This paper discusses the scope for an Innovation Corridor in Western Sydney, a means of gathering, activating, and promoting the diverse set of new opportunities within the region.
As a key regional actor, Western Sydney University will play a major role in driving a set of initiatives in partnership with government, private sector, and social groups that together will offer a significant shift in gears in terms of how the region moves. From a new high-rise campus in the centre of Parramatta to a range of new incubators and education districts, Western Sydney University is making a clear statement about augmenting and developing its existing campuses which run from Hawkesbury in the North West to Campbelltown in the South West. As a university with one of the most intense growth trajectories in Australia, its relationship to its region has been part of its history and charter from the outset.
The Innovation Corridor, as a ‘futuring’ model of regional development, seeks to encourage anyone with an interest in Western Sydney to challenge their existing mental geographies of the region. Aside from the growth of Western Sydney University, there are several factors coming together which are unprecedented in the history of the region. This discussion paper pulls out some of these change agents and contextualises them within Australia and internationally. Along with the University’s own growth plans, there are a number of other forces driving change.
First, the NSW State government’s announcement of major infrastructure investment in the West has opened up new development opportunities. The rezoning of the Western Sydney Employment Lands, in combination with the NSW Economic Development Framework, has opened up some major opportunities for innovative development strategies. In particular, the proposed M9 Orbital motorway which would run through the West from Richmond to Liverpool, along with the future route of the NW rail link, offered a new logic to how the region might be understood. Rather than being tied into a narrow set of corridors running through Parramatta, an orbital set of routes could remake the region’s economic geography.
Second, the emergence of Parramatta as Sydney’s second CBD, along with significant investments in the CBDs of Liverpool, Campbelltown and Penrith, will see these historic cities assume a greater role in structuring what has the potential to be a dynamic region of propulsive significance for the NSW and Australian economy. Sticking to the traditional way of understanding Western Sydney as a set of suburban residential landscapes mixed with ‘old economy’ manufacturing and distribution is no longer relevant.
Third, the approval of rights to develop Sydney’s second airport at Badgery’s Creek by the Federal Government in April 2014 will provide a significant step change for the region. While much remains to be decided about the shape of the development, given Sydney Airport Corporation’s Right of First Refusal to develop the airport, there is no doubt that the multiplier effects it will bring could be extremely advantageous for the region. On the other hand, there are concerns that the airport will not be strategically embedded within a wider vision of regional development that maximizes these effects.
Fourth, the property developer Celestino has proposed a Sydney Science Park, a 287 hectare development in Luddenham near Penrith. Conceived as a mixed use community of science/technology, education and residential, the Park has few comparators in Australia. Its greenfield location marks it out from the likes of the Australian Technology Park, and its proposed innovative management model will also differentiate it from existing business parks such as Norwest and Macquarie.
This discussion paper sets out a number of ideas, observations and arguments on how an innovation corridor might give focus to Western Sydney’s future economic challenges. These include: the importance of recognizing that science parks are now in their ‘third generation’ of management models; how to generate ‘knowledge spillovers’; the role of universities in innovative regional economies; how to generate new jobs, but also plug into and upskill the existing region; the creation of new innovation leadership milieu, including venture capital investment; and how government at all levels can work to generate a lasting