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Newcastle Has a Smart Vision for the Future

How a former industrial city is retooling for a new tomorrow.

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The picturesque seaside city Newcastle, Australia has been named as one of the world's top 'Smart Cities' to watch in 2017 by global magazine National Geographic Traveler.

How does a city redefine its direction in life? By wholeheartedly embracing the future. Situated 100 miles north of Sydney, the once industrial city of Newcastle, Australia has adopted a creative new education-focused tack and is now recognised globally as a “smart city.”

A smart city is one that integrates multiple information and communication technologies to provide better services and management for its residents and visitors. By harnessing the powers of innovation, technology, and sustainability, Newcastle is smartly poised for the next generation and beyond. Light rail, urban redevelopment, a thriving city center, and a new University of Newcastle city campus are just a few of the outward signs that this growing city is leading the way in adaptation.

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NeW Space, The University of Newcastle (artist’s impression)

Commencing in 2015, the smart city initiative is gearing up to attract a wide diversity of industries that will prosper in an advanced digital economy, making Newcastle competitive on a global scale.

Newcastle’s spectacular coastline, rich history, quirky culture, and vibrant restaurant and bar scene already give it a huge advantage heading into the future. Add to these resources a smart, forward-looking vision, and you have a place that is becoming the envy of the region. When the city’s big industries—steel, coal, and copper—shrank during the recession, Newcastle’s creative spirit emerged in the form of craft and art ventures in former industrial spaces. Now the city is going to the next level of innovation—a technology makeover on a big scale.

The seventh largest city in Australia, sitting at the mouth of the Hunter River just a short drive from the famed Hunter Valley vineyards, Newcastle boasts world-class research institutions, as well as established industries in mining, defense, aerospace, and creative endeavors.

Entrepreneurs are now finding endless possibilities for start-up ventures here.

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Three76 Innovation Hub, The University of Newcastle

What is Newcastle doing to ensure its “smart city” status? For one thing, the Hunter Innovation Project supported by the NSW Government, will install smart technology including sensors to collect and analyze data, and digitally connected and interactive public infrastructure and and wifi throughout Newcastle’s central business district. The project, a partnership between the City Council, University of Newcastle and local business and tech groups, will also establish an innovation hub to bring researchers, students and entrepreneurs together with investors, technology specialists and business advisors.

The revitalized City Centre zone will be a “digital precinct,” with high speed fiber broadband networks attracting high-tech, digital, and creative companies. The city infrastructure will be geared to ease of access, efficiency, and livability. Future innovations include designating the larger Newcastle region as an Urban Living Lab, which will accelerate the planning and regulation of a special innovation zone for testing new urban development ideas and prototyping new technologies.

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Newcastle is attracting unprecedented investment from both the government and private sector. Construction is booming after the value of approved development soared 70 per cent in 2016 to take the total green lighted to more than $3 billion over the past five years.

By creating a collaboration of the government, community, educational and research providers, and business and industry sectors, Newcastle is building an international reputation and working to attract a continuous stream of talent and investment. Along the way, the city hopes to create a cohesive society, one that works and plays well together and that welcomes more and more travelers for business and pleasure.

From Newcastle’s point of view, the future looks exciting. One can only hope its example inspires other cities to reach out for the future as well.

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