What COVID-19 did, is also shine a light on NSW’s strong technological innovation capacity. Technological innovation is globally significant because it grows the complexity of established but less complex industries and builds new markets in complex industries. And as our economy recovers better and faster than the other places that have shut theirs, there is a once in a generation opportunity to build on that capacity.
Recently I helped launch the AmCham Aus and Bay Area Council Economic Institute report ‘The Bay Area-Silicon Valley – An Expanding Trans-Pacific Partnership’ which profiles the technology industry connections between Bay Area/Silicon Valley and NSW and Australia.
The Bay Area companies come here for STEM talent, strong sectoral expertise in technologies like quantum computing and our proximity to Asian markets. The investment spans data centres, regional headquarters and cloud computing by the likes of Google, Oracle and Cisco Systems.
At the same time, NSW companies go to the Bay Area to source capital and commercialise and scale their products, like Kasada and Culture Amp.
Put into perspective, the report is a wake-up call. Although ‘thinking globally’ comes naturally to us as a small market, it pushes our entrepreneurs toward the US along with their talent and ideas.
As a result, the depth and breadth of our risk capital to support them scaling their businesses has remained limited. The report also highlights how we need to improve translating our research into products, services and jobs and grow our industry-driven university research.
The NSW Government can help to close those gaps and it’s the focus of the NSW Accelerating Research & Development Advisory Council’s work. Set up in October 2019, and chaired by David Gonski AC, our Council’s Action Plan is near completion.
Some ideas include the Government helping ‘prime the pump’ by supporting more start-ups when they most need it, including by being their ‘first customer’. More translational research funding and creating transparency across research activity in NSW are additional actions under consideration.
The report also reveals some opportunities for NSW. The rich tapestry of cultural, historical, economic and geopolitical ties between the Bay Area/Silicon Valley and NSW/Sydney, including our sister state and city ties, highlights our shared values and experiences.
Given that unique foundation, we can jointly leverage our technological innovation capacity specifically focussed on sensitive applications such as cyber security and on solutions for preventing, fighting and cleaning up after bushfires. These technological applications go to the heart of the virtual and physical safety we each want to provide to our citizens.
Make no mistake, NSW has technology at the front and centre of our three priority metropolitan innovation precincts – Tech Central, Westmead Health & Innovation Precinct and the Western Sydney Aerotropolis. Each with a distinct focus – from digital, to precision medicine to advanced manufacturing.
Yes, Silicon Valley is an innovation precinct that has been 50 years in the making, but our innovation precincts are the platform to finally embed a mature relationship between Sydney and the Bay Area/Silicon Valley on technological innovation.
Moving beyond exporting our talent and ideas we can then accelerate the inevitable – that NSW is the home of global technological innovation.
Gabrielle Upton is Parliamentary Secretary to the NSW Premier