A Reflection on 2021.
By: Professor Mark Hargreaves
2021 was another year of social, economic and technological challenges as the Covid-19 pandemic continued. In addition, COP26 in Glasgow emphasised the ongoing need for urgent action on climate change. All this has reinforced the importance of research partnerships and the potential power of co-location to drive research translation, innovation and impact.
This was the underlying rationale for Melbourne Connect and it is why we were proud to open the doors to our new innovation precinct on March 16th this year. Over 8 years in the making, it brings together academics, researchers, industry, government, non-government organisations, startups, students, and artists to create a digital and data powerhouse and to develop what we believe will become a leading innovation precinct.
Since opening in March, we’ve welcomed tens of thousands of visitors through the doors, whether it be to attend one of the many events accessible to the public on a daily basis, or taking part in one of the major festivals we have hosted or created such as Melbourne Knowledge Week, Digital Innovation Festival and Open House Melbourne. A highlight was the way all these elements came together for the inaugural launch of our very own annual Innovation Week, a five-day festival in August driven by the Melbourne Connect community. We look to make this bigger and better in years to come.
None of this would be possible without those who believed in the vision and committed to making this place their new home. I want to acknowledge and thank academic and professional colleagues from the Faculty of Engineering & Information Technology, and other Faculties and Schools of the University who undertake their work in Melbourne Connect, along with ANZSOG, ClarkeHopkinsClarke, MAXONIQ, SANE Australia, Apromore, Atomos, InEight, Seer Medical and EMT Partners who are our “trailblazing” partner tenants. I also acknowledge Lendlease who have been a wonderful development partner in realising our aspirations for Melbourne Connect.
We are already seeing the “serendipitous collisions”, once a concept, quickly being realised and we know from global exemplars of innovation precincts that such diverse connections catalyse collaboration and innovation. A number of new partners joining in 2022 will build on the digital futures focus of the precinct.
In January 2022 Science Gallery will open its doors for the MENTAL exhibition which offers over 20 experimental projects from local and international artists and research collaborators that reflect a range of different perspectives on mental health and ways of being.
Also in 2022, the new 527 bed accommodation at the The Lofts will welcome its first residents to these beautiful apartments that overlook the central oculus known as womin-djerring (come together) in which a smoking ceremony was held prior to the March opening. It is surrounded by laneways which have also been named in consultation with the Wurundjeri Council and recognise the history of this place and its connection with First Peoples.
As the site of the former Royal Women’s Hospital, it has been a place of great happiness, but also sadness, and we often reflect on that past. Recently the Melbourne Connect community provided donations as part of a Christmas appeal run through the precinct with QR-coded baubles hanging from a tree on the Superfloor. We were delighted when Lendlease presented a $10K cheque to leaders of the Royal Women’s Hospital to support their important work.
In closing, can I thank you all for your commitment to Melbourne Connect this year, especially the dedicated team in the Melbourne Connect Liaison Office. I wish you a safe and happy festive season and I look forward to working with you all again in 2022 and beyond.
Meet the Neighbours.
Please enjoy our highlight reel from our latest Meet the Neighbours: Christmas Edition. We look forward to seeing you soon at our events in 2022!