More and more tenants are taking up residency at Adelaide's Lot Fourteen.

Di Dixon

Lot Fourteen – hi-tech innovation precinct and home to the space industry in South Australia – is bursting at the seams with new tenants and undertakings as the final pieces of infrastructure for the project begin falling into place.

The precinct, on the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site at the corner of North Terrace and Frome Road, is already the base for 869 knowledge workers, with that number expected to reach 6000 when physical redevelopment finishes in 2028. It is home to SmartSat Cooperative Research Centre, the Australian Space Agency, the Australian Institute for Machine Learning, and the Defence and Space Landing Pad, with a total of 37 established companies and organisations. And 44 start-ups are hosted at the Stone & Chalk hub, which is powered by the Future Industries eXchange for Entrepreneurship.

Work has been completed on the refurbishment of four heritage buildings on site plus the Sheridan Kiosk, already serving coffee and food to hungry workers. Work on the final heritage property, the Bice Building, is underway with strong interest from new tenants.

All of this means the precinct is becoming an ever-increasing magnet for new businesses and investment, creating hi-tech and related jobs for workers now and into the future. About 29 per cent of businesses on site are involved in the artificial intelligence and machine learning sector, while 24 per cent are in space and defence.

“It’s been pretty exciting, even with the COVID-19 past and current experience, there just doesn’t seem to have been any stalling in the momentum that’s been built up at Lot Fourteen,” Di Dixon, state project lead Lot Fourteen, says.

“We’ve seen an ongoing interest (and) companies starting up there are now looking at scaling up and potentially moving to other areas. It’s also the attraction of new businesses, creating high-value career opportunities and jobs in sectors in which SA has a global reputation and strengths.”

The focus is on hi-tech industries including cyber security, defence, space, and creative industries. Recently, Leonardo, a global top-10 player in aerospace, defence and security, moved to Lot Fourteen to work with SmartSat CRC and join the space ecosystem around the Australian Space Agency. “Because we have this base of research, intellect and sector strengths, other international companies are coming in,” Dixon says.

“Leonardo is looking at how they can use that local expertise to develop new and competitive business opportunities.

“There is also LGM, a French engineering company, that has come to the Landing Pad. They created five positions over the last year and are looking to build up to 20 to 25 around SA in the next three-to-five years. Companies can see the value proposition for themselves and it’s just going from strength to strength.”

AIML already has 120 researchers on-board, half of them PhD students at The University of Adelaide. One of the large infrastructure projects on site – the Entrepreneur and Innovation Centre – will become the centrepiece of the precinct. The 16-storey building will be a centre for fostering the next generation of businesses and jobs, all focused on defence, space and technology, and construction will start in the second quarter of 2021.

The ground and first floor of the building will be developed as an Innovation Hub to facilitate further investment and co-operation between companies, universities and researchers. It will offer event and meeting spaces, flexible workspaces, and shared and dedicated laboratories and is supported by up to $20 million from the Australian Government through the Adelaide City Deal.

“We see that as the place everyone across Lot Fourteen will come to for events, to hang out and where that organic collaboration will happen with the mixing of disciplines,” Dixon says.

“It will have high levels of security and future proofing so it’s attractive to global partners.”

The Lot Fourteen portion of the Adelaide City Deal, supported by the State and Federal Governments, totals $551 million and it will also support the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre and the International Centre for Food Hospitality and Tourism Studies to be built at the precinct. The former is being developed in partnership with Aboriginal people to tell the stories of the world’s oldest living cultures using the latest technologies.

“We are looking at work potentially starting on site later next year and for an opening late 2024, early 2025,” Dixon says.

The new cafe will have its formal launch in coming weeks and is already the place to get a morning coffee, healthy lunch or a drink after work with friends on Lot Fourteen. Led by manager Brett Hicks-Maitland and executive chef Sam Worrall-Thompson, the watering hole is part of the North Tce interface, inviting the public to visit and take part in what is happening at the precinct.

Anyone can walk through the precinct and the public will be encouraged to visit Lot Fourteen attractions, including the Australian Space Discovery Centre, when it opens in the first half of next year.

“By 2023, once we have, particularly the Aboriginal Art and Cultural Centre in place, there will be a central park area which is where we are looking at the integration with the Botanic Gardens,” Dixon says.

So, the work continues as the Lot Fourteen team looks to the present and the long term, ensuring a pipeline of new companies, investment and job creation for coming decades.

Pictured, Di Dixon, state project lead Lot Fourteen.

This article originally appeared in Future Adelaide