LAURIE PATTON. Supporting call for innovation push – highlighting the need for a focussed approach including a national smart cities and communities strategy

Feb 1, 2018

We need our national innovation strategy to be targeted at solving identifiable problems and assessed according to its contribution to social benefit as well as economic outcomes.  

The Australian Smart Communities Association (ASCA) has echoed a call for Australia to increase its commitment to innovation, made this week by Innovation and Science Australia. The ISA plan sets out a vision for Australia to become a top-tier innovation nation by 2030.

However, it’s important that we also question the purpose of innovation and ensure it has a meaningful focus. In the so-called ‘dot com’ era some very clever people came up with what looked like exciting ideas only to discover there was no market interest in their product.

ASCA believes innovation is key to Australia leading the world in the creation of smart cities and communities. This should be a priority for government support of innovation. We need a bipartisan national strategy and that requires every level of government, and all sides of politics, to embrace the smart use of technology to deal with increasing congestion, environmental issues and the many other constraints that are causing people to question the state of modern city living.

Australia is well-placed to become a leading innovation nation. Our CSIRO helped invent Wi-Fi. We developed the Heart Pacemaker, the Black Box Flight Recorder and numerous other things that have already improved peoples’ lives.

ASCA is the not-for-profit peak body representing people and organisations spearheading moves to make our communities more liveable, more sustainable and more technologically empowered. Our members and partners include governments, businesses, universities and passionate individuals. ASCA was originally created as the Broadband Alliance by people primarily involved in local government who saw great opportunities in an emerging digitally-enabled world. Our commitment is to using innovation to make a difference – smart people creating smart communities.

Smart lighting systems that reduce our power needs, smart meters, intelligent traffic monitoring, smart parking systems, connected garbage bins that alert councils when they’re full. These are just some of the solutions already being deployed around the world.

When it comes to creating smart cities and communities we are already well on the way, with Melbourne named the 2017 Intelligent Community of the Year by the New York based Intelligent Communities Forum. Ipswich has twice been named in the global Top7 (2017 and 2015), while Adelaide, Sunshine Coast and Ipswich are among the Smart21 Communities of 2018 and in the running for the 2018 global Top7 due to be announced next week.

To date most of the projects being undertaken here in Australia have relied on ideas and technology sourced from overseas. While always keeping an eye on what others are doing and cherry-picking the best on offer, it would be great to see Australia become a leader not just a follower.

We need to adopt the best ideas from overseas but, more importantly, we need to be encouraging our local innovation experts to focus on new ways to improve our cities and communities.

Innovation is a strength on which we need to build a better Australia in the 21st Century. It is not something that should just become a political mantra. It needs to be a reality.


Laurie Patton is the inaugural CEO of ASCA. “Smart people creating smart communities” – the Australian Smart Communities Conference – which will be the largest conference for smart city and communities practitioners in the Southern Hemisphere, will be held in Melbourne from 9-11 May, 2018.


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