Thebarton Technology Precinct: a master plan for success

There’s excitement in the air at Thebarton. While discussing the Thebarton Technology Hub Master Plan with BioSA’s Director of Biotechnology Infrastructure, Mr Greg Hall, and City of West Torrens Mayor, John Trainer, one can’t help but be caught up in the enthusiasm that surrounds the area.

“The Thebarton Technology Precinct is a result of an organic, evolutionary process that’s occurred since the late 1990s. Through assistance from the South Australian Government, it has its roots in the area where Hospira, Bionomics, Thermo Fisher Scientific and the recently opened Tech Hub building currently stand,” said Mr Hall. “It has grown over time to include the areas to the west of this, including the location of the first BioSA Business Incubator and the surrounding land, which is prime for further development.”

It has grown, Mr Hall pointed out, “through companies recognising the convenience and potential for the area. It currently has about 60 technology-focused companies in the Precinct, which makes it one of the largest technology clusters in Australia.”

The Master Plan

It’s this growth within the Precinct that, in May 2013, prompted BioSA, along with the City of West Torrens and JPE Design Studio, to formulate the Master Plan – a comprehensive strategy to actively revitalise the Thebarton area with the aim of building a village where innovation meets lifestyle.

Mayor Trainer sees the Master Plan as an important ingredient in the culture and appeal of the council area and that of the neighbouring City of Charles Sturt. “We’re seeing a gradual stream of urban professionals who are occupying new infill developments or refurbished 19th century workers’ cottages. They are taking advantage of the proximity of the area to local attractions including the Urban Forest on the old Engineering & Water Supply site, the recently upgraded Entertainment Centre and the tramline extension.”

“The Master Plan affords the revitalisation of streetscapes and public spaces, the undergrounding of power lines along West Thebarton Road and improvements to the riverbank area,” Mayor Trainer said.

Aspects of the Plan have already been implemented with the recent reopening of the Holland Street Footbridge to provide easy pedestrian and bike access – a decision that has been popular with local residents and businesses.

Mayor Trainer pointed out that the area has historical significance in that it was the place of Colonel William Light’s cottage and that the proximity to the CBD and the Adelaide Airport make for a perfect location for business, making it attractive for people to both live and work in the area.

For the Thebarton Technology Precinct, the Plan sees the proposed establishment of flagship buildings and an impressive entrance to rival those of similar clusters in Manchester, Oxford and San Diego.

meeting place 1

Artist’s impression of the Holland Street Meeting Place where Holland Street meets the river bank.

The Thebarton Technology Precinct

Mr Hall explained that the strong reputation of the Precinct is seeing impressive results. “We’re now seeing an internationalisation of the Precinct that is providing a return on investment for those companies located here, and also for the South Australian Government.

Examples of this esteemed reputation come in the form of CPR Pharma Services who, on a daily basis, are providing analytical services to large US-based pharmaceutical companies in their FDA-accredited laboratories. Other great South Australian companies based here include The Pipette Company, that manufactures micromanipulation pipettes which are used worldwide by the IVF industry; GeneWorks, that supplies synthetic DNA to the Australian and international research and development (R&D) sectors; and Bionomics, an ASX-listed drug company dedicated to making better treatments for cancer, anxiety, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

These success stories are the result of three crucial elements that ignite enterprise through co-location within the cluster. “The factors that play into the success of the Precinct are tacit knowledge transfer, advantages in support and human resources, and the supply chain component where companies can service others that are close by, therefore generating revenue,” said Mr Hall.

Mr Hall explained that the diversity of companies within the Precinct is also impressive. “The cluster is now more diverse than just biotechnology. We’re seeing the transition from pure life sciences into engineering and information and communications technology, and the Precinct operates within the interface between these three areas.”

“We have a mixture of service providers, manufacturers of materials to R&D, prototyping of medical devices, and environmental biotechnology. It’s an eclectic mix of companies which adds to the cluster’s strengths,” he said.

The Precinct’s future

The proximity of the Precinct to current state developments like the Biomedical Precinct – comprising the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) – along with planned buildings for the universities of Adelaide and South Australia, places it perfectly for future deal flow – research projects that can be commercialised within the Precinct.

“As SAHMRI and the new RAH establish themselves, we see that there is definitely potential for collaboration with that precinct in commercialisation of their research outcomes,” Mr Hall stated.

The Master Plan outlines a significant development rolled out over seven years and will reinforce the Precinct’s importance to South Australia’s future growth and its ability to provide jobs, exports and grow companies with the start-up support they need.

“We will see companies wanting to relocate from interstate to be part of this,” Mr Hall said. “The future economic benefits of the Precinct for government are high-value jobs generating higher payroll tax and the flow-on effect that for every one tech job that exists, five other jobs are created.”

“But the cluster isn’t just about business, it’s about building a sense of community and belonging,” Mr Hall stated.

Mayor Trainer agreed, stating that “The development plans involved a great deal of community consultation and input from the state government, and the result will be a pleasing lifestyle for residents with good proximity to work, the delights of the CBD nightlife, local attractions and the Henley Beach Road restaurant strip.”

For further information about the Thebarton Technology Precinct contact Mr Greg Hall, Director Biotechnology Infrastructure, BioSA on 0438 388 985 or email greg.hall@bioinnovationsa.com.au.