Developing the Hunter’s business case and raising its profile nationally and internationally has been an easy job for me in my seven years as CEO of RDA Hunter. The Hunter is a go-ahead region that’s in charge of its own destiny. It’s smart and collaborative with a collective eye on its future – and that’s easy to promote!
The Hunter is also Australia’s largest regional economy. It’s valued at approximately $41 billion. Through the RDA Hunter Board, we have been working on projects to maintain this position – projects to help attract investment to the Hunter; build the region’s economic infrastructure; and develop its innovation eco-system.
We’ve also worked to see the region viewed differently, as an innovative and entrepreneurial region that is forging its own path, on the national and international stage.
I’m proud that these initiatives have had a positive impact. They’ve delivered over $860 million for the region and made a real and long-term difference for its future.
RDA Hunter has fostered entrepreneurialism with the Hunter Innovation Festivals and Forums; we’ve measured the region’s performance in such things as investment in innovation, implementing innovation and collaborating to innovate in our Hunter Innovation Scorecards. We also compared the region’s results with the EU’s 190 regions in the 2014 Scorecard which gave us an understanding of the region’s capability as well as a guide for improvement.
We encouraged the development of the innovation eco-system through our Innovation Hub project which has now been realised with the region coming together to implement the Hunter Innovation Project.
We’ve identified the Hunter’s competitive advantages – the sectors that will deliver innovation-driven growth and high value, high skill jobs in the future in our Smart Specialisation Strategy for the Hunter Region. We were the first region in Australia to undertake a Smart Specialisation which was launched by the Prime Minister at Parliament House in March this year. The Strategy’s development also saw us invited to showcase the Hunter at the international Triple Helix Conference held in Heidelberg in September where we won the coveted best paper award.
Following this, the Australian Government recognised the Hunter as an exemplar of a region embracing innovation and research to grow its competitiveness at the Changing Patterns of Territorial Policy: Smart Specialisation and Innovation in Europe Conference held in Seville, Spain in September. The Federal Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development said, “the Hunter is a blueprint for regions determining their own futures”.
Infrastructure is critical for connectivity to and within the Hunter. Maximising our sea and airports in particular helps diversify the economy and drive economic growth. We’ve prioritised the region’s infrastructure needs in our Hunter Economic Infrastructure Plan (HEIP).
It identifies 14 projects (13 in the Hunter and one in Quirindi) that have an economic flow-on effect for the region and that we felt were of the highest value in connecting the region nationally and internationally.
All 13 of the Hunter based projects we identified have attracted State and Federal government funding totalling $856 million so far which is a great result for the region.
In defence, we’re helping leverage the opportunities that the JSF project can deliver the region by lobbying through our Strategic Defence Group and we’ve helped business better understand the digital economy and the advantages high speed broadband can deliver through our Hunter High Speed Broadband group.
We’ve promoted the region to international students through our Study Hunter initiative which showcases the region to a young and motivated international audience. This helps boost international student enrolments in the short-term but also contributes to the growth and diversification of our workforce and economy for the future.
Our Smart Happens Here, and Hunter Investment Prospectus initiatives have also helped promote the region to investment markets nationally and internationally.
And we’ve invested in a workforce that is skilled and prepared for the jobs of the future through our ME Program. Now with multi-national industry partners, it has changed the face of STEM education not only in the Hunter but in Australia as well and has seen RDA Hunter recognised nationally as an exemplar of best practice.
RDA Hunter is in a strong position. It has an outstanding team of professional staff led by a Board of regional business leaders and the support of Federal and State Governments. The time is right for me to look to the future. I will continue my work on the board of TAFE NSW and as an Adjunct fellow at RMIT European Union (EU) Centre and help build on the good work RDA Hunter is undertaking. I look forward to working with you to further contribute to the Hunter’s ongoing success.
IMAGE | Todd Williams with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos, Minister for Regional Development Senator Fiona Nash, former Member for Paterson, The Hon Bob Baldwin and RDA Hunter Chairman Michael Slater at the launch of RDA Hunter’s Smart Specialisation in March this year