Home' Forge : Vol 3 No 1 Contents From the publisher // 1
Local government seems an unlikely agent
in the design and growth of world-class
innovation ecosystems. The sector is often
perceived as slow-moving and risk-averse
– a stereotype that ignores the outstanding
work of many councils on innovation.
Forge has been privileged to profile dozens
of councils around Australia since the
magazine’s 2014 launch. Coverage of
‘smart city’ trends has become a Forge
strength and passion. I doubt that any
business publication follows regional
innovation as closely.
Forge’s local government insights are
enhanced by its relationship with sister
publication The Australian Local Government
Yearbook, also produced by Executive
Media. Interviewing so many councils each
year provides unique insights into regional
innovation, and we are proud to share
them with readers.
Australia’s local government sector
deserves greater recognition – from federal
and state governments, industry and
the public – for its work in innovation
capability-building, and in preparing
communities for the digital economy.
Yes, it is early days in council-led
innovation. Even the most advanced
regional councils have only scratched
the surface in facilitating innovation
ecosystems. Many are yet to formulate
comprehensive smart-city plans, let alone
implement or measure them. This process
will run for decades.
But consider the work of Ipswich City
Council and Logan City Council, both of
which are featured in this issue of Forge.
Both Queensland municipalities have
strong population growth and a need
to facilitate industries and jobs. Both
recognise the value in encouraging start-up
communities to form through council-led
co-working spaces and other resources.
The potential of thriving entrepreneurship
communities forming in satellite cities to
the capitals, such as Ipswich and Logan
City, is enormous. The best will spawn
fast-growth start-up ventures that employ
more residents and create financial and
These start-ups potentially become large
ventures, help form new industries in
regional centres, and invigorate established
industries, such as manufacturing.
It’s a pity that the federal government
does not fully understand the potential
of regional innovation. The government
erred in positioning innovation as
something mostly for start-up ventures
in capital cities in its initial statement. It
implied that innovation is about inner-city
hipsters working on tech ventures, out of
warehouses – a dangerously simplistic view.
The potential of innovation ecosystems
extends well beyond start-ups – and
tech firms, for that matter. It is about
encouraging industry, tiers of government,
universities and other stakeholders to form
clusters, collaborate, make discoveries and
commercialise them. In some respects,
start-up ventures are as much an output of
this process as an input.
Innovation efforts must extend beyond
capital cities. Regional innovation that
creates industries and jobs – and encourages
people to move to satellite cities and towns
– is one of Australia’s great opportunities.
Why can’t each state have two or three
globally significant innovation clusters
outside of their capital city?
Queensland is well on the way. As this
issue of Forge explains, Queensland is
building impressive innovation clusters on
the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast, and
to the west of Brisbane, thanks to the work
of proactive councils. Other states need to
follow Queensland’s lead in this area.
It’s not just about money. If the federal
government is serious about reducing the
country’s growing urbanisation and all the
problems that come with it – congestion,
high property prices and reduced work/
life balance – it must encourage people to
live in the regions.
But people will only move if there are
attractive jobs and lifestyle. Developing
large innovation ecosystems and start-up
communities in select regional cities creates
an incentive to relocate from cities, to start
ventures or work for them. Thriving start-
up communities invariably energise cities
and make them more vibrant and exciting.
Federal and state government should ask:
how can we work with local government
to help the sector develop its capability to
drive grassroots innovation in the digital
economy? Local government should ask:
how can the sector work together to drive
innovation, both within councils and the
Forge is playing its part by championing
the smart-city work of councils to a
large audience. Councils need to get
the message out about how they are
encouraging collaboration and innovation
– and disrupting traditional local-
Smart-city planning is one of Australia’s
great untold innovation stories, and a topic
that deserves momentum.
David Haratsis, publisher, Forge.
From the publisher
Regional innovation is vital to Australia’s long-term fortunes.
Councils have a key role in building entrepreneurship
capabilities and ecosystems.
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