With friends like Google, Amazon and MIT, the future looks bright.

Di Dixon

Adelaide’s innovation hub Lot Fourteen will finalise its heritage infrastructure redevelopment within months, but leaders hope the precinct may never really fully be complete. That’s because they want to see continual transformation and growth of the project.

As the South Australian government’s premier innovation precinct, Lot Fourteen aims to continually transform to meet its ever-changing market.

State project lead Di Dixon, who oversees the precinct development, says the jobs and industry capabilities being explored across the precinct will be at the cutting edge of technological development.

“There is transition happening continually,” she says. “We don’t know the exact sectors that are coming up in the future, or what jobs are coming up next.

“They will be related to technologies we don’t even know about because technology is moving at such a fast rate. That’s why these need to be very agile precincts.”

The precinct is one of the features of the state government’s growth agenda, which seeks to increase economic development to three per cent annually through a focus on boosting nine specific industries.

Among these are hi-tech and space, which the government hopes will be fostered through the precinct, and future-proof the economy.

The commercial and research hub has been developed in the upgraded heritage precinct of the 7ha former hospital site in the CBD. Its digital capacity is enabled by high-speed fibre network connectivity.

About 90 per cent of the available space is now tenanted, and ongoing demand for space has spurred the further fit-out of additional heritage spaces and a planned 16-storey, circa $400 million Entrepreneur and Innovation Centre and Innovation Hub.

“It’s a wonderful problem to have,” Dixon says of the demand. “We’re now looking at additional places and solutions.”

She says a critical factor in the precinct’s success is maintaining its focus on high-technology industry.

“It has got to be somewhere that you can get that global strength,” she says. “It’s the competitive advantage that allows creation of those knowledge-based jobs and have that (economic) multiplier effect. That’s where we have that advantage of being in the CBD, which is not normal for these sorts of precincts.”

International companies that have taken up tenancies include Amazon Web Services, MIT bigdata Living Lab, and Google Cloud Services.

Google Cloud’s director of public sector in Australia and New Zealand, Michael Grantham, says the government’s commitment to the technology sector has provided a unique environment for co-innovation that Google is thrilled to be part of.

“We are committed to Australia’s digital future and are already working with organisations in South Australia to accelerate their data-powered innovation, many of whom already call Lot Fourteen home,” he says.

More than the matching of tenants to workspaces, however, the precinct has started to live out its promise to foster collaborations and partnerships across research and enterprise.

This year, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity company Myriota and space and satellite developer Inovor Technologies teamed up with the SmartSat CRC to deliver a $6.5 million connected satellite to assist government water, ground and emergency services monitoring.

“It’s two companies and a research organisation here at Lot Fourteen and because they’re both here together that has made that happen,” says Dixon. “It is starting to have those outcomes. These are the sort of things that show company growth, capability growth, and also that collaboration to drive great outcomes.”

Other collaborations are under way, she says, pointing to a collaboration between the Australian Institute for Machine Learning (AIML) and defence giant Lockheed Martin and others.

Global defence and cybersecurity company DTEX helps organisations protect their data and systems from cyber threats, and also has its Australian base at Lot Fourteen.

Co-founder Mohan Koo took the company from start-up to a global company headquartered in Silicon Valley. He says discussions through the Australian Cyber Collaboration Centre with fellow international big data company, Splunk, have led them to partner together on projects, collaborations that have not previously occurred even though their headquarters are based on the same street in San Jose, California.

“We landed some very strategic projects for them and for us securing and protecting the data for government and big government agencies,” he says. “That message filtered up to Silicon Valley, and we’ve now formed a global partnership.”

He says the cyber ecosystem at Lot Fourteen worked to promote collaboration, trust and engagement across different organisations.

“We have all these different collision zones where everyone meets, and bumps into each other,” he says. “We’ve identified so many projects because of that.”

It is all very heartening for the state’s chief entrepreneur Andrew Nunn, who himself moved to Adelaide from Melbourne in the late 1990s and found a wealth of opportunity.

Starting as an engineer, he created consultancy JBS&G before launching into other business enterprises.

He said the sometimes-maligned size and “one degree of separation” in Adelaide was actually a strength.

“It’s the degree of connectivity you get here that makes the difference in SA,” Nunn says. “You can get to anyone in one or two phone calls.”

He says the innovation districts and support for business growth create great opportunities and connectivity between people, organisations and collaborations.

“The city is littered with a range of amazing innovation districts,” he says. “Industry is getting more heavily engaged. The whole state is getting more globally recognised.”

Story by Rosanne Barrett.

Pictured: Di Dixon, Lot Fourteen State Project Lead. Image by Keryn Stevens.

Sourced from: ‘The Deal: Reinventing Business’, The Australian, June 2021, p.5.