The multi-million dollar investment in a health and biomedical precinct in the heart of the city will have major spin-offs for Adelaide’s business events sector.

Professor Mark Hutchinson is typical of the excitement Adelaide based scientists are feeling right now.

Attending a lunch hosted by the Adelaide Convention Centre as part of the Adelaide Convention Bureau’s Health and Medical Convenor’s Showcase in late April, Professor Hutchison was effusive in his praise of the new health and biomedical precinct.

After completing his PHD at the University of Adelaide he moved to the US, returning in 2009 to continue his research. He was recently named as the director for the Centre for Nanoscale

BioPhotonics based at the University of Adelaide which has received $38 million of funding from the Australian Research Council for the next seven years.

The funding, he says, is being used to engage physicists, chemists and biologists in a common vision of developing new sensing technologies for animal and human bodies.

Right now Professor Hutchison sees some unique activity going on in the Adelaide scientific community that he says even international research hubs don’t have.

“Adelaide’s small enough that everybody knows everybody and that means that you can do transdisciplinary research really easily because you know who to go and talk to, and we’re all connected so there’s not the problems of massive cross-town distances for travel,” he says.

“The fact we’ve now got this hub of the hospital, the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), and all the university buildings so close to one another means that everybody can connect and collaborate.

“We’ve heard a lot of talk about the buildings today, but spun off from the building conversations have been the watercooler conversations about: `Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to do these projects together?’ I see at a secondary level building scientific programs that are common across multiple institutions. That’s really exciting.”

So what’s it got?

The South Australian Health and Biomedical Precinct is said to be the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, with construction costs at completion set to be close to $3 billion. It includes the SAHMRI, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, the University of Adelaide Medical and Nursing School, the University of South Australia’s Centre for Cancer Biology and Interprofessional Health Clinic. All are within walking distance of one another and sit alongside the Adelaide Convention Centre.

The first building completed, SAHMRI, is presently home to 400 medical scientists and support staff, with room for a further 200. It operates under key themes including: Heart Health,

Aboriginal Health, Mind and Brain, Cancer, Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children, Infection and Immunity, and Nutrition and Metabolism. Many of the heads of each department are world-leading scientists and medical practitioners in their own right.

To help fund the centre a business unit has been established that will be seeking long-term partnerships from companies around the world.

Funding for ongoing medical and scientific research is challenging, however Professor Hutchinson believes that the Adelaide hub is helping create a closer association between industry and academia that will help.

The partnerships being formed mean that “it’s not science for the sake of science, it’s science for the common good that is facilitated by the industry’s engagement”.

“That’s a really unique position to be in; to see all of this happening in one place at one time. And it’s being done in a very new Adelaide way.

“Typically Adelaide thought it was a conservative place and yet we are doing some very out there, innovative things. To have a building like SAHMRI in Adelaide is really out there, and demonstrates the growth of the city as a whole.”

He says there is a real feeling of community.

“On the east coast of Australia or on the east coast of the U.S. you have tens to hundreds of institutions all badged as their own and all working independently of each other. In Adelaide you have the three very good universities and you have a select number of research centres and institutes all working collaboratively on a myriad of different projects.”

So what does it mean?

The Adelaide Convention Bureau’s CEO Damian Kitto is confident the precinct is going to spurn a myriad of spin-offs for the city, particularly relating to it hosting more national and international medical meetings. The bureau recently hosted key medical-based association managers from around Australia to show them first-hand what the precinct offered.

Participants flown into Adelaide for the two day event included representatives from the Cardiac Society of Australia and NZ, the Human Genetics Society of Australia and NZ, the Endocrine

Society of Australia, the Australian Physiological Society, the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia, the Australian Diabetes Society, the Royal Australian and NZ College of Ophthalmologists, and the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.

Additionally, there were 35 guests from local medical-based associations who attended parts of the program. These included representatives from the Australian Obesity Society, the Australasian

Society for Stem Cell Research, the Australian Institute of Radiography, the Australian and NZ Bone and Mineral Society, the Royal Australian College of Physicians, the Australian and NZ Society of Blood Transfusion, the Australasian College of Infection Prevention and Control, and Alzheimers Australia.

“Adelaide has underlined its clear credentials as a global centre for major health and medical conventions with the development of one of the world’s most significant biomedical research hubs located directly adjacent to the city’s redeveloped convention and entertainment precinct,” Mr Kitto said.

Already the bureau has helped secure medical meetings that have a direct link to the key SAHMRI themes. These include:


  • MASCC/ISOO International Symposium on Supportive Care in Cancer 2016 (1500 delegates)
  • 19th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy 2014 (400)
  • 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Clinical Nutrition 2017 (800)


The fact that everything is located within the one precinct will mean that delegates attending meetings at the Adelaide Convention Centre will be able to undertake tours of nearby facilities, hold meetings with international colleagues, and generally collaborate, all within a short radius of the host venue.

Mr Kitto said the inaugural Health and Medical Convenor’s Showcase that was delivered by the bureau in partnership with local industry professionals and government is a concept the bureau plans to explore further.

“Feedback from the medical convenor’s showcase has been highly positive on all fronts. With the correct engagement and support going forward we will determine as part of forward planning whether this event becomes a regular occurrence or indeed if the concept switches to other specialty areas on rotation,” he said.