CSIRO maps the nation’s digital workforce clusters

More than half of all tech workers in Australia are situated in one of 96 digital technology clusters scattered across the country, according to a new report from national science agency CSIRO and the Tech Council of Australia.

The 96 clusters, located in all eight states and territories, also accounted for 62 per cent of the tech job created in Australia between 2011 and 2021, despite representing just four per cent of the 2,473 statistical regions examined.

The report, which maps clusters on a national scale for the first time, pinpoints 60 greater capital city clusters, including four super-clusters – the ‘Sydney Arc’, the ‘Melbourne Diamond’, the ‘Brisbane Corridor’, and the ‘Canberra Triangle’.

A further 36 regional niche clusters – the bulk of which are situated in locations on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in Queensland, and Regional Victoria – were also identified.

A mock-up of Tech Central in Haymarket, Sydney. Image: CSIRO

In NSW, Victoria and Canberra, more than half of the digital workforce was found to be based in a cluster, the report said, accounting for 132,863 workers (61 per cent), 102,716 workers (57 per cent), and 21,994 (69 per cent), respectively

For the remainder of the country, the percentage of digital workers in clusters ranged from 39 per cent in Western Australia and 41 per cent in Queensland to 47 per cent in South Australia, brining the Australian average to 55 per cent.

The report also found that clusters contributed to 62 per cent of national digital workforce growth between 2011 and 2021 and generated 63 per cent more intellectual property patent applications, indicating “higher R&D productivity”.

CSIRO acting chief executive Kristen Rose said the “experience globally has shown that firms in clusters grow, employ and innovate at a faster rate” than those that are not located in industry clusters.

But in Australia there has been “relatively few attempts” to identifying technology industry clusters, with efforts limited specific area like North Sydney’s ‘arc’, the software industry in Sydney and Melbourne, or Australia’s AI capabilities.

“We know comparatively little about this in Australia, but what this report tells us very clearly is that geography matters and understanding that geography can help us catalyse growth,” Ms Rose said ahead of the launch of the report on Tuesday.

CSIRO principal researcher Dr Stefan Hajkowicz, who is the lead author, said the report highlighted some of the “same patterns of intense spatial clustering” seen in leading technology clusters in Silicon Valley and Cambridge in the United Kingdom, among others.

In North Sydney-Lavender Bay, for instance, software programmers are employed at “7.3 times the rate of the national average”, followed by Docklands in Melbourne (6.38 times) and Greenway in Canberra (6.32 times).

“We’re not searching for Australia’s Silicon Valley, we have our own clusters with their own unique blend of technology specialisations, companies, and cultures,” Dr Hajkowicz said of the report.

Commenting on the report, Tech Council chief executive Kate Pounder said the 96 clusters was an “incredible achievement” and helped to create “jobs and opportunity for a range of communities and workers”.

She added that the existence of niche clusters in regions like Noosa in Queensland, Newcastle in New South Wales and Torquay in Victoria was proof that “great ideas and industries can spring up anywhere in Australia”.

“Given tech jobs are amongst the fastest-growing, best-paid and most flexible jobs in the country, it’s a great advantage for any community to have a cluster in their area,” Ms Pounder said in a statement.

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