Canberra ranks highly as knowledge hub

Wed 19 June 2013

Canberra has topped a new urban competitiveness index for Australian cities with a population of 200,000 to 1 million people.

The nation's capital, which led in research and innovation, qualifications and IT access measures, ranked fourth out of the list of 18 cities assessed for their competitive strengths and weaknesses by a University of Canberra research team.

Canberra-Queanbeyan was found to have the largest of all cities' growth - more than 8 per cent - in the proportion of individuals earning annual incomes of $104,000 or more in the five years to 2011.

Urban planning researcher Richard Hu, who led the creation of the new index, said the detailed study would help those guiding policy at all levels of government.

''This is probably the first and most comprehensive study of this kind to measure all Australian cities, and to explain the competitiveness of our cities are connected to productivity, liveability and sustainability,'' Associate Professor Hu said.

Canberra-Queanbeyan scored an index rating of 0.28 - below only Perth, Brisbane and Darwin - based on population, employment and income progress.

Canberra-Queanbeyan fell in the middle range for population growth, but enjoyed more than 10 per cent employment growth between 2006 and 2011 - ranking it fourth. Its high-income earners' growth was double most other cities.

The research also considered 20 other economic, social and environmental factors, which Dr Hu said were connected to a city's relative competitiveness.

Canberrans are better educated than any other city's population; more than 60 per cent have an undergraduate degree or higher qualification, while 7.6 per cent work in research or innovation-related industries, double the proportion of the next city.

The city also has the best rate of broadband access and the highest proportion of people working in professional or managerial roles.

On liveability, it does have the second-highest proportion of incidents reported to police per capita but Dr Hu said little could be read into this, with the city also having the highest proportion of non-profit-organisation volunteers.

Dr Hu, from the university's Australia and New Zealand school of government, said the findings should encourage Canberrans to change their views of their city.

''Our perception of Canberra should be more than just of [it] as a capital city, it's a knowledge city, it's an innovation hub and in a globalised world increasingly a city's importance depends on the quality of its services rather than its size,'' Dr Hu said.

''Let's think of Silicon Valley in America, it's a small place but its influence is global.''

ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry deputy chairman Brendon Prout said the results were pleasing but not surprising.

''We have known for a long time that, in somewhat difficult circumstances, Canberra has a robust economy,'' Mr Prout said.

''Our pursuit should be for higher education and research, infrastructure projects, tourism. This week I note there's not a hotel room available which is fantastic - a good problem to have.''

Article originally published in The Canberra Times and written by Matthew Raggatt

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