Sowing the seeds: creating a regional innovation ecosystem in Goondiwindi

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Sowing the seeds: creating a regional innovation ecosystem in Goondiwindi

18 July 2019

The Project brief: Goondiwindi Regional Council’s Economic Development Vision

‘The Goondiwindi region aims to be Australia’s centre of agricultural excellence, a premier visitor destination, and a region celebrated for its prosperous rural lifestyle.’

History: A community consultation identified an opportunity to establish a Centre for Agricultural Excellence to capitalise on the innovation generated in the region and the rapid advances in technology that are changing the face of agricultural production systems.

Project Vision: The Centre for Agricultural Excellence concept will see the creation of an ecosystem that will support local producers in developing a solution to their everyday farming issues using local businesses, funded by local investors and employing and educating locals, as well as attracting investment and additional personnel to the region.

The Centre will be community-led to resolve local issues and to serve local interests and industries. The facility is expected to be financially self-sustainable within a reasonable period. The Centre will act as an incubator for local businesses, offering opportunities for collaboration, mentoring, investment, education and technical support.

Expected outcomes: Identify the demand, potential users and other broader regional risks and opportunities. Identify practical governance, operational, investment and infrastructure models to ensure success. The Centre must be a local entity that is viable, sustainable and successful in providing solutions to agricultural challenges as identified by local farmers.

A summary of findings is outlined below:

Presumptions and Principles

Two presumptions of the report are that:

1) A physical space is not required to meet the functions of an innovation hub; and

2) Achieving innovation outcomes in a region requires more than an innovation hub.

 

Innovation ecosystems are proven to bring value both to a region and to individual entrepreneurs through economic diversity, access to new markets, the attraction of talent and new industries, and building local entrepreneur capability.

This value-building can take time and is built on core principles, including:

1) Ensuring diversity and redundancy;

2) Social and physical connectivity;

3) A culture of entrepreneurship and experimentation;

4) Broad participation in the community;

5) A multi-faceted governance model;

6) An acknowledgment of complexity; and

7) Allowance for outcomes over a long period of time.

 

 

The Goondiwindi Context

 

Source: ABS, 2017 & NIEIR, 2018.

The agricultural sector is significant in Goondiwindi – with agricultural exports representing 60% of the gross regional product (GRP) ($433M agricultural exports of $728M GRP in 2018).

  • Agriculture is diverse in Goondiwindi - with a combination of cattle, wheat, pigs, chickpeas, and cotton comprising 70% of the sector. The diversity provides for resilience and multiple avenues for innovation activity.
  • Agriculture innovation is growing in Australia - The Goondiwindi hub contributes to the wider Australian and global innovation ecosystem. There are over 25 start-up-related hubs and programs focused on agriculture in Australia.
  • Strengths in the region – include the existing entrepreneurial culture, the agriculture strength and diversity, existing momentum towards innovation activity, central logistics hub, nationally-recognised lifestyle and strong social fabric.
  • Weaknesses in the region – include a lack of digital connectivity outside of the town centre, distances from populated areas, lack of density of entrepreneurial support, and limited specialised service providers focused on entrepreneurial activity.
  • Opportunities in the region – include current innovation funding, leveraging momentum from neighbouring regions (Toowoomba) and momentum from ongoing digital disruption.
  • Threats in the region – include competition from neighbouring regions, maintaining a social licence to operate for current farm practices, changing consumer food-related expectations and purchasing behaviour, new entrants in the food market (organic, plant-based ‘meat’), impacts from climate variability, and digital disruption driving a need for greater connectivity

The Goondiwindi hub will engage with innovation activity in surrounding regions - The Goondiwindi innovation hub will engage with surrounding regions in three strategies:

1) Collaborate with, and differentiate from, established innovation programs and initiatives (e.g. Toowoomba, Western Downs);

2) Raise awareness and align where possible (e.g. Southern Downs, Tenterfield); and

3) Partner with and help (e.g. Balonne).

Project Researchers: Mr Chad Renando (USQ); Assoc. Professor Ben Lyons (USQ)

 

To keep reading download the full report (version 2.2.) here.