Planned sports tech hub to push into global market
A plan is unfolding in Geelong to help Australia earn a bigger slice of the global sports technology market, worth about $US700billion ($774 billion) a year.
Our biggest sports organisations, including the AFL and Tennis Australia, have teamed up with leading university researchers and businesses to create a centre of excellence, believed to be the third of its kind in the world.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has committed $6 million over four years to the sports technologies precinct, which aims to create up to 1500 jobs across Australia.
Up to 100 of those jobs will be based in Geelong, which will house the precinct's headquarters.
James Demetriou, the chairman of Australian Sports Technology Ventures, started developing the project about 15 months ago.
He described the network as "an independent matching association" or a hub that would link leading and developing sport technology manufacturers with national sports organisations, such as the AFL and Tennis Australia, and university researchers to gain a better understanding of what products the market needs, removing some of the "guesswork".
"In sports tech on a global basis we only have a few icons like 2XU, Catapult, Lorna Jane, DMC," Mr Demetriou said. "We need more. We need 25 to 40 over the next four years."
If it succeeds, the group estimates it could grow Australian sport technology exports from about $286 million, or 0.2 per cent of the global market, to $500 million a year.
In addition to its Geelong base, it will have nodes across the country, with proposed sites in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Perth.
The precinct will not only help small and medium sports technology companies develop. Mr Demetriou said advancements in those fields could also benefit complementary industries such as health, rehabilitation and disability.
He also said it could help transition industries in decline. He highlighted Ford as an example, which will stop making cars in Australia from 2016. Companies that supplied components to Ford could be "retooled" to work in the sports technology supply chain.
"We already have that design and manufacturing capacity," Mr Demetriou said. "We are not trying to reinvent the wheel here."
Innovation Minister Kim Carr said: "We want to be able to put people together to build new markets and draw together new investments that take advantage of new technologies, and as a consequence of that create new jobs.
"There are a whole heap of firms that are already working in [the sports technology] area but I can think of Cougar as an example. It's a company that currently operates out of Brisbane that makes new materials for sports uniforms, football jumpers for all the codes."
The project is part of the federal government's industry innovations precinct package, which was announced in the budget this year.
The sports technology precinct is expected to begin operating in October.
The Coalition has broadly opposed the plan, with opposition industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella arguing that Labor had signalled its intention to set up at least 22 such centres since early 2011 but none of those was fully operational.
However, Ms Mirabella said the Coalition was reserving its position on the sport network until there was more detail on how the funds would be spent.
Mr Demetriou said the sports technology precinct hopes to begin operating in October.