A key element of the ActivateOrange Strategic Vision is the plan for a new Orange Life Sciences Precinct. The new precinct will incorporate the existing hospital site, the new private hospital, the Department of Primary Industries’ agribusiness accelerator (the GATE), education and research facilities, and the Clinical Trials Unit. These assets will be used to leverage investment attraction for associated developments, industrial manufacturing and services companies.
Orange Life Sciences Precinct
Orange City Council has lodged an expression of interest with the NSW Government to have the Life Sciences Precinct designated as a Special Activation Zone. Special Activation Zone designation will ensure that potential investors into the zone will benefit from a coordinated approach to land use and infrastructure planning and have the best access to incentives announced under the State Government Regional NSW Investment Attraction Package.
Stage One – Reserving the precinct for future generations
Bloomfield Health Precinct
The Bloomfield campus was purchased in 1889 as the site of a health and medical precinct. It wasn’t until 1924 that the Government opened what is now known as Bloomfield Hospital – an innovative parkland facility for people with psychiatric illnesses. Bloomfield Hospital is today the largest advanced mental health research and services facility in NSW, incorporating the University of Newcastle’s Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health.
Stage Two – Growth of Agricultural Research and Technology
The Orange Agricultural Research facility was opened in 1953 to conduct research into agricultural innovation and practices. In 1980 the facility expanded to become the Orange Agricultural and Veterinary Research Institute. In 2018, the Institute now hosts the Global Agri-Tech Ecosystem (GATE) which supports start-ups and entrepreneurialism in new technology including drones, sensors, remote monitoring and a wide variety of other advanced technology developments.
Stage Three – Expanding health and medical education
Orange’s growth as a centre of excellence in medical and health education, and training, started with the establishment of the University of Sydney Rural Health School in Orange in 2000. Over the next few years, Orange grew to deliver new university degree programs in pharmacy, biomedical sciences, nursing, clinical science, physiotherapy, dentistry and medical radiation sciences at the new Charles Sturt University Campus. In 2010 the University began planning for a new medical school in Orange, with Federal funding announced in 2018 for a commencement date of 2021.
Stage Four – Emergence of Life Sciences Research
The new Orange Public Hospital began operations at the Bloomfield Campus in 2011. This development allowed a significant expansion of clinical and medical training capacity with the University of Sydney, Charles Sturt University and other institutions establishing programs to prepare health and medical students for professional careers, and build a suite of accredited specialisations. This supported a progressive expansion of research capacity with programs developed by the University of Sydney, Charles Sturt University and the University of Newcastle. A new forensic psychiatric facility was constructed on the Bloomfield Hospital site, opening in 2011. In 2018, the Orange Agricultural Research Institute opened the Global Agri-Tech Ecosystem (GATE) to facilitate innovation, invention and entrepreneurialism in the application and creation of new technologies including sensors, remote monitoring, biotechnology and automation.
Stage Five – Integrated education, research, manufacturing and services
The proposed Orange Life Sciences Precinct is the next logical step in the development of the Bloomfield Campus to integrate the existing participants and networks, and to leverage its life sciences education, research and development capacity to support economic growth, jobs creation and investment attraction for Orange and the NSW economy.
Orange has the unique set of attributes to make its Life Sciences Precinct
a diverse ecosystem of health services, educational facilities, research institutes, multinationals and innovative high growth SMEs clustered in an activation precinct – a success:
- As identified in the recent Regional Economic Development Strategy for Orange, Blayney and Cabonne, medical services and healthcare infrastructure are major endowments of the region. Building on the region’s core specialisation in healthcare was one of 5 major strategies identified for the region in that plan. Orange is already served by an exceptional collection of hospitals, public and private health services (including more than 100 medical specialists) research organisations and an award-winning Clinical Trials Unit. It has a unique legacy of provision rural and other health to the entire Western region. Orange Hospital is one of the largest regional hospitals in NSW and health and social assistance is the region’s major employing sector;
- There are numerous opportunities that will stimulate private investment into the precinct, including opportunities to leverage off work that is already being done by Western NSW Local Health District. This will support the attraction of investment from overseas for multi-national clinical trials the award-winning Clinical Trials Unit. This growth will also expand its medical research capacity in association with its four partner universities consistent with the Federal Government’s Statement of Principles for Australian Innovation Precincts and NSW Government’s NSW Innovation Precincts.
- A new private hospital – the Bloomfield Private Hospital – is currently being constructed adjacent to the existing public hospital. This will significantly increase the capacity of the health sector in Orange and ensure that medical professionals are attracted to the region. There is an expected growth of 500 full-time equivalent staff when the private hospital is fully operational, once the flow-on impacts are taken into account. It will also expand the potential patient cohort for research, clinical training and clinical trials.
- Charles Sturt University has recently received Commonwealth funding for a new medical school in Orange. This school will complement the research and clinical training activities of University of Sydney, University of Newcastle and University of Wollongong that are already undertaken on the site. These activities further boost and support the rural and regional medical and health workforce. A strong university sector will ensure that more research is done in Orange, which will in turn increase the opportunity for the spin-out of health and life sciences small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and deliver increased capacity to attract NMHRC and ARC funding and philanthropic research support. In addition, it will ensure a home grown workforce that will be required as the precinct matures.
- Orange’s natural attractions, cosmopolitan lifestyle and education options has attracted a unique workforce in a regional location– for example there are currently over 120 medical specialists servicing the City. Innovative companies such as Phocas (a data analytics and business intelligence multinational which has its global R&D lab in Orange) have indicated that lifestyle considerations were a major factor in the decision to set up in Orange.
- Proximity to Sydney and other major metropolitan cities. Orange is located within a 3.5 hour drive of Sydney and 3 hours’ drive of Canberra. It is also serviced by air services to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. This is important in attracting interstate and foreign direct investment to the region and will ensure the continued attraction and retention of a skilled workforce.
- There is significant land around the existing public hospital site which is either Crown Land or owned by the NSW State Government through Health Infrastructure or the Department of Primary Industries. This will allow the Special Activation Precinct to be of a critical scale, while still maintaining the unique heritage of the site. In addition, it will ensure that there is sufficient space for health and life sciences services, educational facilities, national and multinationals and innovative high growth small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to be clustered together. International experience (including http://www.corridormanchester.com) has indicated that the key advantage of a precinct is the enhanced ability for open collaboration and hence enhanced opportunities for economic development.
This project is a joint initiative of the Orange City Council and NSW Planning, involving NSW Premier and Cabinet, NSW Health, TAFE, local universities, research organisations and industry.