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Sippy Downs: Australia's answer to Silicon Valley

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A chunk of Queensland real estate that was rural paddock in the mid-’90s now has something in common with trendy Eurocenters like Amsterdam, Vienna and Sicily.

Sippy Downs, located about 90 kilometers north of Brisbane, is the home of the University of the Sunshine Coast — the hub of a growing innovation and technology center.

Last month, Sippy Downs was profiled by cnbcmagazine.com as a “hotspot” — a place transforming itself into a trendsetter or a leader of the new economy. The monthly feature has, for instance, centerpieced an Amsterdam enclave that’s now a fashion hub, a slice of Vienna that’s thriving as an art mecca, and an investment renaissance in southern Sicily.

Sippy Downs is the only community outside Europe to be featured as a hotspot. The profile calls it “Australia’s no-worries answer to Silicon Valley.”

Sippy Downs, a planned university community, is being built largely from scratch. Plans call for 2,500 dwellings built around the campus over the next 10 years, with employment topping out at about 6,000.

The university’s Innovation Centre, founded in 2002, contains a business incubator for fledgling ventures and a business accelerator for enterprises with clear potential. Companies get mentoring advice, legal services and, of course, that incalculable advantage known as networking.

Sippy Downs reflects the broader push toward innovative and green technology in southern Queensland. Earlier this year, Brisbane’s marketing leaders held Enable 2010, a showcase for the city’s growing reputation as a magnet for innovative industries. The centerpiece of Enable 2010 was the launch of the Brisbane Innovation Scorecard, a combination marketing tool and carrot for the region’s businesses.

“With the expertise and networks of entrepreneurs and professional service providers already located here,” Innovation Centre CEO Colin Graham said, “and the future investment for the business and technology precinct, the town centre and surrounding residential areas, the potential of the area is massive.”

Graham, a native Irishman, developed the business incubator at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland, before setting his sights on Australia.

“The Australian economy is dominated by the resources industry, but there is also a new stream of entrepreneurs,” Graham told CNBC. “When I came over from the U.K. to start the centre, I thought we have all the ingredients for success, but wasn’t totally sure everyone would recognise this.”

Apparently, they did.

Image by hughelectronic

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