Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.

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Events and the Global Innovation Economy

Chair of the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Trust, The Hon John Brumby AO, reflects on the opportunity to drive innovation and economic activation through events.

As more life and activity returns to our city each day, I’m excited that Melbourne has been successful in its bid to host the 2023 Global Entrepreneurship Congress at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC).

The timing couldn’t be better. If there’s one thing COVID has taught us, it’s the value of innovation. When the pandemic hit, governments, businesses and organisations of all kinds had to adapt at a moment’s notice: putting new systems in place, adopting new technologies, and looking for new opportunities in a completely changed environment. In other words, everyone had to think like an entrepreneur.

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress is an annual gathering of around 2,500 entrepreneurs, investors, researchers, thought leaders and policymakers from around the world. This year the Congress is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. MCEC will host the gathering in 2023 and will be the first time the Congress has ever been held in Australia. The winning bid was led by the Melbourne Convention Bureau and was possible with support from the Victorian State Government and Tourism Australia’s Business Events Bid Fund Program, MCI Australia and the Global Entrepreneurship Network’s (GEN) Australian Chapter, together with key stakeholders across the Australian startup ecosystem, including Startup Victoria, Invest Victoria, and Melbourne Connect. I believe this once-in-a-generation event will catalyse a new wave of entrepreneurial energy across our nation.

It’s long been my view that our economic future depends on innovation. We can’t pin our hopes on another mining boom or think that business as usual will suffice in a post-COVID world. We need to turn Australian ideas, research and innovation into products and services that can make their way into markets both here and around the world. For this to happen, a number of elements need to be in place.

First, we need high quality research institutions and scientific infrastructure - and we have these, from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute at the University of Melbourne to the Australian Synchrotron at Monash, Agribio at La Trobe, and of course the Doherty Institute, which was the first laboratory outside of China to grow and share the novel coronavirus. And there are many, many more.

Second, we need ways and means to get the best ideas and innovations out of people’s heads and into markets. The Victorian Government has recently taken the lead on this by establishing a new, $2 billion Breakthrough Victoria Fund, which I’m proud to chair. Breakthrough Victoria will invest in the development of innovations in health and the life sciences, agriculture, advanced manufacturing, digital and green technologies. The Commonwealth Government has recently made a similar-sized investment, so the next decade should see more and more innovators able to develop ideas here rather than sending them offshore.

The third thing we need is people. Melbourne has long been one of the most liveable cities in the world - and a great place to visit, too. That’s why MCEC has been able to host more than 20,000 events over 25 years attracting millions of local, national and international visitors and generating billions in economic benefit to the state. Attracting people means attracting their skills and talents.

We’re also pleased to be welcoming international students back to Victoria after a long absence. It’s time to bring people back to Melbourne and back together again. COVID has reminded us that, although remote work and remote networking can work in a crisis, there is ultimately no substitute for in-person events. That’s why MCEC exists, and why the Global Entrepreneurship Congress will be such a powerful opportunity for Melbourne’s entrepreneurial community to network with fellow innovators from right around the world. It’s exciting to think what future global companies might one day trace their origin back to a meeting of minds at the 2023 Global Entrepreneurship Congress in Melbourne.

The Congress will also be a boost for the wider economy. It’s expected to generate almost $13 million in revenue for our state, and like every MCEC event the economic benefit will spread far outwards to Melbourne’s hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, tourism services and beyond.

Another reason why it’s the right time for Melbourne to host the Global Entrepreneurship Congress is our location. The 2021 Global Startup Ecosystem Report showed that more than a quarter (27%) of the Top 30 global entrepreneurial innovation ecosystems are right on Australia’s doorstep in Asia. The Congress in 2023 will put Melbourne on the map as a gateway to this rapidly expanding innovation ecosystem.

There’s little more than a year to go before the Congress hits our shores. It’s now time to start thinking about how we can best use this opportunity to showcase Melbourne’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to the world. I congratulate everyone involved in the successful bid to host the 2023 Global Entrepreneurship Congress.

The Global Entrepreneurship Congress is a successful bid led by the Melbourne Convention Bureau, with the event to be hosted at MCEC in 2023 and managed by leading professional conference organiser MCI Australia.