News and published articles in 2019 to 2016

  • Are we winning the innovation game?

    Wednesday, 28 November, 2018


    Are we winning or losing the innovation game in the Hunter? This question was posed at the Hunter Economic breakfast in Newcastle on 16 November.

    Dr Anthea Bill, lead economist for the HRF Centre, told the 230-strong audience why innovation is essential to Australia’s economic success. She cited ABS data that shows that firms who innovate are more likely to report increases in sales, profitability, productivity and growth than firms that do not innovate.

    Hunter business innovation has been measured by the HRF Centre since 2009. The latest data show that 46 per cent of Hunter firms introduced new or improved products or services in 2017. That is the highest proportion since the HRF began collecting data.

    Sydney is the State’s innovation powerhouse. It benefits from global connectivity as well as access to infrastructure and a deep pool of talent. Developing scale to deliver impact is more difficult in regional Australia. Yet, regions face the same pressure to innovate.

    Dr Bill cited evidence that shows that the creation of a viable local innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem may be the first step toward enhancing the benefits of innovation in the region. Innovation ecosystems result in more than just a direct increase in the number of startups, scale-ups and employment. They can unlock wider business potential and generate high-value jobs, with multiplier effects into the broader economy.

    Dr Bill also discussed the Hunter iF Project. This collaborative effort aims to unite, scale and champion the Hunter’s growing innovation ecosystem.

    Keynote speaker at the breakfast, the ABC's James O’Loghlin stated that anyone can innovate. He examined barriers preventing people from innovating and strategies to overcome those barriers.

    Although most people recognise the need to innovate, motivation fails without method, he explained.

    “Motivation is the key that starts the car, but method - having a plan - is the engine that drives it.”

    People should not ask whether innovation is hard but whether it is worthwhile, O’Loghlin suggested. They also need to overcome the fear of failure, as failure is an integral part of innovation.

    “If you want to start being more innovative in your business, recalibrate your relationship with failure. Accept failure. It is a numbers game. If you have enough ideas, you will have a good idea.”

    O’Loghlin has worked with thousands of individuals and organisations to support change and innovation.Based on his experience, he offered tips on how to introduce innovation culture and systems within a business.

    “Good leaders know that good ideas can come from anyone in the business, particularly those down the line dealing with customers, processes and systems.”

    To create an innovative culture, companies should make innovation a KPI for everyone in the business, he stated.

    O’Loghlin is local incubator Eighteen04's Expert in Residence this year. This position is part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda Entrepreneurial Support Program.

    He joined local entrepreneur, Heath Raftery from Newie Ventures, and Siobhan Curran, Manager of the University of Newcastle’s Integrated Innovation Network, for a question and answer session.

    Read edited excerpts of the panel Q& A.

    Read more DR ANTHEA BILL
  • Smarter look at second cities

    Monday, 24 September, 2018


    Next month I will host a timely international forum in Newcastle focused on ‘second cities’.

    The Second Cities: Smaller and Smarter Symposium comes as Australia’s population reaches 25 million people, with 10 million living in either Sydney or Melbourne. While these metropolitan areas continue to thrive economically, residents and businesses face congestion, challenging access to jobs and services, and reduced housing affordability.

    Outside the major state capitals, 31 Australian cities have a population greater than 50,000, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI). RAI states that such regional cities are free of many of the challenges facing the major capitals. They cite lower rates of crime, less congestion and reduced inequality as factors that make smaller cities highly productive and great places to live.

    The Second Cities: Smaller and Smarter Symposium is part of a growing call for acknowledgement by government, industry and the community of the role of Australia’s smaller cities in contributing to the nation’s prosperity.

    As a passionate Novocastrian, I am committed to better planning for our city’s future. I recently chaired an inquiry by the Committee for Sydney that resulted in the ‘Sandstone Mega-region’ report. Looking at international best practice, the report envisions treating Sydney, Wollongong, the Central Coast and Newcastle as elements of a single ‘megalopolis’ in terms of planning, infrastructure, and connectivity.

    A leader in Australia in promoting the second cities agenda is the Committee for Geelong. They have delivered the Winning From Second report, which reveals the characteristics, challenges and opportunities of comparable cities in Europe and the USA. This research underscores the need for greater policy and planning for second cities in Australia at the state and national levels. A national campaign for a Second City Policy Framework was launched by the Committee for Geelong in July, with a Newcastle delegation attending and a vote of support from the City of Newcastle.

    The Second Cities: Smaller and Smarter symposium builds on this new initiative. The symposium is being coordinated by the Hunter Research Foundation Centre in partnership with Hunter Water, AECOM and the Hunter Development Corporation.

    The symposium will bring together experts and leading practitioners on themes of innovation, infrastructure and liveability. Futurist and business adviser, Bernard Salt, is the keynote speaker at the symposium dinner.

    Set in and around the University’s landmark NeW Space city campus, the symposium will showcase Newcastle as an emerging global second city. The symposium will conclude with participants summarising insights and outcomes to create an action plan.

    Kyle Loades
    Host, Second Cities Symposium

    This opinion piece was published in the Newcastle Herald on 18 September 2018

    Read more FIND OUT MORE
  • Jobs, infrastructure and liveability in Upper Hunter examined

    Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

    UH-Gary-1-09 2018


    The Singleton and Muswellbrook local government areas (LGAs) are centres for employment in the Upper Hunter. However, many of their workers live elsewhere, according to analysis released at the Upper Hunter economic breakfast at Muswellbrook RSL on Wednesday, 19 September.

    Dr Anthea Bill, lead economist for Hunter Research Foundation Centre, says that journey-to-work data from the 2016 Australian Census shows that, in the Upper Hunter, Singleton has the highest proportion of commuters arriving there to work.

    “A range of factors, including jobs, infrastructure and liveability, influence where people work and live,” Dr Bill said. “We examine the economic and demographic data to unpack how some of the key factors interact, and how they play out in the Upper Hunter.”

    Dr Bill explained that the Centre’s Upper Hunter Pulse surveys show that business and household confidence in the Upper Hunter economy remained optimistic in the June 2018 quarter. The figures are above long-term averages.

    “Likely drivers of this regional buoyancy are the continued rally in global coal prices and sustained improvements in labour and housing markets. There is also a strong international economic context,” she stated.

    Gary White, Chief Planner for NSW, spoke at the breakfast on regional planning. He was joined by an expert panel to discuss jobs, regional skill sets, commuting and liveability. The panel comprised:

    • Geoff Crews, Managing Director, Forsythes Recruitment
    • Cam Halfpenny, CEO, Bengalla Mining Company
    • Elizabeth Bate, Principal, Muswellbrook High School

    This event and the Upper Hunter Region Economic Indicators research program are supported by Bengalla Mining Company.

    UH-Gary-1-09 2018
    Read more Dr Anthea Bill
  • Symposium to showcase Newcastle as a global 'second city'

    Wednesday, 8 August, 2018


    Planning is underway for an international symposium focusing on ‘second cities’, to be held in Newcastle from 29-31 October. The Second Cities: smaller and smarter forum will bring together national and international expertise. It is being organised by the HRF Centre and is supported by a range of key regional stakeholders in the business and government sectors.

    What is a second city?

    Where Newcastle might recognise itself as a ‘major regional centre’, internationally it would be seen as a ‘second city’. Second cities represent a significant proportion of the world’s people, economy and activities.

    Second cities generally house between 50,000 and 1 million people. They have frequently undergone a planned economic transformation and are contributing significantly to the national economy. As well as easing pressure on their capital city counterparts, second cities are often recognised for providing strategic gateways to regional economies.

    Newcastle offers a compelling example of an emerging second city. Strategic investment across key sectors is earning Greater Newcastle a reputation as one of Australia’s more dynamic metropolitan areas. For example, more $1.5 billion in development applications have been approved in the past year in the Newcastle local government area.

    Since the closure of BHP’s steelmaking facility in 1999, Greater Newcastle has reshaped itself economically and socially. Cranes on the horizon are evidence that it may be undergoing another renaissance, driven by public and private infrastructure investment. The city is also a gateway to the Hunter – Australia’s most economically productive region.

    These features make Newcastle ideally positioned to host an event focusing on the reality and opportunities of a transitioning second city.

    Symposium topics and structure

    The Second Cities Symposium: smaller and smarter will provide an international platform for airing and contesting leading contemporary thought in urban and regional planning and development. It will offer the opportunity to explore aspects of the important city-region nexus of economic flows and travel for work and recreation.

    Drawing on local, national and global expertise, the symposium will provide a forum for analysing, debating and informing thinking on the evolution of second cities. It will feature internationally recognised experts, panel sessions, walking workshops, and ‘clinics’ to address ‘wicked problems’.

    Sessions are designed to explore innovation in urban design, city and regional planning, economic development, technology development, infrastructure, innovation, liveability and wellbeing.

    Timely – campaign for second cities policies

    July marked the launch of a campaign for national ‘second cities’ policies, headed by the Committee for Geelong (CfG). CfG commissioned research into examples of good practice in the development of second cities in Australia and overseas. Their Winning from Second report highlights the opportunity for Geelong (with partners) to advocate at the state and national levels for second city policy frameworks.

    The University of Newcastle has accepted an invitation from the Committee for Geelong to collaborate. Researchers will work with counterparts at Deakin and Wollongong universities to further develop the evidence base for the development of the policy framework. Newcastle City Council is supporting the framework development, pledging $25,000 toward the research report in a mayoral minute.

    Advancing the conversation – paired forums

    Greater Newcastle can also contribute to raising the profile of second cities at a state and national level through advocacy, and by facilitating national and international discussion. The symposium, Second Cities: smaller and smarter, being organised by the HRF Centre, is one example of work in this area.

    The Centre is engaging with the Committee for Geelong and key local organisations, such as Hunter Water, AECOM, and Hunter Development Corporation, on the development of the symposium.

    The symposium will lead into a related international conference, the Affordable Living in Sustainable Cities International Congress. The HRF Centre is cooperating with Congress organisers, Compass Housing, to co-promote these important and complementary events.

    Make a difference

    There are still sponsorship opportunities available for the Second Cities Symposium. To align your organisation with this strategic event, click on the link below to contact Kim Britton.

    Stay tuned for more on the Second Cities symposium and the international congress. 

    Read more KIM BRITTON
  • Partnership to help create thriving Upper Hunter communities

    Wednesday, 8 August, 2018

    Bengalla Blue-on-White JPG

    The Upper Hunter economic breakfasts will now be offered as a free event again thanks to a new partnership between Bengalla Mining Company and the HRF Centre at the University of Newcastle.

    A gift from Bengalla each year over the next five years will support the Centre’s Upper Hunter economic indicators research program. The program includes the twice-yearly surveys of businesses and households, analysis of trends in key economic indicators, an array of engagement activities and the breakfast presentations and panel sessions.

    The Upper Hunter economic breakfasts have been held twice a year in Muswellbrook since 2002. The series aims to build capacity in Upper Hunter businesses, social services, community organisations and schools. Offering the event free of charge is expected to make the breakfasts accessible to a wider audience, including small businesses, community groups, and secondary and tertiary students.

    Thanking Bengalla for their contribution to the Upper Hunter region, Professor Will Rifkin, HRF Centre Director said:

    “We welcome you as long-term partners in research and engagement on the Upper Hunter economy. Bengalla and the HRF Centre can now build the knowledge, connections, capacity and resilience of small businesses, households and community organisations in the region.”

    “This program partnership enables Bengalla to boost its contribution to the community’s knowledge base and professional networks. Strengthening of the region’s ‘social capital’ will contribute to jobs, new businesses and a better future for the region’s young people.”

    The HRF Centre reports on the results of its unique Upper Hunter Pulse surveys at the economic breakfast events. The surveys of 300 households and 300 businesses are conducted every six months in the Singleton, Muswellbrook and Upper Hunter Shires. The survey captures a range of economic and social data. The HRF Centre also analyses data from government and private sources to provide an overview of how families and businesses in the region are travelling.

    Cam Halfpenny, CEO of Bengalla Mining Company, will join a panel discussion at the September Upper Hunter economic breakfast. The panel will discuss liveability, infrastructure and jobs in the Upper Hunter.

    The HRF Centre looks forward to working with the Bengalla team, and their community partners, over the next five years, to help Upper Hunter communities to thrive. 

    Bengalla Blue-on-White JPG
    Read more
  • Hunter businesses heard in Parliamentary hearing

    Tuesday, 7 August, 2018

    20180801 110109-1

    Are Australia’s free trade agreements sufficiently accessible and useful to Hunter small to medium enterprises?

    Hunter-based business, government and industry group representatives shared their experiences in a roundtable discussion in Newcastle on 1 August.

    The discussion was recorded for Hansard. It will help to inform the Commonwealth Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade’s inquiry into Access to free trade agreements (FTAs) by small and medium sized enterprises.

    The HRF Centre facilitated the event. Professor Will Rifkin, HRF Centre Director, and Dr Anthea Bill, Lead Economist, set the scene for visiting members of the Trade Sub-Committee*. They provided a presentation on the Hunter regional economy and insights on local businesses.

    Dr Bill said that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are prevalent in the Hunter. Two-thirds of local businesses employ fewer than four people.

    “The wind back in mining investment had a greater impact on the regional economy than the 1999 closure of BHP’s steel making facility,” Dr Bill revealed. “It resulted in a five per cent fall in employment in the region in 2013. While employment has since recovered, it demonstrates the Hunter economy’s vulnerability to the boom-and-bust cycles of mining.”

    Professor Rifkin explained that the development of foreign trade for Hunter businesses depends on key transport infrastructure projects.

    “We have heard about potential advantages of a very fast train link to Sydney, a container terminal in the Port of Newcastle and direct international air connections. The potential for such developments were discussed at the Hunter Economic breakfast last week,” he said. “There are innovative SMEs taking advantage of opportunities presented by free trade agreements. They could benefit from improved connectivity to major global markets.”

    Participants in the roundtable sessions represented a cross-section of industry sectors. They included the Port of Newcastle, Hunternet, Hunter Business Chamber and Australian Industry Group. Executives from 10 local businesses added insights from their experiences.

    Key points made by participants at the roundtable included:

    • establishing a one-stop-shop for information and training for Hunter SMEs on the advantages and opportunities presented by FTEs;
    • taking a more holistic approach when negotiating FTAs, that includes logistics and supply chains, to maximise opportunities for SMEs to take advantage of agreements;
    • make it more difficult to import finished products into Australia to prevent the erosion of intellectual property;
    • ensure that FTAs include bilateral trade agreements to enable Australian importers, as well as exporters, to benefit from them;
    • improve publicity about the opportunities presented by Australia’s FTAs; 
    • SMEs negotiating foreign trade encounter more substantial hurdles than tariffs, which are often not covered by FTAs; and
    • provide more business advisers to assist SMEs to negotiate FTAs, such as those provided as part of the Government’s Entrepeneurs’ Programme.

    Dr Greg Whiteley, Managing Director of Whiteley Corporation, complimented the committee members for coming to Newcastle.

    “I thoroughly endorse this initiative of the Joint Standing Committee, to enable businesses to be heard,” he said. “The value of direct consultation should never be understated.”

    The HRF Centre will continue to facilitate inquiries and forums that enable Hunter voices to be heard on issues of regional and national significance.

    Caption: Dr Anthea Bill and Prof. Will Rifkin present at the inquiry to (L-R) Bert van Manen MP, Ted O’Brien MP (Chair), Andrew Dawson (Inquiry Secretary) and Graham Perrett MP (Deputy Chair)

    A briefing paper on FTEs, prepared for the roundtable participants by University of Newcastle finance student Logan O’Halloran during his internship with HRF Centre, can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

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