Gold Coast transformation to a leading innovation hotspot – a tour of the landscape.

A city known for sunshine, sand and surf is fast becoming an Australian innovation leader known for digital export, ecommerce and space exploration.

Ask any Australian to describe the Gold Coast and you can be pretty sure that the scene that they will share will be one of holidays and nightlife, theme parks, long beaches and rolling waves but for those of us that call the Gold Coast home the city has been through a transformation over the last few years. Adding to our beaches and incredible lifestyle, the Gold Coast is increasingly becoming a cultural city with great artists and music, a gastronomical city with awesome cafes, restaurants, boutique breweries, distilleries and organic farms producing bountiful fresh produce and above all, it is becoming recognised as a leading innovative city – with some of Australia’s most prominent and most innovative companies scaling internationally from the Gold Coast.

Despite several suburbs being keen to claim the title, the Gold Coast does not have a city centre. The city is home to a variety of precincts and neighbourhoods, each with their own unique focus and flair, where likeminded people can connect, collaborate and grow their lives and their businesses. The Gold Coast Innovation Hub is tasked with driving the innovation sector at the Gold Coast and I’ve taken a little time to provide an illustrative landscape of our innovative neighbourhoods:

Varsity Lakes/Robina, where the Gold Coast Innovation Hub is centred along with youth entrepreneurship organisation, Startup Apprentice, and IT networking group, IT Forum, is well established as a Technology precinct, home to managed service and internet providers OnTheNetOnPlatinum and BiTS Technology Group and Global Enterprise software companies like OpmantekSecurestack and Cytrack. The precinct borders on Mudgeeraba where you will find the city’s maker space, TechSpace. Varsity Lakes is also home to Bond University, an institution that has been driving entrepreneurial thinking and supporting student led startups through the Transformer Space and Business Accelerator programs.  Bond is the creator and host of the Annual Gold Coast Demo Day – a showcase of citywide entrepreneurial talent attended by hundreds of business owners and investors every November. With strong infrastructure, the Robina/Varsity Lakes region is well located near schools and canal front residential areas and is a hotbed for new early stage technology driven businesses including SuperdraftEggyThe Pitch PortalAustech VRRealARPUMLRefactor and Virtual Psychologist.

Head east toward the ocean and you hit Mermaid Beach, Miami, Burleigh and Palm Beach – 3 suburbs that have developed a cool and creative community culture over the last 10 years. Dotted between the beachfront diners and hidden laneway bars, artisan shops and craft breweries are funky workspaces like Karma Collab HubHotel Miami and Fleks Workspace that play home to a variety of digital businesses and entrepreneurs. Innovation is also thriving in this area with social impact businesses, Kynd and LittlePhil, Fintechs, Syncch and Cake Equity, global event management software developer Ivvy, and ecommerce giants like HiSmileGrace Loves Lace and Evolve Skateboards.

Bundall on the border of Surfers Paradise is the Cultural Precinct, with the Home of the Arts hosting regular events, festivals and exhibitions and soon to feature the city’s first international standard gallery showcasing the hundreds of artists, performers and creatives dotted throughout the city and in various creative micro-hotspots like Coolangatta, Currumbin and in the hinterland.

Keep heading north, and you will reach the site of the 2018 Commonwealth Games Athlete’s Village in Southport, where the Health and Knowledge Precinct is really taking shape. Home to Griffith University, Gold Coast University Hospital and the COHORT workspace this is the meeting point for health, wellness and biotechnology related innovators to gather and plays host to community groups and startups including IntelliHQ and Virtual Manager. There are some amazing medical innovations emerging from this precinct – I love the work occurring at Griffith University’s Institute for Glycomics, a research and commercialisation centre dedicated to bringing novel drugs and vaccines to the community.

Continue towards the M1 and you reach the Film and TV Precinct – home to Village Roadshow studios. From the outside, it’s hard to see the level of innovation that is actually occurring behind the sheds and sets, but when you venture inside you meet a variety of incredible technologists rapidly transforming the film industry with new emerging technologies utilising Drone Cameras and Lidar Scanning – check out Myriad Studios as an example!

While you are in the north of the city there is Pimpama, a suburb that up until a few years ago was predominantly residential land and small acreage bordered by canefields but that is now Queensland’s home of Spacetech, with Gilmour Space Technologies driving this key industry of the future building hybrid rockets, creating new jobs and opening doors for local graduates to enter the global space industry.

Beyond our borders, the Gold Coast is a connected city, to broader Queensland and internationally thanks to the brilliant work of organisations like Destination Gold CoastStudy Gold Coast and to key events like the 2018 Commonwealth Games that serve to create linkages across Asia and the world. The Gold Coast Innovation Hub is proud to play a variety of roles in the global innovation ecosystem, including the Australian representative for Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs (CAYE) as a result of connections made during the games. The Gold Coast Innovation Hub, together with the investment arm, 42 Ventures, have also built strong networks into the US, Singapore and India via collaboration with Government and Industry in order to help Gold Coast businesses gain faster footholds into global markets.

I love being part of the innovative city that is the Gold Coast, new activity is emerging on a daily basis and there is so much more than what I can cover in this article. If you are an innovative business on the Gold Coast or would like to call my attention to the unique economy in your neighbourhood – please reach out to me, it’s great time to be a Gold Coaster.

*originally published on Linkedin:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/gold-coast-transformation-leading-innovation-hotspot-hunneybell