16 Oct 2023

Tech Central: fertile ground for world-changing innovation

Artists render of Tech Central

To become the birthplace of globally significant innovation, a tech hub needs the right elements. Primarily, it needs a culture that thrives on creativity and risk-taking to encourage people to challenge norms and explore unconventional ideas.

Next, it needs collaborative networks and open platforms for knowledge sharing. In this way, big ideas are freely exchanged. Accessible education and a skilled workforce can help harness and cultivate those ideas.

It also needs government, academia, industry and startups to be on the same page. This fosters an environment where innovation can flourish, and breakthrough ideas can manifest into their full potential and make a meaningful global impact.

These are the cornerstones on which Sydney’s leading innovation hub, Tech Central, has evolved, giving Australia its status as a breeding ground for world-changing innovation.

An artists impression of the hustle and bustle around the new Tech Central in Sydney Credit: Investment NSW

Big breakthroughs: Sydney’s long tradition of innovation

Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation – Tech Central evolved to bring together smart people with big ideas. It aims to facilitate innovation and accelerate its impact, particularly in areas of global significance, like clean energy and deep tech.

While the technologies emerging from Tech Central are new, the land on which they spring to life is ancient. Its original inhabitants, the Gadigal People, are the world’s first innovators and have been sharing stories and ideas here for 65,000 years. They embody the spirit of collaborative growth that’s always been at the heart of Sydney and which is at the heart of Tech Central.

That inventive spirit has continued unabated throughout generations. A cellular imprint of risk-taking and visionary thinking exists here, seeing Sydney punch above its weight in the tech industry for decades.

Some of the most significant innovations that have happened within the current footprint of Tech Central include:

Lidwill Anaesthetic Machine Photo courtesy of Barry Baker, Copyright University of Sydney

The cardiac pacemaker

In 1926, Dr Mark Lidwell from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown, supported by a Sydney University physicist, Edgar Booth, invented the world’s first cardiac pacemaker and first used it successfully in 1928.

Air safety pioneer John Grant tests his inflatable escape slide in Sydney in 1965 Credit: Nine News

The inflatable aircraft slide

In 1965, Sydney’s Jack Grant invented the inflatable aircraft escape slide, which is now mandatory on all major airlines.

John O’Sullivan, Terence Percival and Graham Daniels with the WLAN test equipment Credit: National Museum of Australia


A team of researchers and engineers led by Sydney University alumnus Dr John O’Sullivan invented wifi at the CSIRO in the 1990s.

A screen grab showing a very early version of Google Maps. Credit: Medium.com

Google Maps

Sydney-based brothers Lars and Jens Rasmussen co-founded a startup mapping company in 2003, which would become Google Maps.

Professor Martin Green, inventor of PERC solar cells, is standing with his research team in an image from the 1980s Professor Martin Green, the ‘father of PERC solar cells’, with his UNSW research team, 1983. Credit: SolarQuotes.com.au

How Sydney sparked a solar revolution

A leading light in Sydney’s innovation history is Martin Green AM, Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Australian Centre for Advance Photovoltaics. A BESydney Global Ambassador, Professor Green is known as ‘the father of the solar cell’ due to his pioneering work in solar power, which has made a monumental impact on the world stage.

Professor Green and his team invented the PERC solar cell in 1983. PERC (Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell) solar cells have revolutionised the photovoltaic industry, using a rear surface passivation technique to greatly enhance their efficiency. This breakthrough innovation is now used in over 90% of the world’s manufactured solar panels.

Profile photo of Professor Martin Green amongst a rooftop of solar panels

Widely regarded as the world’s leading researcher in photovoltaics, Professor Green recognises Sydney’s longstanding role at the forefront of renewable energy innovation.

“There weren’t too many groups we could collaborate with in Sydney because we were one of the few working in the solar photovoltaic area through the 80s and 90s when we did our most important work. We recruited people from around Sydney and the rest of the world and trained them. From Sydney, they went out into the world and did wonderful things. Sydney did very well because we led the world in developing efficient solar cells. And then people that were trained in our labs in Sydney went out and established the modern manufacturing industry, which is based mainly in China.”

Martin Green

Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Australian Centre for Advance Photovoltaics

The transition to renewables: here’s why we’re leading the world

Solar energy is the most abundant of all energy resources and therefore plays a crucial role in transitioning to renewable energy and meeting climate goals. By expanding the use of solar energy, we can significantly reduce carbon emissions, mitigate climate change impacts and create a cleaner and more sustainable future.

However, there are challenges to overcome. And the talent and resources needed to meet these challenges exist here, at Tech Central, with people like Professor Martin Green at the helm.

“In 2022, solar supplied about 15% of Australia's electricity or nearly a sixth of Australia's electricity. The current trajectory suggests solar will account for all of Australia's electricity by 2035"

Martin Green

Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Australian Centre for Advance Photovoltaics

“Improving the performance of solar cells is imperative to reducing their cost and increasing their accessibility, reducing our carbon emissions overall. The electricity supply system needs to be completely reworked. It wasn't designed for solar systems, so Australia is going to lead the world in pioneering a lot of this system redesign. Plenty of trained people are required each year for the industry as it continues to grow.

“Sydney will pioneer this energy transition from unsustainable energy and fossil fuels to renewables,” he says. “We already have more solar installed per capita than anywhere else in the world. We’ve had a long history of refining and improving what we call energy conversion efficiency, and that will continue into the future.”

Library Reading Room in Building 2 at the University of Technology Sydney Credit: Andy Roberts

Smart Sydney: transforming the world one brilliant idea at a time

Professor Green has experienced the upward trajectory of Sydney’s innovation landscape over the past 40 years and believes it is uniquely positioned to help the world meet the greatest challenges of our time.

“The University of New South Wales in Sydney is in an ideal position to supply the skilled people that will lead the transformation our current energy system requires for us to be able to adapt to climate change and mitigate its impact,”

Martin Green

Scientia Professor at the University of New South Wales and Director of the Australian Centre for Advance Photovoltaics

“We have about 500 students enrolled at the moment, with a significant cohort from China,” says Professor Green. “Our overseas alumni return home and have a massive impact on supplying the industry with trained engineers. There’s a WeChat group in China with hundreds of alumni, showing those connections they built in Sydney are stronger than ever.”

Here in Sydney, energy is building and exciting developments are afoot.

At Sydney’s new Greenhouse cleantech hub at Circular Quay, renewable technologies are attracting over $11B in investment. Clean energy is set to become Sydney’s fastest-growing sector (35% annually), and Tech Central’s EcoTech community is at the forefront of this rapid transformation.

Tomorrow begins at Tech Central

BESydney helps facilitate the collaboration needed to create a sustainable future by bringing global meetings to Australia. We foster cooperation between business, government, and the community to generate solutions for global change.

BESydney is an Associate Member of the Sustainable Destination Partnership, along with leading hotels, event centres, cultural institutions, and tourism bodies in Sydney. We collaborate with eco-responsible partners to minimise environmental impact and are a member of the Global Destination Sustainability Index, promoting responsible business tourism and sharing best practices.

With the rapid development of the renewable energy sector needed now more than ever, what better place to facilitate the energy revolution than Sydney’s Tech Central?

Undoubtedly, it’s poised to lead the world in renewable energy innovation. But renewable energy is just one of many industries that need the diverse research ecosystem  and collaborative clusters offered at Tech Central to reach their full potential.

Tech Central is strategically placed to facilitate the kind of groundbreaking innovation humanity needs for a better future — and accelerate the impact of that innovation so its effects reverberate around the world.