Innovation Policy and Advocacy

The North Sydney Innovation Network advocates for technology and innovation policy that improves the inclusivity, sustainability and liveability of our local government areas (LGAs). We champion seven policy priorities (read more information about us).

With a rapidly expanding global economy and unprecedented access to information and resources, innovation is crucial to keep Australia at the cutting edge of economic competitiveness. In a recent OECD report, the imperative to innovate was highlighted:

“New approaches are needed to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to improve their well-being in an increasingly globalised and digitalised economy. The only path to a prosperous, productive and inclusive future is to modernise, and more importantly, to innovate.”

In this context, innovation in terms of culture, infrastructure and planning must be embraced in all long term and strategic policy and planning.

7 Policy Priorities (7Ps)

1. Free, accessible and good quality public WiFi

A 2017 survey found that 84% of Australians access the internet daily and more than half (56%) accessed it more than five times per day. The survey indicated most people own three Internet-enabled devices. Internet and wireless communication is a fundamental feature of the social, economic and cultural life of modern cities. This should be included in all urban infrastructure planning. The ability to conduct business, study, connect with people and services and carry out daily activities, regardless of our location, is now a rudimentary community expectation.

Providing free WiFi is also of central importance to financially-disadvantaged segments of our population and should be one of the ways of promoting inclusivity and equity in any community.

While the NSIN recognises the costs involved, we argue it is a public good that government should provide along with sound roadways, well-maintained parks and community spaces in the context of a healthy and safe community environment. Free WiFi should be treated as a fundamental infrastructure in a progressive, inclusive community.

2. Smart cities: integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into public infrastructure

Building and ‘community place’ managers throughout the world are increasingly incorporating IoT devices and solutions into their infrastructure. IoT helps to reduce costs, improve the quality of their buildings and boost efficiency and enjoyment by the community.

Smart city design can include smart, energy-efficient lighting systems, smart elevators that aim to reduce wait times, smart bins that notify local governments when they are full and community safety and policing innovations.

Financial and other efficiencies are possible if local, state and federal governments work together to introduce these innovations, but this requires an early and coordinated approach to preparing for the integration of the IoT.

3. Open data across community services and utilities

An open data policy should be applied to all aspects of community operations. This includes information about transportation, roadworks, waste collection, development applications, support services and facilities. Transparency and harnessing the power of data sharing are key innovations of the smart cities of the future. Governments need to shift the paradigm of data restriction to making their data sources available to the public. To fuel innovation sector, governments should work with innovative enterprises and individuals seeking to solve both local and global infrastructure and planning issues. The NSIN respects that open data initiatives must go hand-in-hand with strict adherence to privacy principles.

4. Promoting and creating flexible work “collaboration areas”

Company culture is rapidly changing and flexible working arrangements are the way of the future. Australia now has over 300 coworking locations, with nine of these located on Sydney’s north shore. Shared workspaces (or co-working spaces) provide many benefits to companies, employees and the community.

For employees: Productivity and wellbeing benefits; working closer to home; better quality of life and easier management of caring responsibilities, where childcare is incorporated into the shared space.

For companies: Smaller real estate footprints; cheaper rents; shared (and reduced) costs for office operations such as WiFi, printing and amenities. Landlords can reap the benefits of the range of revenue streams mixed-use coworking spaces can generate.

For the community: Reduced traffic congestion and pressure on the public transport system; economic benefits for local businesses like gyms, cafes and other services.

Many LGAs identify within their CSPs of their commitment to renew or refresh ageing infrastructure and community spaces. There are opportunities to convert these spaces into usable, Internet-connected shared workspaces. Many of these ideas can be deployed quickly and economically. These include providing undercover seating in parks, complete with outdoor powerpoints and WiFi hotspots and setting up hot desks in disused community centres, halls or other Council-owned spaces with reasonable access to commercial areas and public transport.

5. Preparing for drones in our communities

The NSIN urges all governments to consider how drones will impact the way both commercial enterprises and government departments carry out their functions and where efficiencies or advantages can be gained using drones.

The effective integration of drones will also require planning and infrastructure decisions. For example, landing pads and hubs in densely populated urban areas to ensure the opportunities offered by drones can be maximised. The biggest barrier to adopting innovative technology is an unfavourable regulatory environment and a lack of a plan to manage data, safety and privacy, among other challenges. The NSIN urges all governments to establish a clear and practical framework and regulations for the operation of drones in our communities.

6. Preparing for autonomous vehicles in our communities

A city run on shared autonomous cars would likely have a dramatically lower environmental footprint, with even low levels of automation capable of facilitating substantial reductions in energy use, provided this innovation is correctly introduced and harnessed.

Research suggests that autonomous vehicles will dramatically reduce road fatalities. In a 2017 presentation, Dr Hussein Dia from Swinburne University said human error was to blame for up to 90% of the 1.2 million deaths that occur each year from car accidents around the world.

A large proportion (of car accidents) could be avoided by using self-driving vehicles and there is compelling logic in removing humans – the key source of the error – from the driving equation,” he said.

Vehicle automation could also reduce energy consumption and environmental pollution caused by traffic congestion, by improving traffic flow. However, to optimise their operation, driverless cars require smart roads and infrastructure, which should be factored into the strategic plans of LGAs and cities.

7. Actively boosting STEM involvement at all levels of education

The NSIN regards high-quality science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education is critically important for our current and future productivity and our ability as a nation to compete on the world stage.

A 2014 report Science, Technology, Engineering And Mathematics: Australia’s Future released by the Office of the Chief Scientist, states:

STEM skills are critical to the management and success of R&D projects as well as the day-to-day operations of competitive firms. They are the lifeblood of emerging knowledge-based industries—such as biotechnology, information and communications technology (ICT) and advanced manufacturing—and provide a competitive advantage to established industries—such as agriculture, resources and healthcare.”

International research indicates that 75% of the fastest-growing occupations require STEM skills and knowledge and that employment in STEM occupations will grow at almost twice the pace of other occupations.

Unfortunately, the findings from an Australian Industry Group report indicated that employers from across the economy believe STEM skill shortages are limiting their business and ability to innovate. In fact, a quarter of employers said the biggest barrier to recruitment was a lack of applicants with STEM skills.

The NSIN supports STEM skills development at all educational levels. Through industry partnerships, government policy and grants, Australians must acquire the capabilities they need to live and work in a globalised world. Governments should foster and promote innovation research and technology, create more innovation incubators and seek to create a regulatory and financial environment that grows and fosters innovative ideas and technology. 

Submissions to Government 

In the last twelve months the NSIN has made eight submissions to local Councils seeking consultation on a variety of infrastructure projects, policies or strategic plans:

  1. Willoughby City Council submission March 2017
  2. Greater Sydney Council North District Plan, March 2017
  3. Community Poll questions submission June 2017
  4. NSW Government Future Transport Strategy June 2017
  5. North Sydney Council Traffic and Parking Area Scheme (TAPAS) plan September 2017
  6. Ku-ring-gai Council Strategic Plan Submission February 2018
  7. Kesterton Park: Proposed Improvement Works, March 2018
  8. North Sydney Community Strategic Plan 2013-2023, March 2018.

To read our submissions visit our public Dropbox and go to: “Submissions & Issued Papers AS RELEASED”.

We believe our advocacy is changing the way Councils consider the impact of technology and innovation in their LGA.


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