An innovation hub in Adelaide where students rub shoulders with big business is revolutionising education and employment in SA. Having won awards for its sustainable design, the Tonsley district is now looking at expanding
words Alexandra Economou
Collaboration is king at Adelaide’s Tonsley district, a place where education, business and innovation meet. Formerly home to a Mitsubishi car-making plant, Tonsley has been revamped to include Flinders University at Tonsley and a TAFE SA branch. It is also the site of myriad businesses, from small startups to major companies such as Siemens and ZEN Energy Systems. Tonsley is focused on four high-growth sectors: health, medical devices and assistive technologies; cleantech and renewable energy; software and simulation; and mining and energy services.
Tonsley Project Steering Committee chairman Terry Burgess says it is a true innovation precinct. “It is the optimum way of doing business in modern times,” he says. “The way I look at Tonsley is it’s unique because it’s positioned to take advantage of all those specific ingredients of academia, industry and government. It was about making sure it is a place where people can meet and collaborate (and the) government should be applauded for having the vision to look (to create) something for the future.”
He expects more businesses to join the district and says a planned 650 dwelling development, due to start construction next year, will add to the community feel of the area. Flinders University professor and the Dean of the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics, John Roddick, says Tonsley allows education and industry to “rub shoulders”. “From our point of view it’s amazing,” he says.
“I think it has worked because we have got the necessary components in the same place. It’s one thing for SA to say we have innovation here and we have got engineering capability over there, it’s actually bringing it into the one place so people meet over coffee or bump into each other and say, ‘I have an idea’.”
Professor Roddick says Tonsley is an example of the future of employment and South Australia’s movement away from traditional manufacturing, such as cars. “We worry about what will happen to the workers at Holden (in Adelaide’s north) but there will be far more jobs in industries that replace them,” he says. “Tonsley is a good solution to the problem we have (with employment).” He also commended the State Government for keeping its promise that Tonsley will remain a hi-tech precinct. “They haven’t fallen for putting a Bunnings on the corner and they are sticking with the philosophy,” he says. “Even if it takes an extra couple of years to fill the place, it’s a 25-year project, not a five-year one.”
sounding out network of manufacturers
An innovative business needs an innovative working environment, which made Tonsley the ideal choice for Signostics. The leader in handheld ultrasound devices set up shop in Tonsley in 2014.“For Signostics, Tonsley offered the opportunity to become a member of the country’s leading network of manufacturers and connect with academics from Flinders Unviersity,” says signostics chief operating officer Stewart Bartlett. “It provided the perfect springboard for Signostics to launch internationally, allowing the company to make a firm footprint in Seattle, Washington — the mecca of global ultrasound innovation. Now our breakthrough ultrasound, Uscan, is revolutionising the way clinicians perform bladder scans.”
Three little Pods
cafe embraces constant change
A unique setting at Tonsley has made things interesting for the owners and workers at Three Little Pods cafe. Co-owner William Petridis says the industrial and modern feel of the precinct is something new and different. “It’s been great and a very different learning curve,” he says. “It’s a place forever evolving and changing and we have expanded into different areas such as catering. Things continue to change as more companies move in.”
Having opened last year, Mr Petridis says he is looking forward to seeing more businesses set up shop in Tonsley and the impact of residential development nearby.
Laundry gets easier for innovation hub
The opportunity to grow its business in a collaborative environment made the decision to move its corporate office to Tonsley an easy one, says HEGS Australia chief executive Scott Boocock. HEGS Australia manufactures the HEGS peg — a peg with a hook. The company was named the 2015 Telstra South Australian Business of the Year. Mr Boocock says moving to the Tonsley Innovation District allowed the company to expand. “We saw it as an opportunity to grow our business in a community environment, built on a foundation of collaboration, education, innovation and entrepreneurship,” he says. “Another key criteria for the section process was securing a location close to our SA manufacturing and assembly sites.”
Hands-on training in inspiring surrounds
The Onshore Petroleum Centre of Excellence (OPCE) is a great example of how TAFE SA works closely with industry to provide hands-on training that leads to jobs. TAFE SA’s director of mining and engineering Alison Roberts says Tonsley is a good fit for OPCE — a unique facility that provides a realistic simulation of oil and gas operations from extraction to separation. “Using the OPCE’s simulated training environment, students get a real world experience of what it’s like in the field and what is expected of them,” Ms Roberts says. “The location at Tonsley maximises the opportunity for collaboration with the petroleum industry to ensure we maintain a skilled workforce that will service South Australia now and in the future.”
OUTSIDE THE BOX – Creating solutions for world problems
South Australian business Humanihut is receiving accolades for its innovative pop-up shelter system which provides emergency accommodation for refugees and during natural disasters.
Humanihut is the only SA business to make the global biannual Disrupt 100 list — an index recognising companies which have the most potential to influence, change or create new international markets. Humanihut founder and chief executive Neale Sutton says it took three years’ research to come up with the product. “The Humanihut is an all-in-one, out-of-the-box solution that provides accommodation, toilet and showering facilities and integrates necessary services such as freshwater, sewerage disposal and power,” he says. “By providing clean water and shelter, the Humanihut helps prevent health problems such as malaria and waterborne diseases that kill thousands of refugees every year. The company has brought together a group of like-minded Australians who want to do the right thing to support those worst affected by the global refugee crisis.”
The South Australian Government supported the development of the Humanihut by giving $77,000 through its Innovation Voucher Program. “The Humanihut is an example of the kind of innovation needed to transform our state’s economy,” SA Premier Jay Weatherill says. Each Humanihut takes about five minutes to assemble and can
sleep up to six people.
take a tax break
A tax rebate for small businesses with a payroll of $1.2 million or less. Savings will vary depending on the amount spent on wages. The rebate has been extended to the 2019-20 financial year.
Off-the-plan stamp duty concession is available for contracts entered into until June 30, 2017. Maximum concession is $15,500.
The abolition of the Save the River Murray Levy, stamp duty on genuine corporate restrictions and stamp duty on non-real property transfers such as non-fixed plant and equipment, intellectual property or statutory licences.
Almost $30 million extra will be spent by the state government on innovation initiatives for entrepreneurs and business.
Job creation grants of up to $10,000 over two years for each fulltime equivalent job in eligible SMES which are liable for payroll tax. A small business and start-ups grant of up to $4000 over two years is available for each new job of 22 hours or more each week for eligible businesses which do not pay payroll tax.
South Australia’s Economic Investment Fund will receive an extra $20 million over the next two years to attract new businesses to the state, promote job creation and develop key industry sectors.