BY EDWINA STORIE
Innovation ahead: Sydney
Business Events Sydney’s CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith says the bureau is focusing on innovation as the key to securing future events.
As Sydney’s business events industry prepares to power on through what many competing bureaux and venues believe will be downtime for the city when the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC) closes, Business Events Sydney (BESydney) is looking forward to a time of innovation.
The bureau has been spurring forward as the December closing date of SCEC looms and the construction of the Sydney International Convention, Exhibition & Entertainment Precinct (SICEEP) is anticipated.
BESydney’s sights are set on new goals. Innovation is the key, not only in target but operation. As it prepares for the literal and metaphorical foundations of the city’s business events industry to change with the farewell of SCEC, it is focusing on the minds of Sydney’s knowledge fields and how investment into these will boost not only the number of business events attracted to the city, but the flow-on effects to the local economy.
Sydney’s conferences and meetings industry is coming into a huge period of innovation with SICEEP in the pipeline, Barangaroo currently under construction, and Glebe Island Expo to begin hosting events between 2014 and 2016.
“Innovation is so important,” Ms Lewis-Smith told micenet.
“Here at the bureau, we try to work by the mantra ‘if nothing changes, nothing changes’. So it’s only natural that we are excited about Sydney’s growth. We are certainly looking forward to the opportunities the redeveloped Darling Harbour precinct will present,” she said.
In fact, SICEEP is designed around encouraging collaboration and innovation.
Along with the precinct being the largest exhibition and meetings space in Australia, Ms Lewis-Smith says it will also be home to a vibrant and energetic innovation hub.
“[This] will be Sydney’s own ‘Silicon strip’, along with an IQ Hub for emerging talent in the technology industries. In the heart of the city, this hub will provide start-up businesses and local entrepreneurs with the opportunity to ‘plug in and play’.
“This aspect of the development will create opportunities to connect our educational, creative and multicultural precincts and harness the character, dynamism and energy for which the city is renowned. International delegates will have the opportunity to network and collaborate with local experts – and right next to where their event is taking place.”
Further to this, Ms Lewis-Smith says Barangaroo is predicted to grow into a hub of professional services for the Asia-Pacific region.
“The 22 hectare extension of Sydney’s CBD will house some of the country’s major finance and professional service companies. It’s been referred to as a once-in-a-hundred year development and will enhance our competitiveness and appeal for hosting professional service events,” she said.
Sydney is spearheading innovation in Australia’s business events industry not only through new facilities, but by utilising its strength industries to attract international business events. Further to this, its ambassadors program has been successfully raising awareness of Sydney’s knowledge fields and helped the securing of related conferences with significant flow on effects.
“Sydney is lucky to be home to a wide range of industry leaders, vast intellectual capital, a stable economy and a dynamic, innovative business environment,” Ms Lewis-Smith said.
“Our destination’s appeal is multifaceted and our competitive edge in securing business events is largely based on our intellectual and industry strengths.”
Through initiatives such as the ambassadors’ program, BESydney is using both local and international minds to propel the destination onto the world stage.
These ambassadors are leaders in the fields of medicine, science, agriculture, arts, business, secondary education and government. Based throughout Australia, Asia, the Americas and Europe, they work with the bureau to raise the city and state’s profile as an international event association.
“A number of events have been secured by our ambassadors,” Ms Lewis-Smith says.
“This year, for example, Sydney will host the 15th World Conference on Lung Cancer following a successful bid assisted by BESydney ambassador associate professor Michael Boyer – director of the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse at RPA and clinical professor in the Central Clinical School at the University of Sydney. The conference will attract around 7000 delegates to Sydney and will have an estimated economic impact of $17 million for the state.
“We are also working to expand the number of ambassadors in line with the NSW Government’s priority growth sectors and maximise our contribution to the state’s aligned economic development strategy.”
During the official Business Events Sydney press conference at the Asia-Pacific International Meetings Expo (AIME) Ms Lewis-Smith explained that the networking between the world leaders which business events create, leads to vital collaboration.
“Global collaboration leads to innovation, commercialisation, increased productivity, enhancement of our knowledge economy, and ultimately economic prosperity,” she said. She spoke about the bureau’s Global Talent Hub initiative whereby the team will work with the NSW Government and leading businesses to attract international delegates to move to Sydney to drive innovation, collaboration and competitiveness.
“International attendees at business events in NSW could be interested in the idea of moving here, studying, investing, teaching and researching,” Ms Lewis-Smith said.
“We will look at the events that come to Sydney in [key] industry sectors and pinpoint key global leaders and then invite them to come and work and play in Sydney. We want to attract the best global talent to Sydney and Australia.”
One of the business events industry’s major concerns is that there isn’t enough awareness in the government and community of the social, economic and educational value of business events (for more on this issue read editor Brad Foster’s special report on pages 10 and 11). However, the BESydney team have worked to ensure business events are now a key part of the state’s economic development platform.
“I believe that BESydney is one of the few – if not the first – convention bureau to have changed the stakes in our local market,” Ms Lewis Smith said.
Using the results of the Beyond Tourism Benefits research, BESydney changed the way the industry is perceived.
“We have achieved the paradigm shift. It’s now understood at high and broad levels that business events are worth far more than the tally of tourism receipts. Business events contribute to a healthy, global knowledge economy. The work we do to secure these events for NSW is now being embraced by the NSW Government as part of an aligned economic development strategy.”
“The state Government has released A Platform for Growth: The NSW Economic Development Framework, and I’m pleased to say that business events will be a focus for the future. The framework outlines how business and government will work together to demonstrate leadership, make it easier to do business, collaborate to drive innovation and competitiveness, invest in critical infrastructure and raise the global profile of Sydney and the state.”
After assessing the state’s business credentials, the government found that its priority growth sectors are manufacturing, international education, tourism, creative industries, professional services and the digital economy.
“These key sectors have been prioritised by the government as areas of strong growth, resilience, innovation, productivity, global competitiveness and new investment opportunities.
“BESydney is focused on sourcing and securing leading industry events across these sectors.”
Thanks to the recognition of these strength industries, new events have been secured that will bring great economic reward to the local economy. An example of this is the International Bar Association Annual Conference, under the field of professional services, scheduled for 2017 which will welcome 4000 delegates into Sydney.
“Sydney also boasts a strong and impressive track record in attracting medical research business events to its shores, especially in the field of cancer research,” Ms Lewis-Smith explains.
This year alone will see an estimated 12,400 delegates attend four major international medical conferences in the fields of liver transplantation, ultrasound in obstetrics and gynaecology, Parkinson’s disease, and lung cancer.
“Smart events are attracted to our shores for smart reasons,” she said.
“The fact that Sydney is so successful in securing these events has less to do with tourist attractions, and more to do with its rich knowledge capital that the world is keen to tap into,” Ms Lewis-Smith told micenet.