The international tourist and education industries in Sydney are big and booming. Overseas visitors in 2017 spent nearly 79.7 million nights in Sydney, up 7.5% from the previous year, and their local spend was around $9.4bn. The education of international students is Australia’s third largest export, worth $10.3bn to Sydney and New South Wales. Now technology offers another global pathway for Sydney’s economic growth.
At the recent Future Asia Business Summit, demographer Bernard Salt dazzled the audience with Sydney’s growth story. This covered the long-term rise in its GDP, substantial jobs growth, new types of employment being created, its high number of international-born residents and evolving Anglo-Asian fusion culture. “Sydney is Australia’s portal into the international economy,” he said. Another speaker, Dr Marlene Kanga, director of artificial intelligence company iOmniscient, added: “The tyranny of distance has been removed by engineering and technology, and if Sydney is to continue to prosper it needs to keep driving innovation and entrepreneurship. We can address the Asia opportunity through technology leadership.”
TechSydney is an entrepreneur-led industry group that connects, supports and promotes the city’s tech industry. Director Bede Moore highlights several local strengths that underpin future growth potential: “Australian start-ups are encouraged to find overseas markets as quickly as possible, so they start with an international attitude. This is very important. Another advantage is Australia’s role as a test market for big corporates to try out new business models, innovations and new features. This brings lots of international companies into the local market. Australians are early adopters and are responsive to new ideas and change. Lastly, with the Asia opportunity, Sydney can act as a base to target a variety of different large markets including Japan and Korea, China and the south-east Asian countries.”
Victoria Moxey, who runs the City of Sydney’s Tech Start-ups programme, brings high-profile international entrepreneurs to the city to share their expertise and knowledge with the local tech startup community. “We have more than 2000 tech start-ups active in Sydney, and bringing in overseas expertise and sharing their experience is a sound investment for our future,” she says. “New connections and opportunities are also created. One of our current visiting entrepreneurs, Liesl Yearsley, CEO and co-founder of A·kin, is now locating a research centre on ethical Artificial Intelligence in Sydney.”
The 2018 Global Start-up Ecosystem Report ranks Sydney as number four in the world for local connectedness, a place where tech entrepreneurs can easily meet and build strong relationships. Ingrid Marsh, manager of international investment at New South Wales’s Department of Industry agrees. “Sydney gives a warm welcome to overseas investors and particularly in the tech community there is amazing support for new businesses,” she says. “With the recent establishment of the Sydney Start-up Hub, the largest tech hub in the southern hemisphere with capacity to house 2500 entrepreneurs, we are making sure that the right connections and collaborations can happen.”
Sydney’s tech sector has grown considerably over the past couple of years and as it continues to develop both its local and international connections. It is well on the way to becoming a multibillion-dollar industry.
Douglas Clark is director of Location Connections, consultants for economic development innovation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org