right financial opportunity.

I’m thrilled about the advent of The RED Toolbox because I have had some difficulty explaining these prospects to authorities and commercial partners across Australia. I think The RED Toolbox can help to bring innovative infrastructure projects to the fore that will be of long-term benefit to regional economic and social development.

I hope I will be able to play a role in bringing at least some of them to fruition through this highly innovative secure audited financial system.

-          David Wallader.

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Geelong - Industry Positioning for an “Assistive Technology Economic Ecosystem”

My name is Steve Zanon and my company provides a suite of services around four principal activities:

Management Consultancy Services in:
     1. Developing and Deploying New Products and Services in Emerging Markets
               - New Commercial Operating Models
               - Business Process Redesign
               - Bringing ‘Next Generation’ Technology to Market
     2. Assistive Technology for Seniors/Ageing and Disability (primarily around cognitive and sensory decline)
     3. Educational Pedagogy for K-12 schools and VET/TAFE (IP portfolio)
     4. Senior Level Project and Program Management Services

One of my current projects involves Geelong (Vic), which is in a unique position to be a global leader in Assistive Technologies (MedTech) and an international centre for disability and aged care services development – a market sector with perpetual growth, both here and overseas.

 

Geelong already has the industry segments needed to create a viable “Assistive Technology Economic Ecosystem” with key convergent industries in manufacturing, health, education and insurance. A co-ordinated approach is all that is required to build on existing strengths. This offers significant economic and social benefits for the region as a whole.

 

The Assistive Technology Market in Australia has been estimated at $4B p.a. Asia is 60 times larger. One in every ten Australians relies on Assistive Technology in their daily lives. (ABS 2004) 9% of the Australian population under the age of 65 experience core activity limitations ranging from mild to severe. The number leaps to approximately 40% for people over 65. Unfortunately, consumer drop off rates exceed 50%. Approx 85% of Assistive Technology is currently old technology and imported. Effective Assistive Technology provision can reduce long-term care and healthcare costs, increase participation in employment and education, and significantly improve the lives of our ageing population, those in rehab or with a disability.

 

We’re in the process of aligning the following key industries to produce something unique in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

Insurance : Geelong has become the regional and national hub for social insurance. It is home to the headquarters of the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), Transport Accident Commission (TAC), and WorkSafe Victoria. Together these three organisations form the backbone of the newly created Australian Injury and Disability Insurance Network (AIDIN) positioning Geelong as the centre of excellence in the field. This combined industry expertise and access to big data is unparalleled in Asia-Pac.

 

Manufacturing : A significant blue and white collar manufacturing skills base and engineering infrastructure exists in Geelong and manufacturers are seeking ways to diversify or transition away from the traditional heavy industry base. Opportunities also exist to efficiently recondition, upgrade and resupply used equipment, with client specific requirements driving the approach.

 

Health : A confluence of major health providers including Barwon Health, GMHBA, the Western Vic PHN, 42 residential aged care facilities, the recently merged Karingal & St Laurence, the Epworth and the McKellar Centre hospitals are all established in Geelong and they are increasingly focussed on research and innovation in the provision of their services. The NDIS Barwon trial site could provide the proving ground for the next generation of health care - a client centred response to the development of assistive technologies and health services, highly personalised for people with a disability.

 

Research & Education : Research and industry partnerships with CSIRO, Deakin University and Gordon TAFE are driving innovation and design in metals, chemicals, fibres, biotech and advanced manufacturing practices. Advanced manufacturing is gaining traction with exciting new developments in future fibre research, world first carbon fibre technology, i-manufacturing, additive manufacturing, device sensors, and more.

 

Logistics : Geelong’s transport assets including Avalon Airport, national road and rail links, and port infrastructure will support links into national and global supply chains.

 

 

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Angus M Robinson
An embedded manufacturing culture in the local community (arguably the strongest in Australia) is a key asset for this program.... Read More
Sunday, 19 March 2017 05:54
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The Bundaberg Region - Introduction

I am Neil McPhillips and I own and operate an Economic Development Consultancy company called Starfire Solutions, based in the Bundaberg Region of Queensland.  I have lived in the small beachside community of Bargara for the past thirteen (13), having come to the region to perform one twelve month consultancy and have never left.  Much of my work is performed as the “Business Bundaberg Consultant”; I provide my services to the Bundaberg Regional Council for high-level economic development activities including investment attraction and business and industry development.

The Bundaberg region – my home, is nestled adjacent to the southern Great Barrier Reef and is the perfect place to reside.  Located just to the north of the hustle and bustle of the South East Queensland corner, the region presents a relaxed lifestyle alternative for those of us seeking to establish our roots in a non-metropolitan commercial centre with an array of industry in which to find employment.

Only four hours’ drive north of Brisbane lies this region, centered around the city of Bundaberg and the towns of Childers, Gin Gin, Burnett Heads, Moore Park and Woodgate.  With a strong agricultural history, the district presents an attractive and productive backdrop to a wholesome, family lifestyle.  Known as one of the country’s “food bowls” thanks to the famous sub-tropical climate, we are blessed with a smorgasbord of fresh delights such as strawberries, macadamia nuts and a huge range of fruit and vegetable crops.  Sugar cane was the original mainstay crop of the region but innovative and entrepreneurial farmers have diversified into many agricultural and horticultural pursuits.

The region covers more than 6,500 square kilometers, has a population a close to 100,000 and boasts diverse natural resources and facilities reflected in its off shore, coastal, riverine, city, rural and protected environments. With established export markets in horticulture, seafood, livestock, food/beverage and agri-processing, sugar cane, aviation and education, the area has abundant investment opportunities for the discerning entrepreneur.

The region’s business and industry have a proven track record in responding positively to change and competition in the international marketplace. This success is founded in a continued commitment by all sectors to invest in world class infrastructure, intellectual capital and quality management systems, together with persistent research and development. Considerable investment opportunities in value adding industries and a congenial mix of natural attractions, existing industry, raw produce, facilities and services.

So…welcome to the Bundaberg Region.  The home of Mon Repos Turtle experience, gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and iconic brand names such as Bundaberg Rum, Bundaberg Brewed Drinks, Bundaberg Sugar…to name just a few.

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Phil Henry
HI Neil - you might recall we met in Longreach quite some years ago when you were doing some work for RAPAD. Great to see you on ... Read More
Wednesday, 22 March 2017 16:27
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Innovative businesses and regions

I would like to use this initial blog post to introduce myself, summarise my background and give out you a brief overview of my focus on developing innovative businesses and regions. My name is Colin Graham and I am the founder of Causeway Innovation based on Australia’s Sunshine Coast .

My background

After completing a marketing degree at Strathclyde University in Glasgow, my business career started in product management for ICI Dulux near London, progressing through a few roles to become International Product Manager.

Just before joining Dulux, a friend and I made a pact that we would go and work for big companies for 3 years, get some experience before leaving to set up our own business. My friend was recruited to work in finance with Citibank and I took up the marketing role with Dulux.

Our plan worked. We put our heads down and worked hard. We made the most of the experience and did good work for our employers. We also convened our own ‘Escape Committee’ meetings – to work up our business plans.

A few months shy of the three-year mark, we left our jobs and set off on our own startup adventure. I still remember the last day at my big company. Many of my colleagues asked me how I felt – ‘Liberated!’ was my answer. One suggested it was a big risk to leave a secure job and a promising career, I said that I felt it was a bigger risk to stay.

So having left life as a big company employee behind, I became the co-founder and CEO of Yellowbrick Training with clients such as Deloitte, IBM and Unilever in the UK and N. America. We offered recruitment and training services and ran research projects with nearly 40 major businesses across the world on tapping into graduate talent and published reports which sold well and gained outstanding media coverage in the Financial Times, BBC and Wall Street Journal. I found out that a small team of entrepreneurial, hard working and passionate people could achieve a lot in a short time.

Later I joined the Career Innovation Group in Oxford working with around 20 global businesses, running research projects and forums in Silicon Valley to help them to understand a new generation of knowledge workers. This work highlighted that the biggest competition for talent these businesses faced was not from other big companies but from startups and the talented people themselves who would leave to set up their own businesses. Many of our clients in Yellowbrick and the Ci Group were tech companies and this gave me exposure to new business trends.

After that I set up a Student Business Incubator for the Robert Gordon University in Scotland – perhaps 10 to 15 years ahead of similar initiatives in Australia - and ran the MBA New Venture Creation Class.

In 2002, I migrated to Australia to be the founding CEO of the Innovation Centre at the University of the Sunshine Coast - which has supported over 180 startups to date and made $1bn economic impact over a decade - and in 2012 left to establish Causeway Innovation. Over the last five years, my focus has been on how to develop innovative businesses, hubs and regions – particularly places outside the big capital cities.

Developing innovative businesses and regions

It seems that almost every week another city or region proudly announces that it is going to be the next Silicon Valley. Recent announcements include Utah, Ukraine, Vietnam, Western Sydney and even Cuba.  The reality is that none of these – or a hundred other wannabe places - is likely to be the next Silicon Valley.

Attempting to directly copy Silicon Valley does not work.  It's difficult to replicate something that has developed over many decades through a unique combination of history, culture, geography, people, businesses, investors, government and education institutions, technologies and networks.

So rather than trying to create the next Silicon Valley, I believe regions must consider how innovation and entrepreneurship are relevant for their community. This means identifying and building on strengths, assets and opportunities.

To date, there has been an emphasis on the role of startups – particularly technology startups – in creating new jobs and this is beginning to be partly balanced with a recognition of the vital role played by growth oriented SMEs.

Innovation is broader than launching new products. The OECD and ABS define innovation as ‘creating new or improved product or services, improving operational processes, and introducing new marketing methods or other workplace practices including collaboration.’

My point of view, backed up by research evidence, is that innovation happens at all stages of the business lifecycle and is not just confined to high tech startups. It happens – and is needed – by businesses at all stages and across all sectors of the economy.

In most regions, the central contributors to innovation are startups and SMEs and they need to be central players in a highly visible regional innovation ecosystem.

Despite some challenges in comparison to larger cities and more urban areas, motivated entrepreneurs across many regions are still able to find ways to run successful businesses particularly when there are able to tap into technology to connect with customers, suppliers, team members and partners across the world.

Whilst advances in technology open up new opportunities to do ‘business from anywhere’ the evidence shows that high technology businesses and investment are increasingly concentrating in major cities with concentrations of innovators, service firms, university talent flows and investors. Regions need to work hard to increase the visibility and connectivity between key elements of the ecosystem as well as leveraging the innovation assets available in neighboring communities and major cities.

Startup density is an important factor in growing successful startup ecosystems.[1] Regions must work to ‘create their own density’ by bringing people together via business networking events and making the most of Innovation Hubs.

Business focus

Today, I work with start-ups and established businesses and assist economic development agencies, universities, private developers and others to develop regional innovation projects.  This includes:

  • Running programs to develop startup ecosystems that include building a network via a social media platform, and running business education, networking and mentoring programs.

  • Innovation Master Class – a 2 month business development program aimed at ambitious owner mangers of growth oriented SMEs

  • Running workshops on topics including Build a Better Startup and Pitching for Investment and the Meet the Entrepreneur series

  • Developing business cases and advising on new innovation projects e.g. coworking spaces, innovation hubs and precincts


[1] StartupAus Crossroads Report 2016

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Export. Export. Export. Full STEAM ahead.

Alan Kohler is a good bloke. Of all the journos writing for the Australian he consistently tells it as it is. In simple English. Which is what we all expect of journalists of course, but such commentary is rare and hard to find.

The “Treasurer’s debt dilemma” is a very good piece.

It highlights the problem the treasurer has in needing to cut spending to placate the ratings agencies (which Mr Kohler points out quite rightly have little real credence after rating collateralised debt obligations - CDOs - as AAA in 2006). What do they really know and why do we listen to what they say anyway?

It’s a crazy and bizarro world we live in, trying to see through the blurry spiders webs of perception, fake news, PR and hyperbole.

Alan Kohler blows a lot of that fluff away. Regularly. In the Australian and on the ABC. Malcolm should make him the Treasurer. In the US he could, but not here. I wish it were that easy.

While the government’s attention is focused on “not” spending money, we need to shift our attention to how to “make” more money in the first place.

Cutting company tax is not the solution to “jobs and growth”.

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Rod Brown
Yes John, Action Agendas are the way to go, but the current governments need to realise that collaborative Action Teams or workin... Read More
Thursday, 20 April 2017 09:42
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Introduction Celia Murray - IP Licensing

Hello and great to connect with you.

I am an IP licensing specialist. This means that I help progressive companies either commercailise and monetise your own intellectal property to create new income streams, or help you to license someone else's intellectual ptoperty to grow your business.

Intellectual property elements includes trademarks, brands, software, patents, innovations, images and designs which may reside in your business.  You can license these, it is like leasing these assets, to other companies who then pay you a royalty income.  When managed carefully, licensing is a controlled programme and your assets are used according to your rules.

We are a nation of innovators and love our brands.  Licensing can extend your brand into new consumer products and services; globalise your innovation to create new sales income and increase business value.  I wish to add value to progressive companies who have intellectual property and want to learn how to monetise this.

ABOUT ME:  Owner of Untapped Agency, an intellectual property licensing agency which enhances brands to commercialise and monetise.  Educator of company owners, Cheif Executives and Directors as to innovative licensing programmes.  As an IP Licensing specialist and a Trademarks Attorney, I offer commercial marketing and sales experience with intellectual property law to execute licensed programmes.  I am recruited by companies to develop licensing strategic plans, deal negotiation, brand launches and total licensing management on behalf of IP Owners.

Check me out here Linked In and contact me at Untapped Agency here.  I hope I can help you grow.

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Mike Sullivan
Celia, I find the area you are working in fascinating from the perspective of regional companies being able to add value to their... Read More
Saturday, 18 March 2017 13:32
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If you build it - they will come?

Sometimes - but not all the time. I have followed this journey that Digital Business Insights has been on for quite a while now. If the above was entirely true, we would have got here quicker. But sometimes it's difficult to bring people along for a journey unless WIFM is very very clear. Ultimately it's about ENGAGEMENT. Mutual benefit is by far the strongest business relationship there can be.

My name is Stephen King. I have a pretty diverse resume. Ultimately my experience in the Air Force, Private sector and Not for Profit sector has shown me that my real skill is Problem Solving. I started my business - The Sponsorhsip Brokers three years ago because I was frustrtaed at the lack of real engagement in most relationships between those wanting to raise revenue and those wishing to invest it. In my world the term Sponsorship causes all sorts of reactions. For most it means donating to someone with little measurable return. Find someone next year that proposes to be different and the circle continues. Don't get me wrong - some do it really well and they guard this process well.

Originally, I thought that my business would focus primarily on the revenue seeker side - think Association, Charity or other Not for Profit. The reality now is that we work with both sides. There is more power in a Corporate taking real control of their spend. Why wade through 100's of copies of proposals - hoping to stumble across the one that fits your strategy. We have found that identifying who can best deliver to you on that strategy with very real measurable returns works very well.

So now we see opportunities everywhere.

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Celia Murray
Hi Stephen The Sponsorship programme you manage by creating a measurable return is fundamental. Every organisation wants to help ... Read More
Monday, 20 March 2017 13:34
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One job at a time…

Work as we have known it is dying. Careers are dead. Offices are disappearing slowly. Intriguingly, there is still a Careers Advisors Association in Australia, though I wonder what they know that nobody else does.

Work is now contracts, part time and freelance. Even academia, government and professional services are increasingly shifting into contractual insecurity.

There is still stability at the top of course, which is what you would expect with senior managers, vice chancellors and directors looking after themselves, but it is now virtually impossible to steadily climb the “ladder” unless you begin at the top by starting your own business.

So how easy will it be for our children to navigate this new world of work? We continue to make it increasingly difficult for them compared to how it used to be. Free education for instance.

Are we preparing them properly for this much harsher world or still selling them ancient myths and dreams based on our educational years and working experience?

For what is this madness, that a generation of politicians who received a free education that gave them a chance of success in a job rich world, condemn the current generation to pay for their own education in a world where jobs disappear daily?

And we are doing this to them. It is not their fault. It is our fault.

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new Food Accelerator opens on the Sunshine Coast

new Food Accelerator opens on the Sunshine Coast

GC picGrow Coastal Members12 excited foodies ready to excel as Innovation Centre’s Grow Coastal food & beverage accelerator program takes off

With a $12,000 boost and one of the world’s leading food accelerator experts at their side, it’s no wonder these Sunshine Coast food and beverage entrepreneurs are grinning.

From more than sixty applications across the Coast, the lucky handful were chosen for their innovative ideas, scalability and commercial viability.

The Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast, Food and Agribusiness Network and Advance Queensland are behind the three month Grow Coastal accelerator program, a Sunshine Coast first focussing on producers who are interested in scaling up fast and bringing their vision to life to deliver new food and beverage innovations to the market.

International food industry expert Tara Mei is delivering the program bringing a great deal of expertise as founder of Kitchen Table Projects of London, having supported the growth of over 500 food and beverage businesses from startup to scaleup.

“Demand for quality, innovative food products is growing faster than ever before and there is an opportunity for local businesses to capture that market,” she said.

“The participants are going to be thrown ‘in the pan’ so to speak as we explore crowdfunding, conduct research, host tastings, navigate publicity, engage with industry leaders, secure new customers and build major networks of helpful connections.”

Innovation Centre Sunshine Coast's CEO Mark Paddenburg congratulated the successful participants of the 2017 Food Accelerator program for their innovative ideas and the quality of their products.

"Our region has some exceptionally high quality and innovative products and is well positioned to exceed locally and even globally," he said.

Grow Coastal's 12 participating food or beverage businesses:

Lauren Brisbane of QCamel

 

James Carruthers of Whole Blend

 

Pip Thrum of Pip's Real Food

 

Karen Barnett of Montville Coffee

 

Linda Tabone of Suncoast Limes

 

Jason Janetzki of Brightside Bagels

 

Natalie Dalton of Frozen Sunshine

 

Mathew Walker of Crazy Fresh

 

Andrew Terlich of At One Foods

 

Ange Jones of Sow Grow Eat

Peter Ansell of Sixty at Sixty

 

Matt Hepburn of Your Mates Brewing

 

 

 

 

 

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Introduction to Outsource Institute of Technology

Introduction to Outsource Institute of Technology

Allow me to introduce myself and my company, Outsource Institute of Technology. Outsource Institute of Technology is a premium provider of “advanced trade” training to some of Queensland’s and Australia’s largest engineering and mining companies including Anglo America Coal, New Hope coal, Bechtel, EDI Downer, McConnell Dowel and a range of smaller organisations such as Custom Fluid Power, Austin Engineering and Stoddart Manufacturing.

I have managed Outsource Institute over the last eighteen years and have found major barriers to providing advanced trade and para-professional engineering training in remote settings such as mine sites and regional towns. This includes their remoteness and the inflexibility of traditional training providers such as universities and TAFE colleges to meet the specific needs of the companies and individuals requiring the skills.

Outsource Institute has removed these barriers by offering on-site, on-time delivery methodologies that are designed to meet the growing need for advanced trade skills in the mining and engineering sector. The role of the tradesperson is changing from “the dirty, greasy hands” model to dealing with information technology and automated control systems. These new skills and knowledge requirements are placing new demands on tradespeople and their employers, particularly in the areas of Fluid Power, Instrumentation and Mechatronics. Even in the agricultural sector, swarm farming and automated “driverless” harvesters are emerging to increase the return on investment of expensive farm machinery.

The Federal and State governments across the nation have recognised the requirement to support a lifelong learning approach for technical and trades employees and handsomely support their national productivity objectives with training incentives and state based funding. What is most alarming is the intake of new apprentices that has dropped by 45% nationally over the last few years. Of course, we can blame the end of the mining boom and global financial markets but regional employment is at a critical level for regional towns and their communities.

The Queensland Government’s Youth Boost employment incentive offer of $20,000 for employers hiring staff aged between fifteen and twenty-four years in regional Queensland was originally meant to end on February 28, 2017. However, following representations from employers and regional Members of Parliament, the Queensland Government has extended the Youth Boost employment incentive until 31 October 2017 to re-energise the employment of trainees and apprentices

In the coming years we will see up to $90 billion worth of projects commence in Queensland alone in mining, infrastructure and construction. I urge regional employers to become part of the solution to building a highly skilled, up-to-date, and tech-savvy workforce by taking advantage of the federal and state based training incentives and the flexible delivery methods available to all regions nationally. If we fail to do so, regional employers will take a step back to the mid-mining boom years and experience yet another national skill shortage that drives wages up and reduces their opportunities to fulfill their project contractual requirements.

 

Carl Spruce

Outsource Institute of Technology Website: www.outsourceinstitute.com.au

Youth Boost Payment Website: https://backtowork.initiatives.qld.gov.au/youth-boost-payment

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Australian Advanced Manufacturing – Where are the Bright Spots?

As we move into 2017, the Australian Government is placing much faith into its Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) which points to the success of a number of globally focused Australian advanced manufacturers. AMGC claim that “these companies employ a large number of scientists and collaborate heavily with universities and the CSIRO. Perhaps the best-known example is Cochlear, which designs, produces and supplies implants for the hearing-impaired in more than 100 countries. Other companies such as Cablex, Marand Precision Engineering and Sutton Tools may not be household names, yet each of these ‘quiet champions’ has established indelible places in global supply chains by contributing high-value tools and parts that other manufacturers convert into finished goods.”

That said, it needs to be recognised that prior to 2000, manufacturing was largely about the production of goods. Today, the boundary between manufacturing and services is disappearing - manufacturing is now the full cycle of activities from research and development, through design, production, logistics and services to end of life management.

In today's globally competitive environment, manufacturers are innovators, global supply chain managers and service providers who are engaged not only in production but in research, design and service provision. In other words, manufacturers are engaged in activities that develop, produce and deliver both goods and services to customers.

When a company claims to be a manufacturer, and in the case of larger firms, an 'original equipment manufacturer' (OEM), it is more than likely that the manufacturer is assembling a whole range of products made by other companies.

In the case of aerospace, automotive and defence OEMs, there is a supply chain relationship which extends through first, second and even third tier suppliers. It is this system that allows OEMs to leverage competition between various suppliers at each level in the system.

Some manufacturers (the former Australian owned HPM comes to mind in this regard) prefer to be totally vertically integrated. These firms more often than not and where they have the expertise, are disposed to make the machines that do the manufacturing and assembly of the various componentry. Although vertical integration is becoming less common as companies now tend to specialise at some point in the overall global system. Moreover, many of the truly advanced manufacturing economies are characterised by firms that specialise in making (increasingly) robotic manufacturing machinery.

Therefore today's global manufacturing system is part of a complex and highly integrated value chain, making it prone to fluctuations in global input costs and the Australian dollar. The value chain includes 'cutting edge' science and technology, innovation, skills, design, systems engineering, supply chain excellence, and a wide range of intelligent services. It also includes energy-efficient, sustainable and low-carbon manufacturing. In one sense the growth of additive manufacturing and digital manufacturing generally as well as robotics combined with artificial intelligence is driving this transformation. Moreover, Australia does have a rich tapestry of SMEs from software and product developers such as Planet Innovation and Grey Innovation through to key suppliers in the global value chain such as Micreo and Cap-XX.

In short, for the longer term benefit to Australia, advanced manufacturing needs to be understood as the establishment of industrial ecosystems where 'value add' can be maximised through the growth of technology-enabled firms which transform away from just assembling and/or integrating imported componentry.

The AMGC now concedes that much more work is needed to ensure that a new generation of Australian companies follow their success. Major items on the nation’s to-do list include skilling Australia’s workforce, fostering stronger research collaboration and offering greater capital funding for start-ups. Not surprisingly, the Growth Centre has claimed that "with the right blend of committed industry partnerships and government support, the future of advanced manufacturing in Australia is bright."

For its part, the Manufacturing on the Move (MotM) LinkedIn discussion group which is providing input to Reinvent Australia supports the AMGC view that there needs to be a strong focus on improve government support for business-led R&D and encourage industry–research collaboration. MotM also encourages the AMGC to keep an open dialogue with manufacturers, research institutions and industry associations and to encourage strong prospects to apply for and co-fund projects.

MotM is also arguing that there is an opportunity for the Australian Government to follow the lead of the UK and USA Governments to set aside a proportion of the substantial Defence procurement budgets (particularly relating to submarines and warships) for supply by Australian SMEs. Without a legislative framework designed to achieve this objective, there is a real concern that the large multinational primes will simply procure manufactured products and services through their offshore supply chains. Existing arrangements indicate that less than 3% of public funds spent on Defence procurement are channelled into Australian SMEs – this compares unfavourably with the situation in the UK where legislative requirements require 25% sourced locally. Surely, this approach can achieve bipartisan support right across the political spectrum!

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Steve Zanon
Great summary Angus. Important point - "for the longer term benefit to Australia, advanced manufacturing needs to be understood as... Read More
Saturday, 18 March 2017 20:00
Richard Jefferies
On a very practical level, it's all about making our geography work for us. Untold 'cyber-column inches' are devoted to FTAs, FTA... Read More
Monday, 10 July 2017 17:47
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Australia's Energy - a Future in the Balance

Few other sectors of the Australian economy have undergone a more dramatic transformation than the energy sector  .

It has seen the privatisation of the public electricity utilities, the freeing up of the gas market, the opening up of huge overseas LNG sales contracts, the emergence of a complicated regulatory regime for managing the National Electricity Market (NEM) and the connecting of all state energy grids on the eastern seaboard of Australia. In the meantime, national energy policy has been left adrift without clear direction, electricity prices to consumers have more than doubled, household installations of rooftop solar PV now exceeds all expections with over 1.6 million installations nation-wide, and overlaying all of this, governments have scrambled to wrestle with the political debates over the impact of threatened climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, against a backdrop of progressively more active international diplomatic efforts to coordinate a global response. 

In a nutshell, you couldn't ask for a more challenging, complicated yet exciting time to find opportunities to contribute to the solutions needed to these significant national and global issues. 

It is timely therefore, that the RED platform opens the discussion about Regions and Energy. It will provide an opportunity to draw out the best ideas and solutions to the role and needs of energy in Australia at a time when public policy direction is thin on the ground - scuttling investment certainty while aging electricity generating assets are retired - and governments are confounded by the regulatory, economic and environmental challenges which such policy must ultimately address.

Where to start? Well, that depends on who's interest you want to satisfy.

The latest salvo in the national debate has come with the release of the much awaited "Finkel Report" by Australian Government Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, and his expert panel to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Leaders Meeting on 9 June 2017. This Final Report of the Independent Review into the Future of the Electricity Market was first commissioned by COAG Energy Ministers on 7 October last year. 

After several reports and reviews, culminating in the now discarded report of the ill-fated Climate Change Authority in its joint report with the Australian Energy Market Operator, "Towards the next Generation: delivering afforable, secure and lower emissions power", much hanged on the authority of Dr Finkel and his report to break the deadlock over how to to address the "energy trilemma' of security, affordability and sustainability in the transition to what national Energy Minister, Josh Fryderberg, called "a low emissions future." The 'trilemma' concept is that these three desirable priorities are not always compatible, pulling policy proposals in competing directions, with greater security and the costs of transiiton potentially adding rather than reducing costs onto the affordability of electricity supplies to consumers. 

The emphasis on security was triggered by the "system black" suffered by the South Australian electricity system in the midst of a wild storm in February this year. The pressure to address affordability has been mounting for years but the deregulation of most of the industry has left little room for governments to intervene beyond making plaintive claims that 'competition' from deregulation was putting "downward pressure" on what consumers were experiencing as spriralling electricity prices and bills. In the meantime, the Government appears well off track in its stated aim of meeting Australia's commitents to the Paris Climate Agreement by reducing emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030. 

So did the Finkel report finally provide the badly-needed breakthrough that would give the Government a way forward in addressing the dreaded energy trilemma? Well, yes ... and no. 

Yes, the report spoke to all limbs of the trilemma, making numerous recommendations on each of them. But the recommendations often fell short of specific direction. For example, knowing the Government would never entertain an emissions trading scheme, and had then retreated from a previously-floated emissions intensity scheme for the electricty industry, Finkel has proposed a "Clean Energy Target" (CET) as the now lowest cost pathway to a lower emissions electricity grid. The CET would mandate that electricity retailers source a certain amount of their wholesale energy purchases from 'clean energy' sources. A framework of tradeable certificates, required to be purchased by generators not meeting a 'clean energy' threshold would fund incentives for new investment in large scale clean energy generation technologies to supply the grid. 

There's only one, not insignificant, problem: Finkel recommends a CET as the mechanism but without setting what the actual target level should be! Instead, ther report acknowledges that "the specific emissions reduction trajectory that shoud be set for the electricity sector is a question for governments" to agree within 6 months (based on the Paris Agreement commitment to reduce emissions by 28% by 2030). That's no small task given that those same governments haven't been able to agree on any similar target for the last 6 years!

It is a similar story with the recommendation that Governments should agree on a "whole of economy emissions reduction strategy" within 3 years. What the Government really needed from the Finkel report was a recommended CET and concrete emissions reduction strategy to support it right now, rather than leaving these things hanging in the wind to be mulled over, debated, smothered in conflict and withered over time. It's not rocket science. The current level of emissions are known. The level of emission reductions requried by 2030 to meet the 2030 target is also known . So the annual transition to clean energy is simply a question of mathematics, if not political will.

Furthermore, under the Finkel definition, "clean energy" can still include gas or coal fired power generation, providing its emissions remain less than 0.6 tonnes per Megawatt hour of electricity generated. This is designed to ensure that the target for 'clean' energy is "technology neutral", eventhough it is unlikely coal emissions could ever be clean enough to reach the threshold required. 

Amidst the quagmire of bureacracies already dealing with energy market regulation, the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC), the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), Finkel recommends yet another one, an Energy Security Board (ESB), to address the issue of security. Thus, another issue is effectively buck-passed to another quango to contemplate for who knows how long. 

When it comes to the 'reliability' limb of the so-called trilemma, an equally odd approach is taken, namely to insist that all additional investments in clean energy beyond 2020 (when the CET would come into effect) should be obligated to provide "firm capacity" dispatchable at any time by having back-up batteries or contracts for altenative supply to cover the "variable" or "intermittent" supply capacity of solar and wind. However, no similar obligation is imposed on any coal fired power station should one of them fail to maintain dispatchable capacity for some reason. The recommendation appears to confuse issues of the system with those of indivitual source generation. The grid system as a whole should be reliable regardless of the variability or reliability of individual generators supplying to it. Reserve capacity should be sourced or purchased on behalf of the system as a whole, not imposed on each incremental system input. 

Why have these shortcomings emerged in a report that held so much promise? There are likely two reasons: politics and time.

The politics of climate change and energy in Australia at present is toxic. The energy system, freed up by deregulation, is out of government control and fundamentally broken. The vacuum in any direction from a clear national energy policy keeps it that way. Even within the Government itself there is intense division. Finkel is trying to deliver a report tame enough not to have it ignored or rejected outright, but reassuring enough so that the Government might at least have something with which it could move forward. On the other hand, the ambiguity of the recommendations potentially leaves it open to 'death by negotiation', just at a time when the Government needed some sure-footed, authoritative direction which it could seize upon to fend off efforts to compromise the outcomes and to provide certainty for industry investment sooner rather than later. 

Secondly, it was probably unrealistic to expect Finkel to solve all the details needed to manage the NEM and the ramp up and integration of renewables into the grid in the space of a modest 9 month review. There's just too much devil in the detail. So in the meantime, debate will continue to rage and the uncertainties around the details will provide fertile ground for campaigns to be waged by those who want to cast suspicion and doubt on the direction to which the report points. 

One thing is certain. The Energy Minister is right to say "doing nothing is not an option". The world of energy services is changing fast. The prices of renewable energy technologies are plummeting such that big lumpy capital investments in large centralised fossil fuelled power plants are now virtually unfundable and energy from renewables is cheaper than traditional sources, despite the vast reserves of 'cheap' coal in Australian soils. Both solar hardware and software are progressing at a galloping pace and the opportunities they open up for more efficient, cost effective and customisable energy services are immense.

In the face of this technological and economically transformational onslaught, no matter what the Prime Minister or the Government manages to agree on, we are on the threshold of massive change. Hold on and enjoy the ride. It will be nothing if not exciting!

 

 

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Stephen Alexander
Thank you for such a thoughtful and insightful article that lays down a wonderful backdrop for some intelligent discussion and hop... Read More
Friday, 16 June 2017 10:32
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A big picture journey of regional and remote Australia.

My name is Stephen Alexander and I first was seduced into the wonders of the digital world after seeing colour animation on an Amiga games console. I started by seeking funding to deliver real time advertising in supermarkets across the UK. That was my first mistake. The second was setting up UK’s first DOS based multimedia business, six months prior to the first 16 colour PC being actually made.

Nevertheless, we got going in August 1988 and undertook a wide range of ground-breaking projects and became the darling of the technology manufacturers and vendors who fed us well. By then I had become intrigued by the notion of joining up everything via a thing called the Internet and finally convinced my sceptical mate John May that the synergies between computer chips, satellites and fibre optics would change the world forever. After interviewing Al Gore, John finally got the national Telegraph to print a special 14 page supplement in Sept 1994 warning of the impending digital tsunami.

That found me sitting in front of Bill Gates, having been flown first class and in a helicopter to boot, listening to him explaining why his proposed global Internet would work along with what I suspected was to be his own global tax collection model for internet trade. (He knew how to corner a market.) A range of similar meetings and interviews with the good and the great of the day enabled me to start to grasp some of the dynamics of power that would at some point drive the new digital economies that would change our lives forever.

I also realised that whilst the industrial revolution gave us the haves and have nots, this digital revolution would impose the can and cannot’s, and as a consequence create a great deal of inequity. I managed to interview most of the technology offenders and interestingly no one would accept the social or economic implications upon people of their collective activities despite my attempts to corner them. Only Al Gore and rock star Peter Gabriel, who was funding internet servers for people in the Amazon, were up for this discussion which was going to air live on UK TV until the producer pulled the plug.

That was when I started to explore the notion of community, trust and relationships. In particular, the capacity to aggregate the collective social, economic and political power of communities that shared a common interest that they regarded as something almost sacred.

I started to grasp that if sufficient motivation existed in a given community (crowd) to empower or protect this sacred thing then they could aggregate their collective economic, social and even political power (demand), providing they could create the preconditions required to fully automate digital trading exchanges which first require trust followed by a governance structure that straddled the digital and real world.

Having been involved in the development of the first online financial transactions clearing services, where a mainstream Bank (Barclays) underwrote the risk of each transaction, I then got involved with AI expert, Marty Tenenbaum, who had started the collaboration group CommerceNet in Silicon Valley. They had partnered with the financial transaction consortia group comprising the major banks and US Government Treasury to develop an XML based electronic cheque. I ran a proof of concept in Australia to prove the cost benefit and the non-repudiation status of the model.

This put me on a very steep learning curve about what type of governance it really takes to create open environments where a state of non-repudiation exists. This legalist benchmark has always been used by the financial sector and trading exchanges for both physical and online transaction environments to manage risk. As we have seen today, without this risk mitigation tool the tendency is for technologists to aggregate the risk and liabilities along with the data to an unsuspecting owner/operator of any digital exchange or cloud environment.

My conclusion then, was that at some point in the future it would become possible to embed into internet protocols a range of common law legal instruments that would enable any person or group to transact with any other group in real time. This would, for the first time in human history, enable the demand for a service or product that had become commoditised to become aggregated.

Finally, some of the missing digital legalist instruments, like block chain, are now falling into place to enable smart contracts with embedded certificates of validation that do not have to rely upon a centralised system that can slow things up as I experienced with the e-check project.

Which brings me to my own experience and passion of using digital disruption in regional Australia to contribute towards regional ability to survive and even prosper in a global knowledge based economy. Back in 1996, Dean Brown, the then premier of SA enticed our family to move to Australia to help him realise his vision of making Adelaide a (smart) city of the future. The telcos and local government put paid to his plan to bring high speed internet and e-commerce to Adelaide but as his e-commerce advisor I fully embraced his vision and embarked on a most interesting journey.

The most interesting aspect of that work was developing the concept of a digital trading exchange that would have been hosted in Darwin where a free port tax exempt status had been established for a goods trading hub. This would have provided the opportunity for value adding digital services and attract logistics organisations to Darwin.

This experience demonstrated that even having a visionary leader, adoption could not be guaranteed and that a strong grassroots level of collaboration was required.

Through Dean, I encountered Rory McEwen, the then President of the Greater Green Triangle Regional Local Government Association spaning both sides of SA and Victorian border. He believed that these clusters would one day act like digital principalities with their own micro digital economies and even regional currencies or bartering chips. This is a link to an article I wrote on the observations. 

The identified common principle was the need to trade with other regions around the world independent of national trading agreements whilst strengthening regional identity, culture and values. Some years later Senator Alston set up a programme that had me visit over 22 regional townships and remote communities across Australia with a small team of advisors to assist them to form plans and strategies for e-commerce to underpin local economies and build community capacity.

That's when I discovered that the outstanding common interest across regional Australia that could bring everyone together to tackle large initiatives was its paternalist attitude toward and caring of its youth. A most powerful culture of nurturing the capacity to survive in regional Australia and a passionate drive to “see them right” underscored every conversation and was the defining benchmark of outcome in almost every scenario we explored.

Interestingly, this included providing regional youth with the skills to adapt to the changing global trading conditions and tempering them with the tenacity to deal with the manmade and natural shocks that for regional and outback Australians is a way of life.

All this was later confirmed when one of the leading lights in the digital regional transformation arena in Queensland asked me to help him evolve the community broadband infrastructure to include financial transactions. We developed a model where the region could acquire "white branded" day to day banking services at a discounted wholesale price, sell them at a discounted price and give a generous percentage of each service, transaction or commission to a fund to develop the skills required for youth to stay (or come back) to the region.

The CEO of one of the big four banks was willing to cut a deal but wanted to cut the youth bit out and give that as a commission to freelance brokers. I am aware of a range of similar ideas being explored, now that the banks are exploring block-chain currencies and barter.

Then a remarkable man, Ian Fletcher, who ran the office for Premier Richard Court, invited me to run a four day workshop. This involved the head of the National Party at the time, the under treasurer and other leaders whose task it was to provide a 20 yr vision for WA having factored in all the mega trends, financial drivers and sentiment. Ian saved the day and a few people’s teeth as the debates hotted up and I provided a heady mix of digital megatrends, implications and some reasoning.

The predicted tipping point centred around the time when State Governments will run out of sufficient cash to service all expectations of utilities and public services. Interestingly we could see even back then that the digital meshes interconnecting and in many cases operating all the public and private sector activities for communities would re-shape our regional boundaries. Much to the surprise and displeasure of some parties (as you could imagine) the resulting prediction was very close to that of Rory from the Greater Green Triangle, in that funding and resources would have to be given to the regions in the hope that they could make them work.

This would result in State Government administrations retreating to a more streamlined supporting role. This concept was later discussed at length by the national chair of the local government authorities and the then deputy Prime Minister who was seeking substantial cash from the sale of Telstra to fund at least six regional government clusters.

The idea was to provide the sort of infrastructure now spoken about in Smart Cities and Regions and, more importantly, to develop the skill sets so that these clusters could shift into a role of driving innovation, skills and start-ups, and attract seed funding. This in turn, would enable Federal government to fund regional initiatives directly bypassing State Governments who have been known to require heavy administrative charges.

All this was perhaps a little bit before its time and some of the concern from Canberra was the issue of culture and skills within administration which would take some time to transform even after getting the resources.

Which brings me to my support for John and his unwavering effort and determination to provide Australian regions, industries and small business with the tools that can help them help themselves and get to where they need to be.

My speciality centres around designing the preconditions to create meaningful and measurable value that can be captured and applied to help fund and operate the infrastructure that regions need in order to realise their own aspirational journey.

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Geotourism - A Regional Development Imperative

The serious pursuit of ecotourism in Australia was ‘kick started’ nearly 25 years ago through the establishment of Ecotourism Australia Ltd which now represents some 500 operators in Australia. Whilst the potential for geotourism, a related field of ‘nature based’ tourism was first recognised in Australia in 1996, the concept was only conceptualised locally by the convening in Western Australia of a Global Geotourism Conference in 2008, with the subsequent establishment of geotourism constituency groupings firstly by the Geological Society of Australia in 2011 and by Ecotourism Australia through the creation of the Geotourism Forum in November 2013.  

For geotourism to reach its potential, new pathways for development such as geotrails and geoparks need to be implemented, having regard to government interest in nurturing regional development and new job creation through celebrating geotourism, geological and mining heritage. The  development of a range of existing and proposed geotrail projects which offer exciting new opportunities for geotourism growth, whilst not overlooking Australia’s extensive protected areas as venues for enhancing geological and landscape interpretation and education as part of the overall ‘nature-based’ tourism mix.

Inspired by the SEGRA 2015 conference, two exciting UNESCO Global Geopark projects have now emerged under the auspices of supporting local government agencies.

The Pre-Aspiring Etheridge UNESCO Global Geopark is embraced by the Shire of Etheridge in Far North Queensland. The Undara Lava Tube System, truly unique in the world as well as other landforms in the area proposed for the Global Geopark, have resulted in a diverse range of bioregions.  Committed input from the Ewamian Aboriginal community is sure to identify sites exhibiting rich indigenous culture.

The Pre-Aspiring Warrumbungle  UNESCO Global Geopark is located within three local government areas in northwest  New South Wales. The’ Warrumbungles’ are already an internationally acclaimed tourist attraction steeped in volcanic geological history. 

Both projects are engaging with the state National Parks and Wildlife Services, other state government agencies, local townships and farming and indigenous communities. 

For further information, https://www.gsa.org.au/Public/Geotourism/Geotourism%20and%20Geotrails/Public/Geotourism/Geotourism%20and%20Geotrails.aspx?hkey=f3ee82ea-de9a-44eb-82f7-377d2d28d2ba

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Is Place-based Infrastructure the key to Transitioning Regional Economies?

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In 2010, John Tomaney published a research paper titled “Place-Based Approaches to Regional Development: Global Trends and Australian Implications”. Reading this research paper seven years after its publishing, Tomaney’s thinking about the transformative power of place-based economic development appears to have become more mainstream thinking in 2017 Australia.

Tomaney’s 2010 Report concluded with the following six recommendations:

1. Placed-based thinking is being adopted in many places around the world and it could be applied with equal value both in metropolitan regions and regional Australia.
2. Place-based approaches require strengthened local and regional institutions that are able to assess and develop local economic assets in ways that amount to more than “tailoring national policies”.
3. The active role of local stakeholders is critical to the success of place-based approaches but this places new demands on local business and other bodies to actively shape local policy, rather than merely make demands on State and Federal agencies.
4. Successful place-based approaches place the development of human capital and the promotion of innovation at their centre.
5. Successful place-based economic development is generally a long-term process.
6. Australia’s system of fiscal federalism potentially provides a supportive framework for the emergence of place-based approaches. John Tomaney 2010

It is clear that Tomaney believed that driving regional economic development from a place focus was a best practice approach and in 2010 was already a global trend. The real value of his research was that it reflected an Australian context. He understood our three levels of government and the necessary tradition of Federal support for regional communities in a large country with a small population, most of which are in concentrated our 5 biggest cities. Often we reach out to American or European examples that never fit our unique settlement and governance structure and wonder why their application delivers little to Regional Australia.

The most significant insight from Tomaney’s work is that he sees the need for true place-based action which means local stakeholder collaboration with Government.

“Place-based thinking” has the potential to open up new approaches to the development of Australian cities and regions. But its implications require careful thought and assessment, not just by governments but by stakeholders such as business and its peak bodies." John Tomaney 2010

Now fast forward to April 2017 and review the Productivity Commission’s Initial Report on “Transitioning Regional Economies” and you will find that after decades of top down policy and program delivery, place-based action is now seen as the only effective way forward to drive the future social and economic vitality of regional Australia.

It starts with admitting that while government initiatives are integral to regional economic development the process for government is complicated and uncertain.

“How and whether governments should support people in regions so that they can adapt to challenges and opportunities in a sustainable way is a contentious issue. Governments are often under pressure (usually during times of crisis) to respond to competing demands and to achieve multiple objectives.
It is a complex task for governments to:
• determine whether and how best to support regional communities in their efforts to make a successful transition
• identify priorities
• avoid exacerbating regional problems through badly selected, incoherent and costly interventions.” Transitioning Regional Economies April 2017

The stories of government lead economic development initiatives that deliver worse outcomes for regional communities are legend. Outcomes have been wasteful and often embarrassing, to say the least.

It is in this context that place-based thinking has emerged as a solution to bad outcomes from good policy. In chapter 5 of the Productivity Commission’s report titled “Strategies for successful transition and development” you will find that place is referenced in various contexts as a common theme as a doorway to facilitating transitioning. A number of States are pursuing place-based policy focus with Victoria particularly embracing this approach.

“Place-based approaches have also been endorsed in Australian government policy documents, such as the Victorian Government’s recent review of regional economic development issues.
This Review found that a ‘place-based’ approach to regional development is critical. Regions must play a leading role in developing their own growth strategies and government must organise itself to enable local decision making and integrated services. This approach continues to be essential to building regional prosperity” Transitioning Regional Economies April 2017

Some might say this is simply a way for government to scape goat regional communities for not stepping up to promote solutions to help their regions transition into new economies. Others might say government has failed and has no role in facilitating sustainable regional economic growth at the local scale. But the truth is in the middle.

We need better ways to engage place-based leadership in government lead investment in regional economic development because Local leadership is critical to place-based action. It is a collaborative process that requires all stakeholders to change their traditional approaches to partnerships and interactions.

“Local ownership requires strong consultation and coordination between all levels of government and the stakeholders in a community.” Transitioning Regional Economies April 2017

It is not surprising to realise that in order to deliver new outcomes for Regional Australia we need to embrace new processes. To fully leverage the advantages of place-based economic development we need a new framework to guide the process from ideation to implementation and management.

“Strategies to support transition and development in regional communities are likely to be most effective where they are implemented through a coherent framework” Transitioning Regional Economies April 2017

Next post will discuss the emergence of a new Australian based framework tailored and tested to deliver place-based infrastructure that is economically and socially transformative for Regional Australia.

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Fitzroy and the Central West - an introduction

Allow me to introduce myself, and my region.  My name is Phil Henry and I've been a resident of this part of Australia for just under 10 years.  My wife and I live in Yeppoon on the Capricorn Coast, which I can thoroughly recommend as a great place to live or just visit.

From late 2007 until mid 2015, I was Regional Director for the Department of State Development, under  different departmental names and some variation in responsibilities, but with core roles for business, industry and regional development for this region of Queensland.  Prior to that I spent just over 10 years in the department's head office, with varying roles including policy, support for the pharmaceuticals industry in Queensland and economic development components of the first South East Queensland Regional Plan.

Prior to that I was with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for some 20 years, doing a wide variety of work and including five overseas postings as Consul.

Central and Central West Queensland is probably best known for its reliance on the agriculture and resources sectors, with emphasis on the beef industry and coal mining, both thermal and metallurgical.  The coastal strip has a well deserved reputation for tourism, with destinations such as Lady Elliot Island, Musgrave Island and Great Keppel Island.

Poor seasons in recent years have had a substantial impact on the beef industry, although more recent rain has led to better conditions and, in turn, an improvement in cattle prices.  However many producers were forced to destock to some extent and, particularly in the Central West, to destock completely.

The effect of the mining boom and subsequent bust (or downturn) is probably well known already.  Typical symptoms included shortages of accommodation and labour, driving up prices for both and with flow-on effects for the rest of the economy.  At the time of writing, prices for coal have bounced back somewhat leading to the reopening of several mines in the Bowen Basin.  However longer term, the outlook for coal must be informed by reduced demand from China and possibly India, as well as the gradual transition to other forms of energy and, potentially, means of distribution.  That said, a number of solar energy projects are currently under way in the region and work has commenced on tapping geothermal energy in the Central West to supply towns such as Longreach and Winton.

In tourism, the coastal strip suffers from the lack of really "big ticket" 

As with all regions, the best detailed overview can be found at the Regional Development Australia's Regional Roadmap page, linked here.

 

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Carl Spruce
Hi Phil, My name is Carl Spruce and I am the Managing Director of the Registered Training Organisation (RTO) Outsource Institute ... Read More
Tuesday, 21 March 2017 12:07
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Plans and more plans…when we need action.

 

Government is good at creating plans. Not so good at action.

And one thing I have noticed from years of looking at economic strategies, roadmaps and plans is that they are all the same.

Change the name and the pictures and a few words, and bingo – another roadmap or plan saying exactly the same as the last one.

Sometimes they ARE exactly the same as the last one – the policy officer or consultancy involved failing to change all the names properly when delivering the cookie cutter report.

Why not download all strategies from the internet and just change the names. It would be cheaper and the outcomes would be the same.

There is a common structure to all economic development strategies and industry roadmaps.

The first section is full of research, the information that defines the uniqueness of a region or industry sector. The next section is full of reviews of what is changing, how the region or sector compares with others, and what the future trends seemed to suggest. These sections are where all the hard analysis and thinking are being done.

The last section is where the cookie cutter comes into action – future plans, the strategy for action and investment. This section is where hard analysis and thinking and uniqueness flies out the window.

Because this section required imagination and creativity which traditional planners and policy officers are not trained to deliver.

It’s not their fault.

So they fall back on platitudes and generalities often plundered from other strategies from around the world. And the uniqueness of the solution flies out the window with the rest of it.

Yet when it comes to objectives, there is universal agreement.

“We want things to be better”. Which is hard to argue with.

More jobs, more collaboration, more exports, more investment, better technology, skills and training, more large businesses moving into the area, state or country, more housing, better roads, better aged care, better schooling, more social amenities, more tourism, a better future for our children and grandchildren and so on.

And we want to be leaders in…(insert an issue here).

You name it and put it in. That is what most departments do. But there is never much detail on how all these things are going to be achieved…just a long list of wishes and dreams wrapped up in a professionally designed brochure, which the Mayor or Minister can be proud of.

Because thinking about the future is tough stuff. Action even harder.

Looking back is easy. Even pulling together all the statistics, tables and charts is achievable given enough time.

Looking forwards is very hard. And invariably wrong. Especially today with so many externalities, disruptions and connections shifting the solid ground we used to rely on.

And creating new solutions to old problems is even harder. It requires a different mindset. A joined up, creative mindset.

By default, we end up with a cookie cutter approach to regional and national, departmental and economic strategy. And the report, plan, roadmap, 2050 brochure is published and then nothing happens.

Which is a problem for us all. 

We actually need fresh creative thinking now like never before.

“We will be the smartest city, state or nation in the world”. We will attract the smartest individuals, smartest businesses and largest corporates to our city or country.”

Dream on

Every city will be the smartest city. Every obvious technological option will be milked by everybody…at slightly different speeds, but by everybody.

And in many cases the followers will become leaders, milking the technological possibilities more quickly because they carry no baggage and leapfrog the smug. The world outside our borders is not static. It is moving on all fronts at speed. We need to move faster and smarter.

The real strengths of any region or state are what they have always been. Its industries. Its people. The climate. Water. Environment. Culture. Access to the ports and airports. The interesting things to see and do.

Technology does not bestow unique advantage, but it can magnify and catalyse advantages that already exist.

That which is common to all is not a strength. But that which is unique could be.

Every region is different and should magnify its difference not copy anybody and everybody else.

In advertising terms, focus on the USP – the unique selling proposition. Polish the stone. Create a gem. Add value. And drop the commodity mindset into the rubbish bin where it belongs.

The fundamentals haven’t changed. Technology is just an enabler. A powerful and disruptive one.

And cities, regions and governments have to accept something has changed forever.

There are no edges any more. The influence of geography is diminished. The power of the media is fragmented. Information is instantly accessible. The customer is informed and empowered. 

In a digital environment where any statement or commentary is checkable and discussible…honesty and authenticity is mandatory.

So strategies of all kinds – social, political, economic, environmental and digital - have to align with the new reality to be useful and have to be rewritten to recognise the reality of the change.

This is what has taken politicians by surprise.

Across the planet, along with every other sector in society, politicians and political parties are being disrupted by the digital revolution.

Trump, Hanson, May, Le Pen, Brexit and hung parliaments are all symptoms of this disruption. There is no going back.

I repeat, in a digital environment where any statement is checkable and discussible…honesty and authenticity is mandatory.

And in a digital world where connection, collaboration and integration are inevitable, joined up thinking and joined up solutions are also mandatory.

Which creates a problem for government, because it is not structured to manage the new digital environment. It is still structured for the industrial revolution with its departments (19th century). And the digital world is not organised in that way (21st century).

No departments. Internetworks.

19th century thinking in a 21st century digital revolution is where we mostly live today.

Like it or not, we have to start thinking in a different way.

That means collaboration and that means shared value. It means harvesting the best ideas, and they can come from anywhere.

Left wing and right wing has lost meaning. Connected and joined up is the new operational modality.

Our left hand does not rebel against our right hand. The body politic must integrate for the good of the nation.

One side of parliament does not have all the good ideas. Good ideas are anywhere and everywhere.

The digital revolution demands a management model that reflects the new reality, or we will not flourish in the digital age. Shared value.

In many ways it doesn’t matter what entities we use as the basis for collaboration. We can use those that exist – councils, states and territories, corporates and individuals.

What does matter is the required “joined up” thinking and vision, and as a result the “joined up” strategies to reach the “joined up goals.

In the absence of visionary government, what can we do about jobs and growth?

We are not helpless. There are a lot more of us than there are of them. Which means access to a lot more brains, a lot more experience, a lot more ideas and a lot more enthusiasm.

And the internet provides a platform for collaborative action that has proven itself time and again. So let’s use it.

And focus on productive industries - agriculture, creative industries, defence, manufacturing, medical and health, METS and tourism. These are the industries that offer the possibility of high value, high wage jobs.

Add value through design, branding, licensing, promotion and advertising. Match productive industries with R&D from universities.

Connect businesses for collaborative action. Share successful case studies and projects across, within and between regions. Connect regions for collaborative action on jobs and regional growth.

Export. Showcase our value-added productive industries to the world. Target the 20 or so major overseas markets with our value-added products and services.

Keep doing the above.

Simple. Pragmatic. Practical. Agnostic.

We need more money for Australia - money to pay for education, health and aged care. For business investment and innovation.

And we need that income to come from selling a wider range of value added goods and services to the world.

So we need to export more things. We need to export to more markets and we need to add value to as much of what goes out the door as possible. 

More money coming into Australia will lead to more jobs. More value adding will lead to more high value jobs.  

Robots are great. Automation can be a very good thing. Software is changing the world. But we have to go back to basics on this stuff. These are all tools. They are all mechanisms to help us become more efficient, more effective, do things quicker, more reliably and intelligently.

But for what? What is the objective of this vastly increased and automated efficiency?

Health. Happiness. Justice. Welfare. Tranquility. Peace. Add your objective to this list.

We humans are the most important part of the digital equation.

This is a revolution and we are still in the early stages. CEOs, boards and managers have to understand that technology tools are still imperfect. Technology tools do not yet have the agility and flexibility or intelligence that humans do.

And moving too quickly can create more trouble than it’s worth. The Census, Queensland Health and Centrelink are the most immediate examples of poor implementation of technology, but there are many others.

So we should never lose sight of what the revolution is all about. It should be about improving the status for all. Lifting the game. Fair go. Leaving nobody behind.  

And leaving the “room” we entered in a better condition than when we arrived. For our kids and our grandkids. Like farmers do. 

We are all heroes in the digital revolution. We have to be a 21st century team of collaborative but independent thinkers.

And our focus has to shift towards shared value so we can all benefit in our much bigger competition with the rest of the world. In the digital revolution no man is an island and no island is an island either, no matter how big it is.

The digital revolution takes no prisoners. And the countries that move fastest to reorganise around share value will be the winners.

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Does Energy Security require a shift back to Government Ownership?

Some remarkable shifts in policy have occurred as a result of the "system-black" experienced during the wild storms that hit South Australia on 28 September last year. The Government-commissioned Finkel Review into the Security of the National Electricity Market was required to respond with measures to address the security, affordability and (environmental) sustainability of the national electricity grid and its component elements.

Much of the debate both before and after the release of the Finkel Report prioritised the issue of security, and indeed implied that both security and affordability could be inconsistent with and possibly put at risk by attempting to address sustainability (aka achieve Paris Agreement greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets) too aggressively or at all.

However, just as the deregulation of the electricity market that ushered in the unpredicted instabilities and uncertainties the national grid is now experiencing, the clamour to address security and affordability by swinging the pendulum back to public ownership, could unleash its own set of unforeseen effects. Witness the sub-optimal NBN roll out, an initiative which itself was aimed at plugging the gap in the quality of service which the 'free' market in telecommunications could not deliver. 

The key common demoninator in all these systems failures is policy uncertainty and inertia. In the absence of clear government policy, chaos will happily fill the vacuum. Sound, stable and consistent government policy instruments provide both investment certainty and direction, and its comcomitant economic prosperity.

It is clear that the loss of intellectual and technical capacity once held by Governments to run centralised energy grids has not been offset by sufficient similar skill in regulating the deregulated industry. The exposure to negative economic and social impacts of thess changes is often greatest in the Regions where Government-owned enterprise provided both jobs and security of affordable electricity supply. In some Regions, jobs have been lost and supply made potentially less secure. The loss of affordability is writ large for all to see. 

Overlay this with the inevitable shift in technology to more economically competitive, distributed systems for energy generation and delivery characterised by renewable energy technologies, it is easy to see why neither government institutions nor independent regulators are able to keep up with the changing environment in which the 'trifecta' of desirable criteria of an effective electricity market are supposed to be delivered. 

How governments navigate this minefield of change without making bold and sure-footed decisions underpinned by solid policy foundations will be the real test of Australia's place as either a leader or laggard in the global energy transition, not to mention all the economic opportunity that emerges in such times of high flux. 

A useful economic commentary on these phenomena can be found here, in a recent article by economist Prof John Quiggin of the University of Queensland. 

 

 

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The rise of the gig economy

Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) found around 70% of Australians aged under 34 were open to using a digital platform (eg. Uber, Airtasker) to source income in the next year

Like other parts of the world, the G21 Region labour market is undergoing significant structural change due to new technologies and the decline in full-time work.  If the Region is to ensure that it has a robust labour market which is accessible to all, then it is important to gain a deeper understanding of the new economy and its impact on jobs.  

G21 region map

G21 Region map: http://www.g21.com.au/about-g21 

What is the gig economy?

Also termed the ‘collaborative economy’, the ‘sharing economy’ or the ‘on-demand economy’, the ‘gig economy’ describes the rise of non-traditional ways of working and providing goods and services that involve temporary, task-by-task forms of employment. Gig forms of employment are not necessarily new – for example, freelancing has been the predominant mode of employment in several industries for a long time - but the emergence of digital talent platforms, such as Uber, Airtasker and Deliveroo, has seen the creation of new markets and recruitment platforms.

According to some employer groups, the rise of the gig economy is being driven by workers who are expressing an increasing demand for autonomous and flexible work (Australian Industry Group 2016, p.5). Research by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests there are four key segments of ‘independent’ workers:

  • free agents, who actively choose independent work and derive their primary income from it;
  • casual earners, who use independent work for supplemental income and do so by choice;
  • reluctants, who make their primary living from independent work but would prefer traditional jobs; and
  • financially strapped, who do supplemental independent work out of necessity (McKinsey Global Institute 2016).

Four segments

How many people are employed in the gig economy?

No direct figures are available as yet for Australia, but figures from around the world can help paint a picture of how gig work has grown:

  • UK gig workforce is estimated at 4% of working adults (aged 18-70)
  • US data suggests 14-20% of all employed people engage in gig work
  • Almost 29% of jobs added post-GFC (2010-14) were attributed to an increase in the number of independent contractors
  • Data from the US & Europe combined suggests 20-30% of the working age population engage in some form of independent work
  • Of this group, 15% have used a digital recruiting platform
  • Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) found around 70% of Australians aged under 34 were open to using a digital platform (eg. Uber, Airtasker) to source income in the next year

Benefits of the gig economy

  • Autonomy
  • Accessibility
  • Flexible working hours
  • Complementary/supplementary income (to main income source)
  • Job creation through gig work can lead to a rise in the GDP

Risks of gig work

  • Inherently insecure and unpredictable
  • No guaranteed minimum income (if relying on gig work as your entire income source)
  • Employers have no obligation to provide education/training/equipment necessary to perform the role
  • Potential for rise in ‘zero hours’ contracts – exacerbating the existing problem of underemployment, which is a significant barrier for young people’s successful participation in the labour market.

Challenges of the gig economy

  • Legal classification of gig workers – are they independent contractors? Employees? Workers?
  • What rights do gig workers have to: minimum wage, unfair dismissal protections, holiday and sick pay, superannuation?
  • What pathways for support/redress are available to workers who feel they have been exploited?

Gigging is likely to be significant in the future of work. As we move further away from the standard employment relationship of a full-time permanent job, towards the model of the ‘portfolio career’, which can involve various combinations of part-time employment, self-employment, and other working arrangements, gig work is likely to be something that individuals dip in and out of across their working lives. The CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen, maintains that ‘the increasingly flexible nature of the modern workforce will likely see a 15-year-old today navigating a portfolio of 17 jobs in 5 different industries’ (Owen 2017). If her predictions prove correct, then preparing young people for the reality of their future working lives will require a fundamental shift in the way we approach work, and the meanings and expectations we attach to it.

Geelong Region LLEN’s Expansive Learning Network will be hosting the first in a series of Events on the impact of the gig economy in the G21 region.  It will be held at Deakin Cats Community Centre, Simonds Stadium, Wednesday 16th August 9am-1pm.  Keep an eye on the website (http://www.grllen.com.au/news/grllen-events) and our social media for more details.

Edited extract from a paper prepared by Geelong Region LLEN labour market analyst and futurist, Dr. Jude Walker, and Geelong Region LLEN Researchers-in-Residence, Meave Noonan and Atticus Gray

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