Can we remain the intellectual capital of Australia?

September 2015

- Ms Karen Bolinger - Melbourne has positioned itself as Australia’s intellectual capital by hosting some of the world’s biggest conventions, but to ensure it continues to be seen as such, it will need to adapt to a rapidly changing world.

For Melbourne to remain the countries’ centre of knowledge, it will need continued government involvement as well as investment to maintain its world-class universities and ground-breaking research facilities.

More importantly, it will need strong leaders in these fields to help drive Melbourne’s research agenda. In a decade’s time, retaining, as well as attracting these highly sought after individuals will help Melbourne continue to be a global leader.

Conventions as intellectual prosperity

Conventions are an indicator of a city’s intellectual wealth, and in that sense Melbourne is particularly rich. However, in an increasingly digital world, I am confident that face to face meetings will still be an essential part of how we exchange information in the year 2025. The virtual realm has yet to surpass the physical one when it comes to the way it stimulates discussion and ideas. It is still the most engaging medium available.

I believe Melbourne is set to greatly benefit from this as it is already a trailblazer in hosting international conferences and will continue to do so for many years from now. What sets up apart from many other cities on the planet is our ability to collaborate both locally and internationally. Our BestCities partnership, which is joint effort between 12 cities to help facilitate growth in business opportunities, is an example of this.

As the only city worldwide to have hosted five of the largest global health conferences in one year, we have garnered a reputation as one of the best conference destinations in the medical sector in the world. This reputation will have some far reaching long term benefits, as it is much more likely that the government will continue to support at a policy and infrastructure level.

According to the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), the number of worldwide conventions is doubling every decade. This means there will be more conventions to bid for and an increase in global competition.

This increase in competition is already apparent in different parts of the world. Our Asian neighbours have invested significantly in convention infrastructure, while places like South America and Eastern Europe are developing a growing global profile in the sector. 

To keep Melbourne at the cutting-edge of conference delivery and inoculate us against this increasing competition, we will need bid leaders who are dedicated and passionate. Luckily for us, we have the intellectual capability and enthusiastic individuals right here in our city. Personally, I am very excited to be involved with this exciting sector, which is on the verge of great change.

Melbourne’s distinct competitive advantage is bringing to the table ‘Team Melbourne’, a group of passionate Melburnians who collaborate in order to secure bids. Competitor cities may talk about collaboration, but no-one delivers on this promise quite like Melbourne.

As well as being a premium city to host a convention in, I am very proud that Melbourne has been involved with a number of large health conferences over the past year, which have left significant legacies and changed perceptions of serious diseases in the broader community.

Technology will play a part

And while technology won’t beat the benefits of face-to-face meetings, it will play an increasing role in their delivery. With time restraints and access to enormous amounts of information, convention delegates are looking beyond the destination when deciding to attend a conference.

We use technology to be more strategic in the conventions that we bid for and to better understand what the expectations of our delegates are. In time, we will be able to almost second-guess their needs, reinforcing our reputation as the business events destination in the Asia Pacific region.

Even with the emergence of ‘the virtual’, the physical conference will have an increasingly important role because of its power to change outlooks and generate ideas. Put simply, meetings will continue to shape and change lives.