Melbourne - the next global knowledge capital

Thursday, 23 August 2007 - Melbourne will be positioned as 'the Boston of the southern hemisphere' under a landmark collaboration between the city's eight metropolitan universities and the City of Melbourne.

A new report, 'Melbourne - Australia's Knowledge Capital', has found the annual turnover of Melbourne's universities is $4 billion, and that they contribute international exports worth more than $2 billion annually - equivalent to Melbourne's tourism industry.

The report is the first project undertaken by the Melbourne Vice Chancellors' Forum, established to promote closer collaboration between the City of Melbourne and metropolitan universities.

The report's release will be followed by a series of initiatives and an action plan by the Forum. Part of the plan will include a proposal to establish a jointly-funded 'Office of Knowledge Capital', responsible for positioning Melbourne as Australia's knowledge capital.

Chair of the Melbourne Vice Chancellors' Forum, Lord Mayor John So, said the long-term success of Melbourne's universities was critical to enable the city to future-proof its economy through growth and development of innovative and profitable businesses.

'For the first time, this report brings together information and data on the important part universities play in the city, and the significance of knowledge development to the future prosperity and success of Melbourne as an internationally competitive city,' the Lord Mayor said.

'From science, IT and computer game development, to funds management, design and aerospace technologies, this city leads Australia - and universities are fundamental to that success.

'They also have a significant impact on Melbourne's arts and cultural life through theatre, museums and libraries; research conducted at the universities results in benefits for the community and the presence of students in the city creates an exciting vibrancy in the city.

'This is a first - no other Australian capital city is working together with its universities in this way. The relationships between the City of Melbourne and metropolitan universities will continue to develop to position Melbourne internationally as Australia's leading knowledge city and one of the top university cities in the world.'

The report also found Melbourne's universities:

invest $1.6 billion in infrastructure annually;
contribute significantly to the creation of businesses. At the end of 2004, 91 successful start-up businesses were established between 2000 and 2004;
provide services and infrastructure for government, industry and the community, including medical centres, scientific facilities, performing arts and sport facilities;
operate physical infrastructure valued at over $9.0 billion.

The report identified the biomedical sector as one area to promote Melbourne internationally.

'Melbourne is already developing its reputation as a biomedical hub, through projects including development of IVF programs, the development of therapeutic treatment for diabetes and obesity, genetic research into diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and looking at ways to biodegrade plastics.'

'Melbourne researchers already hold a significant number of internationally funded research grants in this field, and we will continue to build on this reputation in the future.'

Melbourne's large international student population was also identified as contributing significantly to the city from a financial and social perspective.

In 2005, Victoria's universities had a student population of 243,000 - 48,600 of those were international students from the eight universities included in this study. It's estimated these students spend approximately $600 per week each on housing, food and other expenses.

'International students have made a major contribution to the revitalisation of the social and cultural life of inner Melbourne. They are attracted to Melbourne's reputation as a safe city and return to their countries of origin as ambassadors for our city,' chair of the Business and International Relations Committee, Councillor Fiona Snedden, said.

'As Melbourne's reputation continues to grow internationally, we must work with universities, other levels of governments and organisations to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of international students from across the globe.'

Universities included in the study were: Australian Catholic University, Deakin University, La Trobe University, Monash University, RMIT University, Swinburne University, the University of Melbourne and Victoria University

Source: Melbourne - the next global knowledge capital
City of Melbourne web site (link below)

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