It’s natural for humans to gravitate towards others who share common interests.
For Quentin Roberts, the decision to join Tonsley Innovation District in 2016 was driven by a desire to be among like-minded business owners wanting to shape Australia’s clean energy future.
“Being positioned in Australia’s Future Energy Hub amongst other energy leaders is the right place for our business to be,” the founding director of energy management business EfficientSee said.
“It had flexible spaces that aligned with the growth trajectory of my business, from hot desks for individuals and micro businesses to larger spaces catering for many of my employees.”
But it was shortly after he moved into the precinct that a spark was ignited in Mr Roberts to bring together Tonsley’s energy players in a formalised partnership to drive business opportunities and policy discussion in the renewable energy space.
“I had attended an entrepreneurs conference and there was discussion about the concept of collaboration and paying it forward,” said Mr Roberts, whose company advises some of Australia’s biggest energy users on how to buy, use and produce energy innovatively.
“It made me realise that I was surrounded by all these amazing companies at Tonsley but really the only time we were working together was by chance.
“It seemed a loss to not have a more strategic or co-ordinated group, so I pretty much got on the phone and called all the local industry leaders here.”
In 2018, the Tonsley Future Energy Consortium was born to facilitate greater collaboration between innovative, like-minded energy organisations.
Founding members were Zen Energy, SAGE Automation, AZZO and CleanPeak Energy and has since expanded to include the City of Marion, Flinders University, TAFE SA, Tesla, Danfoss, Rockwell Automation, Siemens Energy, Total Eren, Maximum Energy, ifm efector, Western Air and Phoenix Contact.
The group’s catchphrase – There’s no energy problem we can’t solve together.
“We’re energy collaborators, not competitors, and we don’t use the term competition – we prefer the term overlap. By increasing the size of the pie, everyone’s slice increases,” Mr Roberts said.
Consortium members meet once a month, generally at one of the eateries within Tonsley’s Main Assembly Building, to discuss:
WHAT’S NEW: are there any opportunities in the market that may be of benefit to other members or that could be approached as a group.
WHAT’S NEEDED: what does your company/organisation need right now that the group might be able to help with.
WHAT’S NEXT: what’s on the horizon for your company, what’s your perception of the market now and into the future.
Mr Roberts estimates the consortium has generated several million dollars in economic opportunity for its members.
The consortium is also leveraging Tonsley’s reputation as a cleantech and energy hub, connecting global experts to discuss solutions to energy and climate challenges at the Future Energy Week (FEW) held annually at the District.
The brainchild of Mr Roberts, FEW aspires to encourage and demonstrate the power of collaboration; equip those facing the challenges of Australia’s energy transition; and highlight Tonsley, the region and South Australia as global energy leaders and problem solvers.
The two-day event launched in 2021 and the 2022 program attracted more than 500 attendees, 76 speakers from industry, academia and government and was backed by 27 partners driven by passion for energy transition.
Topics covered included SA’s clean energy transition, a First Nation’s perspective on energy, the climate sustainability for businesses, innovation and future skills, digitisation for decarbonisation, future mobility, cleantech investment and opportunities and more.
Outcomes of the 2022 event included a commitment to development a Tonsley Accord (modelled on the Paris Climate Agreement) – a set of goals to accelerate the state’s net-zero carbon emission pathway. A draft accord is currently being prepared and is expected to align with the Federal Government’s Climate Bill targeting 43 per cent emissions reduction by 2030.
Asked if a similar consortium could have happened outside of Tonsley, Quentin said:
“Having the proximity just makes things so much easier. Consortiums do happen elsewhere, of course, but we are already part of the same community being ‘neighbours’, so we share a common link which is a great foundation to build on.
“We also get a lot of organic interactions so it’s much easier to keep connected; rather than setting up a small meeting, I know when colleagues are on their coffee run, and we often just do a walk and talk and get updates on projects.”
His advice to companies looking to move or about to move to Tonsley was to ‘be proactive, engage in the community, attend the networking events and support the local conferences and activities’.
“It’s a really unique space and has a strong culture of innovation which is a great place to create and be challenged by those around to think bigger,” he said.
For more information about Future Energy Week visit futureenergyweek.com.au
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