Can you feel the ground move? Sydney's 'centre of gravity' shifts west

Monday, January 18, 2016 - 11:43

"If one CBD is good, two must be better!" That seems to be the sentiment in Sydney's west, which is fast becoming a major commercial hub in its own right.

While Sydney's CBD has long been the country's largest economic centre, growth in the western suburbs is signalling a shift in the city's gravity, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Sydney is increasingly reliant on a network of economic centres

According to a recent report from the organisation, growth in Sydney's west has resulted in considerable growth in the city's second CBD - Parramatta. The research tracked Sydney's 'economic centre of gravity' - a single point that reflects the concentration of a city's economic performance.

Sydney is unique among Australian cities because this point isn't located in the CBD or moving closer towards it - a trend in every other Australian city. Instead, the centre of gravity is moving away from the CBD and shifting west.

The report also suggested that Sydney is increasingly reliant on a network of economic centres, spanning across the city's western and north-western suburbs, which are seeing major investment from firms. New technology and investments in infrastructure are also allowing firms to maintain more branches while overcoming the restrictions that have traditionally seen firms concentrate in the CBD.

Is Western Sydney the heart of Australian innovation?

Among the largest policy announcements from the new Turnbull government has been the announcement of a new innovation agenda to drive the country's economy after the mining boom. As well as specific policies, this initiative is trying to drive a broader change in the way businesses value innovation.

Within this policy, Western Sydney has been picked as the engine of this growth, with the Prime Minister touting the area's potential for innovation. 

"I know Australians, and particularly those here in Western Sydney... are extremely imaginative and confident." - Malcolm Turnbull

At a recent roundtable at the University of Sydney, the Prime Minister emphasised how important this opportunity was for those in Western Sydney.

"If we are going to remain, as we must, a high wage generous social welfare net economy, a prosperous economy, then we have to be more competitive, more productive. more innovative," explained Mr Turnbull.

"I know Australians, and particularly those here in Western Sydney... are extremely imaginative and confident."

Clearly, innovation is high on the agenda for Western Sydney. The question remains: How are individual companies going to achieve these goals?

Rising to the challenge of a new centre of gravity

The shift in Sydney's economic centre provides a key opportunity for Sydney firms to invest in the area and capitalise on the area's potential for innovation.

Fortunately, the growth of the city's western suburbs also means there are greater opportunities available for businesses. New training offerings and courses, for example, are providing businesses based in Parramatta and the surrounding areas with the same opportunities that are available in the Sydney CBD.

More generally though, the focus on innovation is something that more and more businesses are committing to - and it is starting with strong leadership. According to research from McKinsey & Company, leading an innovation initiative involves:

  1. Defining the sort of innovation an organisation is looking to foster
  2. Adding innovation to the agenda for formal leadership meetings
  3. Setting performance metrics that align with an innovation strategy

As Parramatta and Sydney's west more generally become even more important for the country's economy, more and more firms will be looking for unique opportunities in the area. Coupled with the area's huge potential for innovation and it certainly feels like Sydney's centre of gravity is shifting west.