‘Anchor’ tenants drive innovation precinct success: Report

Brandon How

Anchor tenants are important drivers of the success of innovation precincts according to a report by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council which calls on the government to help anchors thrive.

The Role of Anchors report highlights lessons from innovation precincts across the world, as well as from several Australian examples. It outlines four common precinct principles that “help their anchors to thrive”.

Anchors can include larger businesses, universities, or hospitals that have significant influence over the local economy, community, and in creating a sense of place. They may create many local jobs, make large investment in research and development, promote commercialisation, create spinouts, facilitate knowledge transfer, and support the local supply chain.

Artist’s rendition of Atlassian Central, currently under construction in Sydney’ Tech Central precinct.

Anchor tenants can also “provide a centre of gravity and an essential source of community and common purpose”, particularly during disruptive periods such as the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the report.

Given their large influence, anchor tenants are also expected to raise the international profile of the innovation precinct helping to attract investment to the area and other tenants, according to the report.

In particular, an anchor’s long-term commitment to a precinct may motivate the construction of supporting infrastructure and other redevelopments.

To ensure innovation precincts are successful, the report makes four recommendations based on the anchor model:

  • Build a cohesive innovation story for NSW to attract R&D intensive anchors
  • Co-design long-term anchor strategies that are tailored for each precinct
  • Invest in precinct leadership and governance to support quality partnerships and collaborations with anchors
  • Encourage anchor mindsets to help shape the long-term success of precincts

In the foreword to the report, NSW Innovation and Productivity Council member Jillian Kilby highlighted the emergence of “strong anchors” across the state.

“New South Wales is seeing strong anchors emerge, and there is much we can learn from precincts around the world. We don’t need to duplicate Silicon Valley’s success to profit from its lessons,” Ms Kilby said.

“Other regions have grown anchor institutions, or attracted them in, and some are starting to think like an anchor before investing in the traditional bricks and mortar approach. We are already doing some of this. We can do more.”

The report cites the ‘Atlassian effect’ on Sydney’s Tech Central which has accelerated the co-location of tech companies at the precinct. The company’s close collaboration with industry bodies, developers, and government advisers helped accelerate redevelopment around Central Station to support the potential growth of Atlassian as well as improving Sydney’s attractiveness to international businesses and investors.

Construction on Atlassian’s $1.4 billion Sydney headquarters in Tech Central began last month, two years after Atlassian was signed as the first anchor tenant in 2020.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation at Lucas Heights is also highlighted as a “knowledge-rich anchor attracting innovative businesses that want to take advantage of the significant research infrastructure, talent, and value chains in an advanced technology industry”. It has also fostered “closer engagement between scientists, the community, and industry”, according to the report.

Several other tenants at Australian innovation precincts are also highlighted. These include the Children’s Medical Research Institute at the Westmead Health and Innovation District, Cochlear at the Macquarie Park Innovation District, Brightmark at the Parkes Special Activation Precinct and Lockheed Martin at the Williamtown Aerospace Precinct.

Interim Investment NSW chief executive Katie Knight said the state has had “tremendous success in enticing leading local and international companies and institutions…to anchor our innovation precincts”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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