Two years living in Dubai has prepared Marco Baccanti for more than just South Australia’s hot dry summers.
He believes the experience of shaping the direction and success of the Dubai Biotechnology Park, and the connections he made as its executive director, will be important in creating an equally compelling case for global life sciences companies to establish a base in Adelaide.
The model has great potential, he says, even if the elements of the story will be different.
“The most advanced governments are now setting up a dedicated unit like this. It’s not so common, but is quite modern and quite visionary.”
Baccanti is a former President of the International Association of Science Parks and has worked extensively in biotechnology, biomedical and healthcare industry development in the Middle East, France, Spain and his native Italy.
He was also President of the Research and Innovation Committee of Confindustria, the powerful Italian association of entrepreneurs, until being lured from Milan to Adelaide earlier this year to take the helm of the newly created Health Industries South Australia (HealthInSA) as chief executive.
He was attracted “by the vision of the government and the execution of what has already been done”.
“I was really impressed by SAHMRI [the South Australia Health and Medical Research Institute], which is so iconic, by seeing the dimensions of the new hospital, and by understanding that all the people that I met were so aligned,” he said.
“The quality of research is high, all of the stakeholders are very well connected, with a Minister who seems approachable, and that is not something you see very often. These points are important if you are seeking a good location for your investments.”
HealthInSA’s job is to leverage South Australia’s expertise, infrastructure and talent pool across related areas such as biotechnology, biomedical devices, health care, clinical research and pharmaceuticals to attract the right investment and create jobs.
It’s a concept that mirrors Dubai’s commitment to make things happen and one Baccanti applauds.
“The most advanced governments are now setting up a dedicated unit like this,” he said. “It’s not so common, but is quite modern and quite visionary.”
He knows that the task is difficult because he must compete with the world, but says its achievable because of the critical mass of what has been done in recent years – including “the dimension of the life sciences hub that has been created.”
Baccanti believes there is a clear case for global firms to establish a base in Adelaide to service expanding Asian markets in much the same way as they choose Dubai as their base for the Middle East, North Africa and India.
“In order to be attractive you have to provide investors with what they need,” he said. “Our offer is not a free tax zone, as in Dubai, or cheap manpower. It is access to talent, to research infrastructure, to a clear regulatory environment and stable government, and to a big regional market from a nation with a transparent legislative environment. As an investor you need an environment you can trust.”
Baccanti said Adelaide was well placed and a good size to develop the flexible modern concept of science parks, in which connectivity was more important than physical proximity.
Few cities in Asia could offer such a sophisticated and integrated R&D infrastructure as well as access to a range of greenfield sites for development.
“Times change and this brings new needs,” he said. “The most competitive environments are those who find new ways to satisfy these new needs, leveraging what they have and raising visibility in order to attract investment and create sustainable jobs.”