Lot Fourteen is taking shape quickly in the heart of the city – building a bold vision for jobs creation.

Picture of Di Dixon

The future is now at Lot Fourteen. Adelaide’s hi-tech hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, education, research, culture and tourism is quickly evolving at the 7ha former Royal Adelaide Hospital site on North Terrace.

A mix of refurbished State Heritage-listed buildings, innovative new premises, public space and bright minds within the city’s cultural heart, Lot Fourteen is creating a community of people looking beyond the horizon – and establishing a global business base for industry development, research collaboration and jobs of the future.

Premier Steven Marshall this month detailed the construction of the precinct’s flagship structure – the 16-level, $400m Entrepreneur and Innovation Centre – while the world’s biggest online retailer, Amazon, outlined its plans for a Lot Fourteen office in February.

The Australian Space Discovery Centre and Mission Control Centre is set to open in May, joining other enterprises such as the Australian Space Agency, the Stone & Chalk start-up hub, the MIT bigdata Living Lab and the Australian Institute for Machine Learning. The Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre and the International Centre for Food, Hospitality and Tourism Studies will further add to Lot Fourteen’s diversity.

As Lot Fourteen State Project Lead, Di Dixon, of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, is excited to be involved in the project. Having relocated to Adelaide from Queensland – where she had been the project director of the 200ha Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct – Dixon describes the precinct as a “truly collaborative innovation and ideas ecosystem”.

“Having worked in similar precincts elsewhere, I don’t think Adelaide quite realises this isn’t the way it normally happens – at such a fast pace,” she says.

“My role at Lot Fourteen is an amazing opportunity. When I arrived, the refurbishment and demolition work had begun. There was a strategy and masterplan in place, but the State Government  recognised it needed a strong co-ordination point to not only deliver the physical infrastructure but also the curation of the right tenancy mix to build that innovation ecosystem that is so critical to get right from the start.”

The $722m Lot Fourteen development is a key focus of the Adelaide City Deal, which was signed in 2019 by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Marshall and Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor.

The precinct’s city location is a key part of its appeal as a destination for tenants and the general community.

“Being in the CBD, next to the Adelaide Botanic Garden, the universities, the cultural institutions and the East End – you never get these sort of precincts in this sort of location,” Dixon says.

“They are either on the outskirts of cities or towns or – depending on their focus – within hospital or university precincts. So to have one that actually draws on everything around it and becomes part of the fabric of the broader city is pretty special. The whole place is going to be a very attractive destination in its own right, beyond its economic value.”

Lot Fourteen is much more than just a hi-tech hub – it will be a $3.5 billion economic generator for the state.

“It’s really about inspiring generations of the future through new career opportunities, and attracting global companies to South Australia because of the niche research innovation and the expertise we have here,” Dixon says.

“We’re actually creating career paths for the next generation and that sustainability through companies starting up on their own and those attracted into the state.”

About 1000 people are already working and researching within the precinct, including on average 150 contractors every day working across the demolition and construction program.

“We’re pretty well at about 90 per cent capacity of what’s available at the moment,” Dixon says. “And over the next 10 years, the economic analysis work we’ve done indicates it will be generating about $3.5 billion in economic activity for South Australia. So that’s a pretty big impact – and our projections are for about 6000 jobs in the precinct over that period.

“And for each hi-tech job that’s created, there are obviously all those support and indirect jobs that are also needed. That’s the great thing about Lot Fourteen as well – we’re already seeing some of the companies that started off in the Stone & Chalk start-up hub now moving into their own premises at Lot Fourteen and actually employing people.”

The opening of the Australian Space Discovery Centre and Mission Control Centre are the next key milestones along the Lot Fourteen timeline. These in turn will be followed by the construction of the Adelaide City Deal components – including the Entrepreneur and Innovation Centre, the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre and the International Centre for Food Hospitality and Tourism Studies in coming years.

“We’ve established ourselves, now we’re moving into a growth and transformation stage, where we’ve got to raise awareness and globally get our name out there,” Dixon says. “These sorts of precincts are never complete: they are always evolving into the next stage of opportunity.”

This article featured in the Future Adelaide special report in the Sunday Mail on Sunday, 28 March 2021