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Australian smart city wants to be the next Silicon Valley

A computer generated aerial view of Greater Springfield near Brisbane, Australia.

Springfield City Group

Travel up the sunny shores of Australia’s Gold Coast, 25 kilometers outside of Brisbane, and you’ll find Greater Springfield, a city that’s different by design.

You may never have heard of it. Unsurprising; the city is not yet 30 years old. But that isn’t holding it back. In a few years, it could be the next Silicon Valley, says developer Springfield City Group (SCG).

“The world has learned a lot from Silicon Valley,” founder Maha Sinnathamby told CNBC. “We said: that’s 85 years old. Let’s design the latest version.”

Sinnathamby is the brains behind Greater Springfield, Australia’s only privately built city and its first masterplanned city since the capital Canberra was created more than a century ago. The octogenarian property tycoon — who spent a 50-year career creating residential and commercial developments across Australia — said his latest project, like its inspiration Silicon Valley, is about creating a modern business hub designed around technology, education and health care.

We’re trying to attract the Microsofts and Googles of the world.

Maha Sinnathamby

founder and chairman, Springfield City Group

And now, he’s looking for big name companies to help him realize the next stage of his estimated $68 billion vision.

“We’re trying to attract the Microsofts and Googles of the world,” said Sinnathamby, noting that the group is currently in discussions with one multinational tech company.

An innovation hub for Asia Pacific

Developed on a 7,000 acre plot of land purchased for $6.1 million, Greater Springfield — the world’s tenth largest masterplanned community — is already a living, breathing city much changed from the disused forestry operation Sinnathamby acquired in 1992.

Home today to 46,000 residents, 16,500 homes, 11 schools, a national university campus, a hospital and a railway line connecting it to neighboring Brisbane, Sinnathamby said the city is so far 25% complete after receiving $15 billion in private and state funding.

But more businesses are needed to make it into a true innovation hub within Asia-Pacific, and hit its targets to triple the population and create 52,000 new jobs by 2030. To date, 20,000 jobs have been directly and indirectly created under the project, SCG said.

“We want to turbocharge it with highly respectable companies, who are highly talented and who want to make a lot of profit,” said Sinnathamby. “We can’t do this massive job on our own.”

Greater Springfield is the first privately built city in Australia and the world’s tenth largest master planned community.

Springfield City Group

Developing a knowledge workforce

The new business operations will sit within Greater Springfield’s so-called Knowledge Precinct, the city’s primary employment hub designed to attract knowledge workers with skills related to its core pillars: technology, education and health care.

Health City, a 128 acre health precinct developed with Harvard Medical International, will provide top health care as well as thousands of medical jobs, said Sinnathamby. Meanwhile, the city’s expanding education network, including two new universities and a focus on indigenous communities, will nurture the new generation of professionals, he said.

I want partners to come who are committed to this vision.

Maha Sinnathamby

founder and chairman, Springfield City Group