9 May 2016


Fortunately, the sun shone on delegates from the US-Australia City Exchange on Innovation Ecosystems when they arrived in Seattle (the city only averages 164 days of sunshine per year). The Exchange is presented by the Future Cities Collaborative, an initiative of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

We were met at the South Lake Union Discovery Centre in the heart of South Lake Union, by Jim Holmes and Patrice Carroll, from the City of Seattle.

Jim Holmes, City of Seattle and the delegation examining the South Lake Union district model

Once full of warehouses and light industrial buildings, South Lake Union is one of Seattle’s fastest developing neighbourhoods, and is home to the city's biotech and medical research community as well as Amazon’s new campus.  Joining these developments is a slew of up-and-coming restaurants, coffee shops and retailers who have recently moved into the growing neighbourhood.

South Lake Union public plaza and throughway

This neighbourhood has been planned carefully. As a result, it has yielded exceptional liveable, walkable spaces with effective active transport options and a local street car route.  

South Lake Union Street Car

The explosive growth of Amazon in South Lake Union has been the driving force behind the rapid development of the precinct. It has attracted a talent pool along with other tech companies who want to capitalize on the fertile environment for collaboration, innovation and growth; Google is set to move into the precinct soon. Phase IV of development

From South Lake Union, we explored the University District and The University of Washington (UW), named the world’s fourth most innovative university by Reuters (behind only Stanford, MIT, and Harvard). 

University of Washington (UW) grounds

UW recognises that innovation ecosystems are anchored by top universities that promote research, assist in commercialisation, and act as a platform for new businesses.

Startup Hall

Arriving at Startup Hall, we were welcomed by Jen Davison, Program Manager at [email protected], which is a new initiative focussed on bringing collaborative thinking to urban problems with an inclusive data driven approach; Nathan Duam, Managing Director, of Startup Hall; Bill Howe, Associate Director of the eScience Institute at University of Washington, and leader of the MetroLab Network project in partnership with the City of Seattle; and Sally Clark, former City of Seattle council member and now Director of Regional and Community Relations at UW.  

Startup Hall innovators at work.

Here we learned how UW was directing its deep innovation philosophy to bring about collaboration with city leaders and affect change at the community and local government level. Start Up Hall is not only a place for people who want to see if their ideas can be commercialised, but a place where community and city leaders co-create solutions to urban problems using technology and open data.

Our next stop at UW was the CoMotion Incubator lab. Elizabeth Scallon, the energetic and commanding Associate Director, exposed the core driver of the CoMotion lab as a desire to support real innovators who are hungry to convert their ideas into profitable ventures and show the impact of research and new technologies on the broader society. “We deliver the tools and connections that UW researchers and students need to accelerate the impact of their innovations,” Scallon said. 


Elizabeth Scallon, Associate Director of CoMotion Incubator Lab, speaking to the delegation

Space is competitive at the CoMotion lab because it is globally recognized. Tenants secure their space after a selection process that includes demonstrating that they can fund the rent, sometimes via equity or a rent-for-space model. Continual commitment and effort is required by tenants to deliver business progress, and to ensure that CoMotion achieves well against KPIs which include the number of graduating businesses and funding raised. 

UW, a public university, is a national leader in university technology transfer and has expertise in models for distribution, managing software and digital assets, IP planning and protection, and licenses and negotiation. It is impacting society far beyond its walls through collaboration and innovation, driving jobs and better outcomes for the city and the global community it serves.

This was an exciting and inspirational visit. 

Thank you to all of our Seattle partners for generously hosting our delegation, especially Jim Holmes from City of Seattle and Professor Don Miller from UW for their curation of the agenda.


Discussion with Jessica Lax from the Van Alen Institute
16 November 2016

The Future Cities Collaborative and AECOM recently hosted Jessica Lax from the Van Alen Institute, a 120 year old non-profit based in New York City dedicated to improving design in the public realm. The Institute divides their work into three areas: public programs, research and competitions.

Summary: Innovation Ecosystems Workshop - Making it Happen in Western Sydney
14 September 2016

The Future Cities Collaborative, together with Deloitte and UrbanGrowth NSW, recently conducted a workshop with Professor Ed Blakely to examine how we can accelerate the innovation economy in Western Sydney. A group of key actors and urban leaders came together to discuss the findings from our recent report, Growing the Australian Innovation Economy, and apply them to the region.

Report Launch a success | Growing the Australian Innovation Economy
14 September 2016

The official launch of the Future Cities Collaborative's most recent report, Growing the Australian Innovation Economy, co-produced with AECOM, was a resounding success with The Hon. Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning, presenting a keynote at the event that brought together an audience of over 100 key stakeholders across industry, academia and government at Customs House on 8 September.