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INNOVATE™ Adelaide

Adrian Tisato is a commercial lawyer with expertise in public administration and innovation, and decades of leadership in the arts, music, and film. When car manufacturing closed in Adelaide, he dedicated himself to working with the private sector and the State Government to open up new economic opportunities through innovation. The projects he helped establish and shape include: Gig City Adelaide, which created more than 20 high-speed-internet innovation precincts; the South Australian Rapid Commercialisation Initiative, a program that supported industry-led university research with the aim of improving commercialisation outcomes; and the establishment of the first Techstars Accelerator Program in the Asia-Pacific region, in Adelaide. He continues to work as an enabler of the innovation sector.

I am the son of a refugee. I work in the law. I dream in the arts.

Innovation requires at least five things: curiosity, creativity, collaboration, sacrifice, and embracing failure.

Almost 30 years of unbroken economic growth have made these ingredients hard to find in Australia.

That winning streak was enabled by the reforms of the Hawke and Keating Governments from 1983-1996. Capital and labour made sacrifices in the national interest. Australia’s productivity and competitiveness were radically transformed. A large national savings pool was established through compulsory superannuation. A strong social safety net was put in place, with universal healthcare a central feature. Entrepreneurship was encouraged while ensuring the benefits of increased productivity were fairly divided between profit and wages.

However, Australia’s prosperity has remained heavily reliant on digging minerals out of the ground and exporting them in raw form. We remain “the lucky country”.

Innovation is the catalyst of future prosperity. Places that innovate shape the future and become more prosperous and resilient as a result. Places that do not innovate are shaped by other places and become less prosperous and more vulnerable.

Innovation is ultimately a product of culture, which, in turn, is a product of leadership.

Bob Dylan described the ideal conditions for innovation: “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose”.

For South Australia, the real opportunity lies in us going back to our roots.

Since ancient times, Kaurna country (Adelaide) was a meeting place for many different peoples who would come from afar to gather here and listen to and collaborate with each other. Honouring this tradition would require us to be outward-looking, open, and welcoming. We need to see ourselves through the eyes of the outsider and the visitor – put ourselves in their shoes. Do they even know we exist? When they come here, do we make them feel welcome?

Second, it means reclaiming South Australia’s original experiment – to become a utopian society – founded on the principles of freedom and creativity, with the aim of producing the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. Generosity and prosperity will go hand in hand.

The Renaissance didn’t happen by magic. It was created in one city by a handful of artists with the support of a few wealthy benefactors and a single, major institution.

Adelaide has a chance to be the home a new Renaissance, where freedom, creativity, integrity, focus, discipline and mutual sacrifice come together to solve some of the biggest problems for the most people around the world.

Let’s roll up our sleeves, be humble, recognise our place in the world, trust each other, and get to work.

Adrian Tisato is a Director at WRP Legal & Advisory

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