The nation’s brightest minds unpack Adelaide’s opportunities at AEDA Business Summit

Last updated 07 Dec, 2023

The city’s economy has grown to $21.9 billion, according to new data announced by Adelaide Economic Development Agency Board Chair Nikki Govan at the 2023 AEDA Business Summit.

Meanwhile, the number of city jobs has passed 150,000 for the first time ever.

The statistics shared by Ms Govan, featured in AEDA’s newly published Invest Adelaide prospectus, helped set the scene for more than 400 delegates who came together on Wednesday 24 May for the event at the Adelaide Oval.

Attendees heard from industry leaders in economics, urban development, technology, events, entrepreneurship and education about how Adelaide can prosper, and unpack the challenges it’s facing.

The fastest growing population demographic

The Right Honourable The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Dr Jane Lomax-Smith AM, called for more collaboration between state and local levels of government and the private sector, with a target of growing the city’s population to 50,000 by 2036.

Her comments were backed by Simon Kuestenmacher, Director and Co-Founder of The Demographics Group, who expanded on the topic of population growth and housing. 

He said data showed Adelaide had attracted the fastest growing population cohort, people in their 20s and, coupled with a record high migration intake expected over the next five years, the city should make more housing available to cater for demand. 

After sharing data about the eight percent wage gap between South Australia and the national average, South Australian Productivity Commission Chair Adrian Tembel said it could potentially be eased by the merging the universities of Adelaide and South Australia. 

Beyond teaching and research, Mr Tembel said South Australia's universities and research institutes needed a third mission — a “state economic impact”. 

He said barriers had to be removed to get science from the laboratory to the boardroom, and there had to be incentives to make that happen.  

Events at the heart of the city's experience

In a wide-ranging address ahead of the impending State Budget, the Treasurer of South Australia Hon. Stephen Mullighan MP demonstrated the strong demand for people to live in the city.

Data showed the City of Adelaide’s population grew by 2.2 percent in the 2021/22 financial year, double the growth seen across greater Adelaide. 

The Treasurer said major new tourism events like the AFL’s inaugural Gather Round were “turning the eyes of the nation, if not part of the globe, on Adelaide and on South Australia”.

Unlocking our universities' potential

University of South Australia Deputy Chancellor Hon. John Hill said if a merger between the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia were to process, the educational institution would become one of the top two or three businesses in the state in relation to how many people it employs and the value of its turnover.

Meanwhile, University of Adelaide Chancellor Hon. Catherine Branson AC KC said bringing together the University of Adelaide’s research quality and University of South Australia’s industry connections “would work well for the economy of the state”.

Technology Council of Australia CEO Kate Pounder shared that approximately the same number of students studied a computer science degree in Australia today as they did 20 years ago, and of those students studying today, two-thirds are from overseas.

She said if Adelaide were to establish itself as a technology hub it needed to get funding and financing right, skills, talent and migration, while still ensuring the appropriate regulatory settings.

Prosperity in property

The Summit’s afternoon session got underway with a commercial property focussed panel, facilitated by Property Council of Australia’s SA Executive Director Bruce Djite.

Steve Wren, Pelligra Group's SA Director, spoke about why Adelaide real estate was an attractive investment. 

“A lot of the properties [in Adelaide] are actually significantly undervalued, when you compare them to what you can get in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane,” he said. 

However, Commercial & General Chief Executive Officer Trevor Cooke said he would like lower grade commercial space replaced with purpose-built accommodation.

Quintessential Equity Chief Investment and Operations Office Andrew Borger suggested that such assets that invested in high level sustainability would see higher demand and stronger rental growth.

"If you can do it anywhere in the world, then you can definitely do it in Adelaide."

The AEDA Business Summit finished with the ‘Aspirational Adelaide’ panel, which featured Adelaide Oval Chief Executive Officer Nick Addison, RAA Community & Corporate Affairs General Manager Emily Perry, _SOUTHSTART Co-director Danielle Seymour, and MilkBar Venture Capital CEO Tyson Gundersen.

Mr Gundersen’s comment, “if you can do it anywhere in the world, then you can definitely do it in Adelaide”, drew applause from the crowd as he spoke of why he established his business in Adelaide despite no prior connection with the city.

He also said that Adelaide had fast become an incubator for tech and venture capital, and regularly had conversations with people overseas who were excited about what’s happening in our city.

Together, the panel credited the city's positive attitude to ideas, accessibility, and quality of life as just three of many reasons why Adelaide's a great place to do business.

The take out

While discussion at the Summit was wide-ranging, by the end of the event, two key topics had emerged – education, as an opportunity to capitalise on, and housing, as a challenge the city needs to overcome to grow and prosper.

Thank you to all those who attended our 2023 AEDA Business Summit. See a gallery of social pictures here

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