Valley’s hi-tech horizon

A specialised $6.5 million innovation and jobs precinct project tipped to create 200 skilled jobs for the Latrobe Valley will receive a massive funding boost if the Victorian Coalition wins the November election.

Today Deputy Premier and Regional Development Minister Peter Ryan will announce a $5 million commitment towards a Gippsland Innovation and Enterprise Development Centre, to be established at Federation University’s Churchill campus.

Providing office space and facilities for businesses and stakeholders, the IEDC will host university research and innovations across agribusiness, agri-systems, energy, energy sustainability and ‘resilient community’ industries.

“This visionary new project will connect education, research and industry as we look forward to diversifying the Latrobe Valley economy and creating new employment opportunities,” Mr Ryan said.

The proposal has been modelled on the “success” of the Ballarat Technology Park near FedUni’s Ballarat campus which, since its establishment in 1995, has grown to become a 29 hectare site where it supports the development of emerging and existing technology-oriented enterprises.

Expanding to the Ballarat central business district in January this year, the BTR site now hosts more than 30 small and large enterprise tenants, including IBM, State Revenue Office, Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority and Primary Health Care.

The establishment of the Gippsland centre has been a big ticket lobbying item since 2010, formerly referred to as the Gippsland Centre for Sustainable Technologies, as a priority item in the Gippsland Regional Plan.

Past visions of the centre have seen it playing a key role in releasing the transitional needs of the Latrobe Valley in a “carbon constrained world”, where it was proposed to conduct high level research into developing new energy technologies and alternative uses for brown coal.

Regional Development Australia Gippsland chair Richard Elkington described the news as “terrific for all of Gippsland”.

“We have been working with FedUni since April this year on conceptualising a project for the region, modelled on the very successful Ballarat Technology Park established in 1995,” Mr Elkington said.

“This has been hugely successful… creating 1500 high tech jobs in Ballarat.

“The aim is to reproduce this success in Gippsland, and I’m certain with the strong partnerships FedUni have been building that this will be achieved.”

Mr Ryan said the project was tipped to inject $35 million into the local economy.

He said after the establishment of the IEDC in Churchill, three IEDC “hubs” would be established at Warragul, Sale and Bairnsdale.

“The IEDC hubs will be a focal point for local industry engagement and connect to the Churchill IEDC through its first rate communications technology,” he said.

Today’s announcement comes as part of a wider Coalition election commitment, promising $25 million for a Regional Innovation and Jobs Precinct Program to fund more projects that connect education, research and industry across the state.