(Australian Associated Press)
The Gold Coast is fast transforming from Queensland’s famous glitter strip to a hub of innovation.
Once known for towering real estate, meter maids and schoolies the Gold Coast has fast been diversifying with a clear focus on becoming a “smart city”.
And it seems to be working.
Spurred on by the Commonwealth Games in April, investment has flowed into infrastructure. A new tram line, known as the G link, now snakes from Griffith University to Broadbeach. The council-owned fibre network, buried along the tram tracks to save time and money, will soon deliver the fastest internet connections in Australia – up to ten times as fast as the NBN.
Nowhere, they believe, is the change from tourist town to innovation city more apparent than at the Gold Coast’s Health and Knowledge Precinct.
The 200ha development near Southport has become an internationally recognised centre of science and health excellence, home to Griffith University and the Institute for Glycomics. In 2013, the $1.76 billion Gold Coast University Hospital opened its doors on the site. The Gold Coast private hospital was completed in 2017 at a cost of $283 million. Two tram stations connect the precinct to Broadbeach and Helensvale where commuters can catch the train to Brisbane airport. The precinct will also have access to the council-owned broadband network from 2018.
This April, the HAKP will be home to thousands of athletes and coaching staff competing in the Commonwealth Games. Once the teams depart, the $550 million athlete’s village will be transformed into 1250 residences for staff and students. Up to 9.5 ha of greenfield land will also be released for health and innovation investment. Four of the 16 lots on offer have already been approved for development worth up to $200 million.
In 2019, an $80 million Advanced Design and Manufacturing Institute, specialising in 3D printing and new materials will be built. Childcare provider Bruce Coulson is also reportedly developing a world first centre for special needs children that will incorporate research, training and pediatric care.
Once fully developed the GCHKP says it expects to inject $2.9 billion into the local economy and employ up to 26,000 people.
Di Dixon, the Griffith University project manager in charge of enticing business to the Gold Coast says the 2018 Commonwealth Games has been a catalyst for interest and growth in the precinct.
“That’s the real catalyst for opportunity for this precinct,” Dixon, says.
“It will provide a residential community so people can live, work and play here.”
Like most Gold Coasters, Dixon says you can’t get a better place to work. The Health and Knowledge precinct is within an hour of two international airports and a short drive to the beach. But what sets this precinct apart globally, she says, is the easy collaboration between health and research.
“The fact that you can walk between the hospital and the university – it really provides the ecosystem for great minds to come together and collaborate.”
Ms Dixon hopes the promise of affordable housing and super-fast internet speeds post-Commonwealth Games will push the Gold Coast ahead of similar innovation hubs such as Sydney’s Macquarie Park and Melbourne’s Parkville precinct.
“The unprecedented move by the council of putting in the fibre cable within a city is a game changer for the precinct,” Dixon says.
“It really provides me with another pitch as to why business should come here. We can now work in the global marketplace 24 hours a day, access and send files of particular sizes and look at things like remote and telehealth solutions, which are game changers in terms of healthcare globally.”
International researcher Mark von Itzstein was one of the first to realise the potential of the Gold Coast. Von Itzstein is most well known for the discovery of the anti-flu drug, Relezna, a feat which earned him the cover of Time Magazine. He started the Institute for Glycomics at the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct in 2000, much to the surprise of his esteemed global colleagues.
“Back in the year 1999 when I made the decision to come to Queensland to start the institute, and I chose the Gold Coast, people said ‘you’re insane, there’s nothing on the Gold Coast,'” Professor von Itzstein says.
But von Itzstein says the Gold Coast reminded him well-known US technology precinct – La Jolla in San Diego.
“Right on the coast with beautiful beaches [La Jolla] has a collection of educational institutions, universities, a biomedical research institute and hospitals,” von Itzstein says.
“That beautiful precinct works together to create new drugs, new vaccines and new diagnostics and I thought we too could be world famous for having the same aspiration of bringing the university and the hospital and industry together.”
In the past few years, the Glycomics Institute has attracted some of the world’s leading researchers including Professor Michael Good, who is conducting the world’s first human trials for a blood-stage whole parasite vaccine against malaria, and Professor Suresh Mahalingam was recently awarded more than $800,000 in funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to explore the pathobiology of alphavirus infections.
It’s a huge win for a town that many Australians simply think of as a holiday spot. But perhaps it’s the combination of both that’s really attracting the best minds.
“Why the Gold Coast why not Brisbane? Why not Sydney?,” von Itzstein says.
“You couldn’t get a better lifestyle that’s the big part of why they come yes there are excellent facilities but it’s the lifestyle that really attracts them.”
AAP, in collaboration with the City of Gold Coast and Gold Coast Tourism, is publishing a range of newsworthy content in the lead-up to the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.