People will drive innovation around sustainable cities

As the Australian retail industry braces itself for the impending arrival of US e-commerce giant Amazon, could the property sector face a similar threat in the future?

This was one of the questions that shaped the discussion at our recent ministerial lunch, Innovation or Extinction: How to drive innovation and create jobs.    

Kicked off by our moderator, EY Managing Partner – Real Estate and Construction, Selina Short, we looked to the future of technology to forecast how we can build smart cities that are healthy, resilient and sustainable.

“Attitudes have shifted dramatically over the past 12 months and people now recognise that the future of the property industry will be driven by technology. There’s power in how we use technology to add value to people", Selina said.

Some of these technologies have been widely discussed in EY’s report Will the Australian property sector seize the upside of disruption? These include robotics that aid in construction and promote onshore manufacturing, to big data and analytics that create bespoke experiences for customers.

How well the industry’s leaders embrace technology is entirely dependent on our ability to collaborate.

Keynote speaker, Jason Falinski MP, argued that our future as a society will be collectively shaped not by politicians or bureaucrats, but by communities.

“All Australians have a role to play in making our built environment better. Greater collaboration is important for our future. We often talk about the ingenuity of Australians – and rightly so.”

Henry Okraglik, Global Director of WSP Digital, argued that smart sustainable cities are essential if our societies are to thrive and survive.

“In this industry, we’re trained to be risk-adverse, particularly in engineering where risk reduction is a big part of our role.” How do we change what is a very conservative industry and push the boundaries? The secret it to take a multi-disciplinary approach.

Innovation Consultant and Chief Disruptor, Anne-Marie Elias echoed similar concerns.

“We’re not bringing cross discipline into design to solve problems.”

She suggested a people-centric view will help us build better cities.

“Don’t make change and innovation about technology,” Anne-Marie said.

“Innovation comes from people – technology and innovation are just enablers.”