The Future Cities Collaborative has organised an exciting Australian-United States City Exchange to take place in May 2016, which will immerse Australian city-shapers in international best-practice examples of innovation ecosystems in the United States. Drawing on the Collaborative’s extensive network of partners and collaborators, the Innovation Ecosystems City Exchange will stimulate delegates to think about how to support the growth of innovation districts in Australia.

Innovation districts are geographic areas where institutions, companies and individuals cluster together with the aim of connecting and sharing ideas fluidly and spontaneously. The City Exchange will harness the knowledge and experience behind different successful models in the United States. Participants will visit cities around the country including the thriving technology and biomedical hubs in San Francisco and Emeryville, the expanding biotech community in Seattle as well as Amazon’s new campus, Boston’s Seaport Innovation District including its revitalised docklands and the incubator spaces in the city, and New York City where the focus will be the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The latter is involved in projects from managing the city’s markets, to promoting life sciences and sustainable urban innovation, as well as supporting emerging tech and media, and incubator spaces. The Roosevelt Island Campus Project, a new university campus focused on tech and STEM-education with close ties to industry, will also be a feature of this visit.


“Our cities are the crucibles of innovation, of enterprise, it’s where so much of our GDP is created and it’s vital that they have the right infrastructure…”

The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia
11 October 2015 Southport, Queensland

The Future Cities Collaborative realises that innovative cities can drive economic growth, deliver new jobs, and create thriving communities for residents to live, work, play, invest and visit. Precincts and districts catering for innovation are being created around the world as new examples of communities that have excellent amenity, great access to transport, affordable housing, civic facilities, and provide the types of jobs that will sustain a 21st century economy. In 2016, the Future Cities Collaborative is committed to exposing Australian city-shapers to international best-practice examples of innovation districts in the United States.

The Exchange coincides with the Australian Federal Government launching the National Innovation and Science Agenda to embrace new ideas in innovation, harness new sources of growth, and challenge city shapers to look for new ways to transform our cities and create a modern, dynamic, 21st century economy. Australian cities need precincts and districts where innovative ideas can flourish, where universities and businesses can interact, and where access to the latest technologies is guaranteed.

With Federal, State and Local Governments all seeking to encourage and expand the innovation economy in Australia, there has never been a better time to look to the United States for lessons on how to plan, finance, implement and support innovation districts in our cities. The Exchange will examine the various elements that contribute to the success of an innovation district – from the physical infrastructure to the social, economic and cultural shifts that need to occur to generate a thriving innovation ecosystem that generates jobs in the new economy. With limited public resources available to achieve this change, city-shapers will need to learn how to create and sustain successful districts that can contribute to the new economy, provide housing and civic amenities, and renew inner-city precincts into world-class urban areas that are vibrant, connected, competitive, and resilient places.

Exchange Overview

The Collaborative, through our extensive network of partners and collaborators, will expose exchange participants to international best practice urban transformations that have created thriving innovation ecosystems. There is no straight line to this future as our exchange will demonstrate as we visit San Francisco’s biomedical and technology hubs; Seattle’s Amazon Campus at South Lake Union; Boston’s global creative incubators; New York’s reinvented global engineering hub; and Washington DC to explore national policy as the bedrock of policy leadership. The United States is ahead of Australia in establishing these innovation districts, so the exchange will seek to learn all we can from our trans-pacific partners and contribute to the dialogue on the new innovation economy and future-ready cities here in Australia.

The Innovation Ecosystems Exchange will provide a foundation for a wider dialogue at an international symposium in Sydney on The New Urban Economy: Innovation and Placemaking to be convened in the second half of 2016 in conjunction with our partners Project for Public Spaces. All participants will be given the opportunity to share their learnings with peers from around the globe and contribute to moving Australia towards a new urban innovation economy.

Cities and Initiatives in the United States

San Francisco and Emeryville, California

The Bay Area, with its proximity to world-leading universities and Silicon Valley, has seen the emergence of inner-urban, transit-oriented, innovation ecosystems predominantly catering to technology and biotech industries. Two examples, in Emeryville and Mission Bay, will be the focus of our exchange as we uncover the funding and financing mechanisms that lead to the success of both districts, how affordable housing, retail and commercial space, and access to transit is incorporated, and the leavers and tools that attract job-creating start-ups and established firms.

Seattle, Washington

Once full of warehouses and light industrial buildings, South Lake Union is one of Seattle’s fastest developing neighbourhoods, and is home to Seattle’s biotech community as well as Amazon’s new campus. Joining these developments is a slew of up-and-coming restaurants, coffee shops and retailers who have recently moved into the fast-growing neighbourhood. Having been thought through carefully, this neighbourhood has yielded exceptional liveable, walkable spaces with effective transportation, sustainability, and recreation.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is home to a large and growing innovation ecosystem. The Boston Seaport Innovation District is an initiative that has transformed redundant docklands into an urban environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship – with the support from the City of Boston and the State of Massachusetts. Additionally, Boston has several incubators and innovation districts that foster economic development, provide jobs and housing, and leverage the existing anchor institutions and universities in the region.

New York City, New York

The focus in New York will be the New York Economic Development Corporation. NYCEDC is involved in a range of projects from managing the city’s markets, to promoting life sciences, urban innovation and sustainability, media and emerging tech, and offering programs for entrepreneurs and incubator space. NYCEDC can also speak to the Roosevelt Island Campus Project, a purpose built university campus to focus on tech and emerging STEM education, with adjoining commercial space.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

University City District of West Philadelphia is a partnership of world-renowned anchor institutions, small businesses and residents that creates opportunity, and improves economic vitality and quality of life. The District works within a place- based, data-driven framework to invest in world-class public spaces, address crime and public safety, bring life
to commercial corridors, connect low-income residents to careers, and promote job growth and innovation. University City District is a site of research for The Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking, a collaboration between the Brookings Institution and Project for Public Spaces. As part of the Initiative, Brookings and Project for Public Spaces will work deeply with a small number of burgeoning innovation districts, starting with Oklahoma City and Philadelphia, to distil practice-based lessons on innovation and placemaking, help local leaders better understand their assets, and develop strategies for vibrant and innovative mixed-use districts.

Program Details

The exchange will take place Wednesday 4 May – Friday 13 2016 (inclusive) and is designed for federal, state and local government decision makers, business and community leaders, and representatives from academia and industry. It is hoped that a comprehensive cohort of passionate and like-minded city shapers will participate in the exchange and be able to make meaningful contributions to the development of innovation districts in Australia upon their return.

Enrollment and Cost

The cost of the exchange is $USD11,000 for 10 nights accommodation, all meals, transport and expert honorariums and fees. The price does not include international travel. Enrolment in the exchange will close at 5pm on Friday 18 March.

Please Contact Us for the Enrollment Form