The Sunshine Coast is a metropolitan area that spreads across 2,291 square kilometers of Australia’s coastline about 100 kilometers north of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane. A sub-tropical paradise of beautiful beaches and scenic mountains, the Sunshine Coast has experienced boom times, almost doubling its population since the 1980s. Transforming from a tourism and retirement relocation, which drove the growth of construction and retailing, into a diverse growth region built around balancing the economy, environment and community needs.
Sunshine Coast Council worked with leading businesses, industry and the Queensland Government to develop the Regional Economic Development Strategy (REDS) 2013–2033 which provides a 20-year vision and blueprint for sustainable economic growth. This strategy is currently undergoing a 10-year review, as the region focuses its sights on the opportunities and legacy potential as a delivery partner in the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Sunshine Coast economy continues to evolve into a modern, smart economy based on sound growth across numerous high value and knowledge-based industries including professional business services, innovative manufacturing and high tech.
Sunshine Coast International Subsea Telecommunications Cable
Sunshine Coast Council is the first local government in Australia to invest in an international submarine cable, connecting to the new Gigabit Maroochydore City Centre and providing Queensland’s first direct international data and telecommunications connection to global networks. Working in partnership with the Queensland Government, the project delivered a 550 km undersea fibre-optic cable which connects the Sunshine Coast to the 7,000 km Japan–Guam–Australia South (JGA–South) submarine cable, via the cable landing station in the Maroochydore City Centre.
The Sunshine Coast International Subsea Telecommunications Cable (SCISTC) is part of the Smart Cities Framework and Implementation plan. The purpose of the plan was to ensure major infrastructure projects such as the new greenfield Maroochydore City Centre addressed the growing emphasis on digital infrastructure and connectivity to deliver data for decision making. The plan also reflects the need for Council to innovate, invest in digital infrastructure, and coordinate digital work programs across all business services.
The SCISTC Project sought to provide redundancy, diversity for customers, reduced latency and connect Queensland business and consumers directly to international markets. The project also sought to stimulate investment and jobs growth on the Sunshine Coast, thanks to the superior telecommunications connectivity and data infrastructure, and serve to attract some of the world’s biggest data users to the region. Forecast to stimulate $927 million into the Queensland economy, the SCISTC will also help to change the region's economic profile from one dominated by the tourism, retail and construction industries and encourage big business to consider the Sunshine Coast as a tech-savvy region and a smart place for their business. This improved connectivity will stimulate the growth of high-value jobs and ultimately bring better data capacity for all citizens and, over time, lead to reduced data costs.
Sunshine Coast Innovation Ecosystem Development
Sunshine Coast Council recognizes that the region’s future prosperity lies in ideas, innovation and driving entrepreneurialism. The region has a flourishing innovation ecosystem, providing an ideal location for startups, scaleups, entrepreneurial talent and creativity. Innovation is the focus of three of the five strategic and performance pathways in Council’s goals outlined in its Corporate Plan:
- a smart economy (a regional hub for innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity)
- a healthy environment (a reputation for innovation, sustainability and liveability)
- an outstanding organization (a reputation for implementing innovative and creative solutions for future service delivery)
Since the development and implementation of the REDS in 2013, the Sunshine Coast economy has undergone a period of significant growth and diversification. This growth, along with the impact of the global pandemic, has resulted in population expansion and urban development, and now represents a regional economy worth more than AUD $20.94 billion in Gross Regional Product (Source: NIER 2022).
The Sunshine Coast innovation ecosystem is a true triple helix which continues to evolve and mature. The ecosystem now comprises the following key pillars around which extensive activities, initiatives and programs take place:
- industry advocacy and advancement groups
- youth innovation – including investment in talent and skills
- startup and entrepreneur network
- incubators/accelerators and co-working spaces
- local, state and federal government programs
- anchor institutions and infrastructure investment
The industry groups, along with regional advocacy groups, local and state government have created an intrinsically woven “fabric” of collaboration and clustering which is referred to as “The Fabric of the Region.” These key groups are now driving industry-led innovation and advancement across the region.
See the Sunshine Coast Innovation System map here.
Developing, Engaging and Retaining the Next Generation Workforce
The Sunshine Coast Youth Innovation sector is being supported like never before with numerous initiatives that instigate innovation and create tangible conduits to roles that fulfil purpose and enliven the community. The Youth Innovation Sunshine Coast group came together in 2022 to advocate and coordinate programs, events and initiatives that support youth innovation, entrepreneurship and connection to industry.
Work has occurred since 2013 to recalibrate aspects of the education and training sector’s offerings to ensure these are clearly targeted to address critical gaps in the region’s workforce profile. This assists with developing viable options for the Sunshine Coast community and meaningful career pathways within the region. A world-class education sector, outstanding research facilities and a reputation for innovation makes the Sunshine Coast an ideal destination for education and research. The Sunshine Coast has the award-winning University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC), a growing international education market, extensive vocational education and training facilities and a high-performing school system.
Programs like the BiG Day In digital careers day, Generation Innovation, the Mayor’s Telstra Innovation Awards, RoboRave, RoboCoast and the Delorean Project drive a passion for innovation and STEM that enables young people to create solutions for local and global problems. Training organisations such as TAFE Queensland, Australian Industry Trade College (AITC), Knoei Colab (with their trailblazing Diploma of Entrepreneurship) all work to create alternate pathways for young people and vocational learners to upskill and find their place in the world. Study Sunshine Coast is the regional study cluster that aims to attract international students to the region and to help local young people understand the opportunity that exists for them on the Sunshine Coast, both now and into the future.
For those people who have found their way to the Sunshine Coast from outside Australia, there are multiple programs to help make the transition smoother, including cultural competency training, job readiness programs and employability and industry engagement programs including the Migrant Work Ready Program, the Multicultural Business Expo and Study Sunshine Coast’s Project Global Citizen program.
Connecting the community to their dream jobs and helping them understanding the key industries is critical in ensuring a well-informed and connected community. In early 2023 Council developed two job hubs: the Sunshine Coast Jobs Hub for all types of jobs across the region; and one specifically for students – Sunshine Coast Student Jobs Hub, where casual/part-time roles, internships and placements can be located. The Sunshine Coast Jobs Hub is the place for local businesses to advertise roles for free and even locate workers through their own profiles.
To assist in helping the business community to grow, employ and prosper, there are business skills focused programs that help small businesses to upskill and thrive with courses like the Build a Better Business Course, the Scaling Up program, UniSC Business Planning Course and a bounty of assistance through the Level Up Your Business platform. Mentoring for Growth has been a hugely successful and long-term mentoring program run by the Queensland Government, which helps small business owners to get access to experienced mentors for no cost.
UNESCO Biosphere Designation
In June 2022, the Sunshine Coast officially gained recognition as a UNESCO Biosphere, recognizing the region as an international site of excellence and an area of natural beauty. The announcement follows six years of work in communication with residents and the Biosphere Community Reference Group. This designation demonstrates the community’s ambition to live in harmony with the environment and recognises the need for responsible development. The Biosphere also delivers a range of benefits for tourism and agriculture industries and has the potential to become a magnet for global consumer demand of Sunshine Coast products, and tourism attractions.
Council, the community and the wider conservation groups are collectively committed to protecting and enhancing the region, communities, economy and natural assets. This international recognition follows a successful biosphere nomination for the Sunshine Coast, which was endorsed by Council, on behalf of the community in 2019. The nomination was informed by the community, industry, interest groups and government. Becoming a biosphere demonstrates the Sunshine Coast's commitment to remain future facing to help enhance the region’s national and international reputation and aligns with Council’s vision to become Australia’s most sustainable region. One that is healthy, smart and creative.
The Biosphere will help the Sunshine Coast:
- create a legacy for future generations by ensuring a healthy environment and liveable Sunshine Coast
- further enhance and maintain the landscape, character, biodiversity, waterways, wetlands and coastal areas
- attract more investment to the Sunshine Coast and help local business grow through the creation of niche markets for the region’s products and services, facilities and practices
- provide a premium brand to increase the value of products and services through a sustainable “Produced on the Sunshine Coast” brand
- assist to achieve planning principles of urban consolidation and sustainable design to deliver inclusive, connected and vibrant communities
- increase collaboration between schools, academia, business and government with a focus on sustainability projects
To learn more about the Sunshine Coast Biosphere, see here.
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