While its distance to key markets like the United States and Europe stood as a disadvantage for a long time, Australia has defied expectations by strengthening its network in the fast-growing Asian-Pacific region. With its highly developed infrastructure and young population, particularly in its major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, the country has attracted a lot of foreign investment and built strong trade relationships across the globe.
The development of megaprojects, such as World Trade Center Sydney and a new airport complex in Western Sydney, hopes to further facilitate trade and foreign investment by enhancing the city’s connectivity to the rest of the world.
“Sydney is a world class location. There are already 600 multinationals located here. We also offer connectivity between business programs, support startups, SMEs, a well- connected education and research industry. That really drives a whole-of-industry approach to industry development,” NSW Department of Industry Executive Director Kylie Bell says.For its part, the New South Wales Department of Industry has taken a more expansive approach to industrial development in its effort to attract more business.“There is a lifetime of investment opportunities created in the various components of this mixed-use development. With Aerotropolis Group as the developer, foreign direct investment partners will be part of shaping this city as they create significant economic and employment activity near Australia’s new gateway airport,” Aerotropolis Group CEO and Managing Director Jomon Varghese says.
For many years, Australia invested heavily into its education system while aggressively recruiting the brightest foreign students from around the world. This has not only built a strong skill-based workforce but, just as importantly, has established a very strong research culture, which has devoted its efforts to solving some of the world’s most complex issues.
Melbourne, in the state of Victoria, has developed a reputation as a hotbed of innovation. Many of the city’s most innovative companies have become success stories in health care, life sciences, fintech and even in transportation and defense. APV Safety Systems, just of the many SMEs, is an example of an Australian company whose pioneering technology has saved many lives around the world.
“We’ve got lots of ideas and more patents per capita than many other countries. But for various reasons, we find it difficult to commercialize these ventures,” Melbourne Business School Dean Ian Harper says.
While the wide gap between research and industry stands as a huge challenge to surmount, the robustness of the two fields also represents the key to the sustainable growth of Melbourne and, by extension, Australia.
“This is the biggest opportunity facing Melbourne Business School and also its greatest challenge. We are part of the country’s number one ranked research university. We are part of the fastest growing knowledge economy in the country. Melbourne has a bit of a comparative advantage in making these things work to catalyze the knowledge economy,” Harper says.
In the same city, another leading institution is rethinking its approach to education as part of its continuous contribution to narrow the gap between research and industry.
“In recent years, the Monash MBA program has reimagined what business leaders want from an MBA program. So, we designed and launched new programs fit for the 21st century,” says Monash Business School MBA Programs Director Prof. Patrick Butler.
“The Monash MBA focuses on next-generation challenges including AI, sustainability and governance. We take on consulting projects in the commercialization of technology, new venture start-ups and international business,” Butler adds.
“Our Global Executive MBA students study at leading business schools internationally and undertake projects in advanced manufacturing, life sciences and digital transformation for Australian businesses. Our economy really needs these ambitious, tech-savvy executives with a global mindset,” he also says.
The next frontier
Although regarded as an advanced economy, some of Australia’s regions present untapped investment opportunities similar to those of developing nations. Comprising one-fifth of the country’s territory, the Northern Territory (NT) accounts represent only one percent of the total population.
NT’s abundant reserves of minerals, natural gas and petroleum have powered the region’s export sector and attracted massive investments from the United States, Europe and Japan. It has also put forward agriculture, aerospace and defense as its favorable investment sectors.
“We are the only developing economy, within a developed nation, in a tropical region, on the planet,” NT Department of Trade, Business and Innovation Chief Executive Michael Tennant says.
The NT wants to position itself as a gateway to and from Asia. Its capital Darwin, also Australia’s northernmost city, is geographically closer to Indonesia than it is to Sydney.
Aside from its expanding seaport, Darwin is expanding its international airport, building a much-needed cold storage facility and adding routes to major Asian cities. The infrastructure projects are laying the groundwork for NT’s economic takeoff.
In the field of science, the Menzies School of Health Research is making a name for itself around the world as a leading research institute in tropical diseases and indigenous health.
“We are on the doorstep of the fastest growing area in the planet with the fastest growing middle class. The opportunities for trade and investment here are limitless,” Tennant says.