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The Geography of Innovation: Why Place Matters for the Digital Economy

“Places matter; they map our lives, ” says writer Rebecca Solnit.

The Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI) is a place that matters, not only to the University of Melbourne, which spearheads its progress with partner Lendlease, but also to the city in which it is based and the community that creates its identity, fosters its narrative and reaps its impact.

_mg_3922Put simply, CCI is a cultural and capital transformational project to turn a former large hospital site into a thriving ‘innovation district’. Sitting adjacent to Australia’s leading research university and 800 metres from the city of Melbourne’s central business district, CCI ensures the 3Ps – “place, proximity and partnerships” – support the city’s and nation’s aspiration to create economic, social and equitable prosperity that is underpinned by knowledge, networks and pioneering ventures.

This concept of using the 3Ps to tackle challenges is not a new phenomenon. Throughout human history, people have come together to solve complexity, deal with crisis and innovate. Renaissance Florence is a great example: via collaborative co-working spaces (guilds), mentoring and patronage diverse people from engineers to artists worked together and innovations such as “perspective” were birthed and engineering feats such as Brunelleschi’s roof for the Duomo di Firenze.

As we enter a new era now coined “the 4th Industrial Revolution” it is easy to see how initiatives like CCI can foster innovation. Place based innovation ecosystems are creating ways for start-ups, researchers, community leaders and policy makers to collectively tackle complex problems that can’t be solved alone – e.g. climate change, sustainability, food security and city resilience. What is “new”, and well articulated by the Brookings Institution in its seminal paper “The Rise of Innovation Districts”, is a consistent emerging “pattern” occurring across those cities globally that are driving the “innovation economy”. This pattern most often includes a clustering of companies, start-ups, accelerators /incubators with anchor institutions (e.g. universities and research organisations) in physical places that are highly walkable and/or accessed by good public transport, with social and public spaces to network. Such spaces bring to life and realise the value in the density of talent that is attracted to these hotspots.

So, how does CCI fare? 

To find out more and answer this question, you can access the article in full for free in the University Industry Innovation Magazine 2018 Issue 1 (p.7) here:


Jacyl Shaw is the Digital Innovation Lead at global engineering firm GHD. Jacyl oversees the creation and delivery of a suite of programs and activities to foster a culture of innovation and leads the digital engagement strategies for current and prospective partners in community, government and industry. Prior this, Jacyl was Engagement Director of Carlton Connect Initiative

©all rights on images used in this article belong to CCI. 

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