How Brisbane Boosted its Knowledge Economy

Author: Rémi Dévé       

Brisbane

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre is a leading promoter of the city’s world-leading research and education community. (Courtesy BCEC)

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre (BCEC) has paved the way for a flourishing local knowledge economy propelled by a world-leading research and education community. The centre itself is located within Brisbane’s Knowledge Corridor, home to universities, hospitals, and research centres. One example of a key breakthrough for the medical community here is that Brisbane is the birthplace of the world’s first cancer vaccine.

In 2010, BCEC developed a valuable strategic partnership with Brisbane’s research and scientific communities with the launch of the Convention Advocates Partnership in an effort to drive Brisbane’s growth, attract international conferences, and put the destination on the global meetings map.

The members are an elite group of influencers, including some of Australia’s top scientists, researchers, and academics. This collaboration is critical for attracting international scientific conventions to Brisbane and BCEC.

Advocates come from a wide range of backgrounds and cover virtually every field of expertise Brisbane has become known for. Professor Frank Gannon, director and CEO of QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has worked on the regulation of gene expression by the oestrogen receptor, which plays a major role in breast and endometrial cancer. Together with Professor Rajiv Khanna AO, a senior scientist at QIMR, he assisted in the development of new meetings like Brisbane Immunotherapy, formerly Immunotherapy@Brisbane, which has returned every two years to BCEC since its inception in 2015.

Intellectually based industries

“Brisbane’s major industries revolve around intellect,” Gannon says. “The universities, the institutes, the translation of that into the hospitals and the pharm world form a good base for people who come here to attend a conference. It’s the concentration and the diversity of knowledge that make Brisbane stand out. Any group that is looking for strong local engagement will benefit from it. As far as BCEC is concerned, they’re doing a tremendous job connecting the dots and making sure that we, as advocates, are aware of opportunities that would drive Brisbane forward by hosting high-profile conferences.”

Echoing those sentiments, Khanna added that “the link between convention centres and research and development — as well as the ultimate effect on mankind — is not yet fully understood. What the BCEC does focuses more on the big picture. I strongly believe that the role this centre plays is integral to science, Brisbane and, ultimately, the community.”

Since advocates all hold senior positions in their professions, they have significant influence when it comes to decisions on conference locales. BCEC, meanwhile, provides strong support and meets with the scientific team involved in conferences to offer suggestions on how to best promote Brisbane. “The diverse background of the advocates ensures that Brisbane often has a voice in discussions around the world on where to hold important conferences,” says Professor Glenn King, of The University of Queensland, who works on translating venom-derived peptides into human drugs and bioinsecticides.

‘Queen of Drones’

BCEC has taken activities to the next level by promoting the creation of inaugural conferences that showcase Brisbane’s world-leading expertise. The World of Drones Congress, first held in August 2017 for example, was the first significant global drone conference to focus on all parts of the drone economy and the future of the industry.

“Creating a brand new congress from scratch was nerve-racking but ultimately very rewarding,” says Dr. Catherine Ball, who is CEO of Remote Research Ranges and is often referred to as the “Queen of Drones.” “We identified a niche in the market, the timing was right, and the strong support and assistance of BCEC meant we were able to be ‘incubated’ by them.” The congress returns to Brisbane and BCEC for the third time later this year.

Those who have partnered with BCEC acknowledge that conferences are a really clever way to help promote Brisbane on the international stage, so the city is known as more than the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. “Brisbane is growing to be a major launch pad for Australian and global companies that trade with Asia, especially for startups and emerging technologies,” Ball says.

Meanwhile, Brisbane is currently undergoing an infrastructure boom. In addition to new venues and hotels, a second runway for Brisbane Airport, due for completion in 2020, will provide the city with the same level of capacity as Singapore and Hong Kong with more direct international flights, while new inner-city state-of-the-art transport networks will allow delegates and visitors to move around quickly and efficiently.

This article was contributed by Boardroom. It was edited for use in Communique.