Disclaimer: Please note, this piece leans towards capitalism in its examination of success and innovation. Yes, it's fuck capitalism. But it's also recognising you're the child of immigrant parents.
Silicon Valley. You may have heard of it before. For those of you who haven’t, or have but aren't completely sure what it is, let me give you some context. Silicon Valley is in the southern San Francisco Bay Area in California. However, it’s not an area that is easily defined by any geographical means. If you want to picture it quantitatively, in 2015, MIT professors Scott Stern and Jorge Guzman attempted to define it via heat maps in Science Magazine.1 But trust me, Silicon Valley is a whole living, breathing, complex ecosystem defined more by its components and how they interact with each other than anything else.
So how does it relate to you — the you on the other side of the world?
Well, when you scroll through your camera roll, Google your deepest concerns on Incognito, or stalk your crush on social media, do you ever think about how your life came to be this way? Probably not much, right? At least not much beyond, Damn… technology’s wild. Thousands of tech startups and giants like Google, Apple, Intel, Facebook, Tesla, and more call Silicon Valley home. So in a sense, it’s definitely the ‘room where it happens’. But unless you’re a hobbyist, entrepreneur, or an overachieving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) student, you most likely aren’t keeping up with the tech startup industry or entrepreneurial ecosystem. I’m about to tell you why you probably should, regardless of what you’re studying or where you’re working right now.
As students of UTS, you might be oblivious to the fact that our campus is going to be in the heart of Tech Central — the future of innovation and technology, right here in Sydney, aiming to rival the likes of Silicon Valley. The NSW Government plans to provide 250,000m2 of office space from Central to Camperdown, including 50,000m2 at affordable rates for startups and scale-ups. A funding package of $48.2 million has been allocated by the government to launch development alongside big names; e.g. Atlassian is to become the anchor tenant and Japan’s NTT has agreed to bring its advanced IT expertise to the project.
What does this mean for you? The long-term goal for Tech Central is to provide 25,000 innovation jobs and access to over 160,000 NSW STEM students, boosting NSW’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and solidifying its position as a leader in:
Fintech, Cyber and e-Health
Digital and deep technology, including quantum, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics
Creative industries, including VR and game design (NSW Government, 2020)
It’ll be home to the Sydney Quantum Academy, future Space Industry Hub, and a variety of culture- and heritage-enriching sites. In addition to office space, Central Place Sydney, a $2.5 billion project, will be two tech-focused towers of up to 39 levels; the development will consist of 100% renewable energy, touchless entry, and a closed-cavity façade system powered by AI and solar energy (Property Australia, 2020).
Now that’s pretty cool, right? It'll influence the future of work and workplace for nearly everyone, as Tech Central will pioneer the incorporation of technology and innovation into all aspects of Australian lifestyles, and eventually the world. The Government’s partnership with NTT to guide the precinct into becoming a ‘smart’ city is already underway.
Even if you’re not a STEM student, innovation and creative intelligence are things anyone can get into. By the time Tech Central is fully developed, there will be a large number of jobs available that don’t even exist right now. And that’ll only continue to grow faster as Sydney’s 24-hour economy strengthens and we become a major player in the global scene. What career are you getting into? Law? Design? IT? Health? There will be a role for most disciplines. But I’m not necessarily telling you to work for Tech Central, I’m telling you how it can work for you. Once you enter the workforce, you’ll most likely be gaining transdisciplinary skills that can be applied across several industries. You can then start your own business, join a team, or apply the skills you’ve gained towards initiating change. But whatever you choose to do, it’ll probably be impacted by the pace of innovation at the time. So stay agile, in tune, and keep an eye out.
Universities are going to work in collaboration with Tech Central’s development to nurture and retain local talent. That talent is you (international students included!) Our former UTS Vice Chancellor, Attila Brungs, is on the Industry Advisory Team to ensure this cooperation is successful. But beyond being an asset to the economy, there’s a bigger role you can play. Our generation isn’t just concerned about economic recovery; we’re also driven about fighting against climate change, rallying for race and gender equality, and promoting visibility for marginalised communities, at least, more than the current policy makers. In a place bound to shape the future, why not take the initiative to help steer where that goes? Why not use our privilege to nurture its development; to give voice and agency to those that lack the same opportunity? There are a lot of important stakeholders who do not have enough influence in the Tech Central conversation; the local Indigenous community, the Gadigal people, are a prime example.
Right now, there’s a huge emphasis on tech development (if you haven’t already noticed) and on STEM students. As an engineering student, I guess I understand why we’re wanted. But as a multidisciplinary student and an editor of Vertigo, I’m exposed to so many talented and forward-thinking individuals that I think industry persons are often blind to or take for granted. So, I’m encouraging you to be proactive and take the step that’s needed. Even amid the pandemic, there are so many amazing ideas and projects in motion that address social issues and elevate society’s values. These ecological startups, scale-ups, creative design-based business models, and educational platforms exist beyond just gaining a buck, but they lack the same support and outreach of money-making software products in both the public and private sectors. The current narrative hardly includes them in the picture. But we have the power to change that.
Silicon Valley is undeniably the gold standard in today’s scene. Startup Genome, an organisation that measures the quality of entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world, literally rates them against Silicon Valley as the benchmark. Sydney was ranked 27th in their 2020 Global Report,2 which may seem pretty good but actually reflects our infancy in comparison to the top five ecosystems. Sydney’s ecosystem is still in the process of being defined; thus, we don’t have to be complacent. We don’t have to be the ‘next’ Facebook or Google, because we can be better. Tech Central is our gateway to socio-economic enrichment and our chance to shape the future how we see fit.