Why Australia Has No Google. Australian Cities Falling Behind European Capitals In Innovation Race

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29th October 2009, 09:34am - Views: 622

27th OCTOBER 2009.



MELBOURNE, Australia – Australian cities need better funded start-ups, world-class transport and fast

broadband, or would risk falling further behind European cities such as Vienna, Amsterdam, Hamburg,

Lyon, Stuttgart, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Berlin and Barcelona in the global innovation race. 

That’s the message from the Innovation Cities Analysis Report – a 4-year global study of which cities were

winning the global innovation race and why, released on Monday in Melbourne.

“The Prime Minister’s speech to the Business Council of Australia on Tuesday night, was right on this need

for infrastructure, but at the state government level there’s simply nothing been done to develop the

infrastructure of innovation,” said Christopher Hire, innovation analyst and Executive Director of

2thinknow, authors of the report. “We need less committees, and more action.”

A section of the analyst report outlined the view that Australian cities needed to compensate for their

distance, by developing superior connectivity and mobility. In effect, that broadband could overcome the

tyranny of distance, and that this digital mobility could enable new jobs across Australia.

The report identified that Melbourne was out-performing Sydney on most measures. Meanwhile, other

Australian cities such as Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane were regionally under-performing Tokyo, Hong Kong,

Seoul, Kyoto, Singapore, and Wellington in the lack of specific infrastructure.

“Our report is the first to outline innovative cities actually do as a process, and in a logical structured

framework that can be picked-up, communicated and understood. This is a method to empower city

government to change their cities through local innovation.” The Innovation Cities Framework unveiled in

the report tracked the development of innovation as an idea, through to implementation and finally markets.

The 3 key elements of the framework were Cultural Assets – from museums to stadiums and designers – with

a broad range of human infrastructure, and networked markets. It was the small size of Australia’s domestic

markets that prevented Australia creating a Google, despite world-class ideas.

“Distant small markets can only win when they have world-class connected infrastructure,” Hire stated. “This

type of infrastructure enables 1 and 2-man businesses to become a Google, and Australians with ideas to

create global innovation. Without it, no Google.”

Elements of this infrastructure were universities, start-up culture, business approach, mobility, government

I.T. policy and world-class broadband. Regionally, cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul were

increasingly competitive on these areas, and were singled-out in the analysis. 

In Europe, Lyon had become a start-up hub, as Europeans adapted U.S. business models. Vienna had

impressive small start-ups like Soup.io, and the United States had San Francisco’s extensive community, as

well as a another 20 start-up cities. And both the European Union and United States cities had the benefit of

massive domestic markets.

“Australia can’t compete on market-size, that is why we must be the most networked. The consequences of

this lack of networked innovation are that Australian ideas that are implemented don’t achieve critical mass

of users or customers to succeed, or go global. In short, that’s why there is no Australian Google. It’s a

network, not a talent issue.

“Our report uses a framework that measures and address markets as one-third of its model, based on other

cities success,” Christopher Hire continued. “On the other hand, markets are neglected, or an after-thought,

in committee-driven responses at many levels. That’s why those responses are inadequate.”

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The centrepiece of the report was the 162 indicator, innovation cities framework, released publicly for the

first time in this report. The framework is designed to measure innovation, and identify strengths and

weaknesses on 162 innovation indicators. 

It is based on analysing successful out-performing cities on each indicator. Each indicator is discussed in

detail in the report, references global city case studies so cities could apply the idea.

The report showed, European cities winning the innovation race, with superior rail infrastructure, improving

broadband, as well as pan-European and local government start-up initiatives in areas like Barcelona’s

District 22, or the E.U.’s Create Europa program. Australian cities have no comparable start-up scheme nor

any approach to innovation on a “by-sector” basis. Boston was, however, the world’s most innovative cities,

scoring well on most indicators, and with a thriving education and start-up scene.

Beijing, South Korea and Japan had learnt that, cities that innovate locally now, would produce new global

corporations like Google, in 7 to 15 years. Australia, in comparison, needed infrastructure that encouraged

local innovation and compensated for it’s less networked markets. 

“Of course, not all infrastructure is equal. There is every chance we will just proceed with the old-fashioned

hard-hat infrastructure project, that changes very little. Much like the botched opportunity of the Sydney

Airport Line,” Hire continued.

Proposed alternate solutions overviewed by the analysts included fast-rail enabling citizens to travel between

Sydney and Melbourne, as well as opening up new cities along the coast – easing population burdens. Also

proposed were incentive based start-up funding schemes using existing government infrastructure, that

would give entrepreneurs financial start-up assistance with less risk.

“Other cities are competing, are progressing. In our view, without acting on human infrastructure – as

recommended in the report – Australian cities are stuck in an infrastructure gap that reduce the chance that

these cities will ever develop world-class start-ups.”

The Innovation Cities Analyst Report application of the 162-indicator framework is designed to measure and

build an innovation city. Using the framework Melbourne and Sydney were the only Australian cities

competitive in the top 10 Asian cities. Auckland and Wellington were just outside the top 10.

“Australians cities could catch-up by applying the framework in this report,” Hire concluded. “If they don’t,

they will fall further behind on innovation. The world is not standing still.”

Copies of the report are available for order at http://www.innovation-cities.com 

Media spokesperson:

Christopher Hire, 

Executive Director, 


Phone: +61-409-787-960

Phone: +61-3-9225-5284 [switchboard]

Photos overleaf:

People Feature 2thinknow 4 image

People Feature 2thinknow 5 image

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Christopher Hire, Executive Director of 2thinknow, with the Innovation Cities Analysis


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