Australian smart city wants to be the next Silicon Valley

A computer generated aerial view of Greater Springfield near Brisbane, Australia.

Springfield City Group

If you drive the sunny coast of Australia’s Gold Coast 25 kilometers outside of Brisbane, you’ll find Greater Springfield, a city that’s different by nature.

You may never have heard of it. Not surprising; The city is not yet 30 years old. But that doesn’t hold it back. In a few years, it could be the next Silicon Valley, says developer Springfield City Group (SCG).

“The world has learned a lot from Silicon Valley,” founder Maha Sinnathamby told CNBC. “We said, this is 85 years old. Let’s design the latest version.”

Sinnathamby is the brains behind Greater Springfield, Australia’s only privately built city and its first planned city since the founding of the capital Canberra more than a century ago. The octagonal real estate tycoon, who has had a 50-year career developing residential and commercial buildings across Australia, said his most recent project, as well as his inspiration Silicon Valley, is about creating a modern business hub based on technology, Education and health care.

We are trying to attract the Microsofts and Googles of the world.

Maha Sinnathamby

Founder and Chairman of the Springfield City Group

And now he’s looking for big-name companies to help him reach the next level of his cherished $ 68 billion vision.

“We’re trying to attract the world’s Microsofts and Googles,” said Sinnathamby, noting that the group is currently in talks with a multinational tech company.

An innovation center for the Asia-Pacific region

Developed on 7,000 acres for $ 6.1 million, Greater Springfield – the 10th largest planned community in the world – is already a living, breathing city that has changed dramatically from the 1992 disused Sinnathamby forestry operation.

Sinnathamby is now home to 46,000 residents, 16,500 homes, 11 schools, a national university campus, a hospital and a railway line that connects it to neighboring Brisbane.

However, it will take more companies to make it a true hub of innovation in the Asia-Pacific region and meet its goals of triple its population and create 52,000 new jobs by 2030. To date, the SCG project has created 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, it said.

“We want to charge it with highly respected companies that are highly talented and want a lot of profit,” said Sinnathamby. “We can’t do this massive job alone.”

Greater Springfield is the first privately built city in Australia and the 10th largest planned master parish in the world.

Springfield City Group

The bait, as Sinnathamby puts it, is the city’s green field, which gives companies like Silicon Valley space to experiment. This includes offering dedicated facilities in which large companies and smaller start-ups can innovate. In the meantime, the “Living Lab” offers space to test new technologies related to intelligent working, living, learning and playing.

Engie SA is a company that is currently testing the waters. In 2018, the French utility signed a 50-year strategic alliance to make Greater Springfield Australia the first net-zero energy city.

By 2038, Engie plans for the city to generate more energy than it uses by focusing on five key pillars: urban planning, mobility, buildings, energy and technology. Improving the infrastructure for electric vehicles, prioritizing public transport, building green buildings, introducing solar panels on all available roofs, and maintaining 30% of the area’s land for open green spaces are among the different methods by which this is achieved .

Earlier this month, Sydney-based start-up Lavo chose Greater Springfield as the production center for its “world’s first” 30-year hydrogen battery set, which is designed to power a home for two days on a single charge.

Developing a knowledge workforce

The new business will be located in Greater Springfield’s Knowledge Precinct, the city’s main employment hub, designed to attract knowledge workers with skills related to the core pillars of technology, education and healthcare.

Health City, a 128-acre health district developed with Harvard Medical International, will offer world-class healthcare as well as thousands of medical jobs, Sinnathamby said. In the meantime, the city’s growing education network, which includes two new universities and a focus on indigenous communities, will nurture the new generation of professionals, he said.

I want partners to come who are committed to this vision.

Maha Sinnathamby

Founder and Chairman of the Springfield City Group

“We are working very hard to ensure that this knowledge district is not just a gift for Australia, but perhaps the world as well,” said Sinnathamby.

However, the timing of the project cannot be ignored. The pandemic has caused many people to rethink the attractiveness of key business centers. It is estimated that 53% of US tech and media workers have already left or are planning to leave the rising cost of living in large cities.

However, Sinnathamby is confident that his vision for Australia’s future city will stand – and maybe even provide a blueprint for others. With its focus on emerging industries, Greater Springfield appears to have weathered the pandemic better than some other places, recording an unemployment rate of 3.9% versus the nationwide level of 5.9% in Queensland.

“I’m committed to this as a nation-building project,” said Sinnathamby. “Now I want partners to come who are committed to this vision.”

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