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Call to back innovators

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Leon Delpech and Randall Jasper.
Camera IconLeon Delpech and Randall Jasper. Credit: Toby Hussey

Albany is ignoring its entrepreneurial workforce and must focus on backing innovators, according to one professional, after a scathing review of the City’s support network for new ideas.

The claim, by Great Southern Development Commission regional innovation facilitator Leon Delpech, came off the back of a self-scored City of Albany test which gave it 16 out of 100 for innovation.

Test parameters were set by the Intelligent Community Forum, a group that shares ideas between global communities to foster prosperity, tackle social and governance problems and enrich quality of life.

Scores were also given for broadband connectivity (71), workforce education (47), access to technology (48), sustainability (43) and community advocacy (56).

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ICF releases an annual list of the top 21 “smart” communities worldwide, which usually score between 75 and 100. Albany’s self-test averaged below 47.

While the City’s report and Mr Delpech agreed Australian local governments would struggle to score perfectly in the American test, development services executive director Paul Camins’ said there was clearly work to do.

“We do not have policies ... to promote innovation, nor do we provide many innovation programs through government, the private sector, public-private ventures or volunteer organisations,” he said.

“The provision of online services including open data and smart meter systems offered by local government to improve quality of life is also low.”

While Mr Camins highlighted the City had recently transitioned to new innovative technologies including 5G, Mr Delpech said direct support for local innovators should be a focus going forward.

He proposed the City create an “innovations officer” role, and set aside funding to help local ideas get off the ground.

“They need to get building, they need to support, they need to grow,” he said.

Community innovation programs already exist in Karratha, Port Hedland and Geraldton.

Geraldton’s City Hive group formed in 2012 and claimed to support more than 1500 ventures by 2016.

Albany council will vote on June 25 on preparing a $50,000 Intelligent Albany Strategy.

Design and Innovation Great Southern executive committee chair Randall Jasper said boosting investment in innovation would keep Albany “ahead of the game”.

“Innovative communities always do better than non-innovative communities,” he said.

“It would be in (the City’s) best interest to have a vibrant community attracting young people, attracting clever people.”

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