A global award for Melbourne’s technology and innovation sector serves as validation for the Victorian government’s ongoing policy strategy in the space, according to Innovation Minister Philip Dalidakis.
Melbourne was named the “most intelligent community” in the world at the Intelligent Community Forum in New York last week. The award is the culmination of a year of qualitative analysis, site inspections and voting by an international jury.
Melbourne came out above the Queensland city of Ipswich, along with Chiayi City in Taiwan, Edmonton in Canada, and Taoyuan in Taiwan as the top five.
The global recognition was a vote of confidence in the state’s innovation policy strategy over the last two years, Mr Dalidakis said.
“It’s validation that we’re on the right path, and it’s validation that our strategy is being seen internationally as successful and delivering wins on the ground, Mr Dalidakis told InnovationAus.com.
“These wins are important not because of what they mean for the government but because of what they are delivering in terms of outcomes.”
But he says the community and those operating within it are the reason Melbourne picked up the gong, rather than government policies alone.
“I’m proud of these awards not because of what they mean for us as a government but for what they mean for us as a community,” he said.
“These award recognises the importance and the impact that the local ecosystem has had and that’s one reason why we’re able to attract international companies that we have on the back of their hard work and vision.”
The government and community’s focus on diversity was a key differentiator for Victoria, he added.
“The fact that our community is embracing change – not being fearful of it, but looking at how it can incorporate it. I think that the very strong push for inclusivity and diversity within our workforce, and that we’re looking to establish Victoria on its own terms internationally, has helped us yet again be identified as a great example,” Mr Dalidakis said.
The Intelligent Community Forum, a think-tank based in New York, pointed to Melbourne’s Lightning Broadband, research institutions, new innovation precincts and focus on sustainability as factors behind its win.
“They are redefining the concept of technology, work and the workspace. They have created a city that functions like an artist’s canvas,” Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Lou Zacharilla said.
“They have built an entire system where creativity flourishes, education is harnessed to the workforce and quality of life has become the city’s greatest competitive advantage. It is a dynamic combination and one the Intelligent Community Forum honours.”
The award is based on six “Intelligent Community Indicators” and the group’s annual theme of “the internet of cities”.
Since Mr Dalidakis took over the portfolio in July 2015, the state’s tech and innovation push has centred on the infrastructure that supports the startup ecosystem through its $60 million fund LaunchVic, and on attracting large tech companies from around the world to set up local headquarters in the city.
LaunchVic dishes out grants to projects looking to build infrastructure around the local ecosystem and has recently updated its strategy to deliver more regular funding tranches.
Victoria also regularly spends big to bring big tech firms to the state with an aim of building expertise and creating new jobs.
“The government’s role is to try to bring all the players together to provide a degree of strategy and support in terms of the infrastructure around what we’re trying to establish and develop,” he said.
“We wouldn’t be able to do all of that without the support and clear focus of delivery that our ecosystem has delivered time and time again.”
While never being one to shy away from getting one up over cross-country rival Sydney, Mr Dalidakis said the real competition for Victoria is with the rest of the world.
“It’s not Sydney we’re competing against now. Melbourne is undoubtedly the undisputed champion of startups and technology across the country. The places we’re competing with are Singapore, London, Shanghai, San Francisco and New York,” he said.
“We have to continually strive to reach new heights and we’re demonstrating that given that we keep getting award after award.”