Originally publish on The Queensland Times

AN ambitious plan to kickstart the COVID-19 recovery by generating 20,000 new jobs and $12 billion into the economy over the next five years is the latest vision from billionaire Springfield developer Maha Sinnathamby.

A 120ha ‘Knowledge and Innovation District’ in the booming region has been pitched to Scott Morrison’s Government by the Springfield City Group.

Springfield’s population of 46,000 is set to triple in the next two decades.

Ipswich’s total population is expected to rise from 230,000 to 558,000 by 2041.

Mr Sinnathamby said discussions with the Federal Government to jointly-fund at least a dozen shovel-ready projects were “progressing”.

A key part of the plan is the 42ha IDEA (Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship and Arts) City, which is described in the same mould as the Dubai Internet City.

Set up 21 years ago, the Middle Eastern innovation and technology hub is now home to more than 24,000 professionals from more than 160 countries with 1600 businesses co-located in the city.

Springfield City Group recently sent its blueprint, which outlines billions of dollars of investment opportunities and shovel-ready projects, to the National COVID‑19 Commission advisory board.

“This is a flagship opportunity not only for Queensland, but the nation as a whole,” Mr Sinnathamby said.

“Our vision is to work with government and businesses to build a unique ecosystem, that will expedite the nation’s recovery by creating jobs and developing innovative long-term, sustainable prosperity.

“While other cities and regions are faced with delays and challenges, Springfield is ready to roll out initiatives that offer real and tangible opportunities to create an immediate and lasting economic impact.”

The Springfield City Group chairman said a digital economy analysis undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicated IDEA City would have the potential to create more than 20,000 jobs in south east Queensland and northern New South Wales by 2026.

The analysis estimated the project would generate $12 billion into the economy over five years and “immediate investment” in shovel-ready projects would create 400 jobs in the first 18 months.

“In the past 28 years, Springfield has partnered with the best and is now ready to launch this visionary strategy which will create tremendous opportunities to accelerate Australia’s economy,” he said.

“Springfield City is ready to take up a key role in creating Australia’s digital economy.

“We have the available land to grow, and capacity to contribute to a nation-building project of strategic significance for the nation.

“IDEA City is perfectly positioned to not only support, but lead Australia’s digital, economic and social change into the future.

“Springfield continues to emerge as a prime location for collaboration and innovation between business, for locating research facilities and attracting specialists who come together to create new products and services.

“Our IDEA City will go beyond current smart city concepts to create an environment that Australia lacks; to create real jobs from innovations and collaboration.

“Our precinct will be an enabler for innovation – from bricks and mortar to code and connect – (which is) just what is needed in this COVID-19 environment.”

Mr Sinnathamby said IDEA City would also boost the role played by Springfield in supporting the nation’s defence sector.

It would be just 25 minutes from RAAF Base Amberley, which is Australia’s largest air base.

The five-year plan would be introduced in phases with the first involving a hydrogen battery manufacturing facility and an energy innovation collaboration research hub linked to world wide research by company ENGIE.

ENGIE has devised a $3 billion plan which aims to make Springfield the world’s most eco-friendly community by 2038.

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