Cairns Innovation Hub

Project Description

JCU’s Vision is to create a brighter future for life in the Tropics worldwide. As part of that vision, JCU is undertaking the development of a tropical innovation hub in Cairns.


The $50m Cairns Innovation Centre (CIC) is one of three elements of the CIC Project Group totalling $113m. The CIC will enable translation of teaching and research into innovation which generates jobs and economic growth.

The core of the CIC proposition is to create an innovation centre to translate our research, our spirit of enquiry and our store of youthful talent and ambition into products and processes with real commercial application which can drive economic growth and diversity for Northern Australia.

The Cairns Campus of JCU already has the building blocks for a knowledge precinct with an emergent cluster of research institutes, colleges and programs notably the new degree program to commence at Cairns campus 2016 – Electronic Systems and the Internet of Things (IoT).

There is a need to provide avenues for translation of the intellectual capital we create and the entrepreneurial energy of our graduates into commercial activity and job creation. The CIC will provide the connective tissue between the JCU Institutes, Colleges, students (including, IoT, IT, Business and Creative Arts), commercial tenants the University proper and business in the region.

For our staff and partner institutions, we see CIC fostering a transformation to a culture of entrepreneurship and a weaning from an exclusive reliance on government funding. For our region, CIC will be an important enabler in the translation from our already strong institutional research and education capability into commercial products and activity and a powerful demonstration that the capital cities are not the only repositories of innovation – the regions too can be smart, strong and independent.

To build a new Northern Australia we need to generate new types of thinking and new skills. Young graduates and students who can take the best of inspiration from the popular ‘start-up’ culture, engage deeply with industry and business via ‘work-integrated learning’ and understand not just technology but its power and application.

The CIC will fuse these ideas and produce a new core of innovative, business and industry savvy graduates with skills, understanding and drive to power Northern Australia in the 21st century and to directly enable the Northern Australia vision.

The $50m facility will be funded via $10m from the Queensland Government, $10m of matching Federal funds and the balance to be sourced by JCU. The CIC will be operated on commercial principles and will not require ongoing subsidy from government.

Directly CIC yields 155 full time construction and 200 operations jobs. Indirectly, CIC drives the creation of new enterprise for the benefit of local industry and the Australian economy.


The $30m Cairns Innovation Lodge is one of three elements of the Cairns Innovation Centre Project Group totaling $113m. Stage 1 of the Cairns Innovation Lodge is a 300 bed accommodation project for international and domestic students, researchers and participants in the Cairns Innovation Centre.

Cairns Campus is growing strongly. Our 2012 impact report reveals a 60% increase in economic impact between 2008 and 2012. In 2014 there were 4017 students at Cairns Campus.

Growth is expected to continue, driven by new programs, notably the new degree in Electronic Systems and the Internet of Things. On campus accommodation is now required urgently

JCU is currently engaging with leading third party providers of university accommodation. These providers will design, finance, build and operate the Innovation Lodge to JCU’s specification.

To be constructed over 3 stages, Cairns Innovation Lodge will total 1000 beds. Fully developed, there will be a range of accommodation including undergraduate studios, serviced apartments and short stay hotel style rooms.

Directly, Stage 1 of the Cairns Innovation Lodge yields 90 effective full time construction and 25 operations jobs. Indirectly it brings new people and spending to FNQ engaged in learning, research and innovation.

The graphic below illustrates the breadth of activity under way or in planning for the Cairns Campus. On-campus accommodation for students, researchers and visitors is a critical enabler for these activities.

JCU Cairns Innovation Hub overview


JCU Sports Innovation Centre

The $33m Tropical Sports Conditioning Centre (TSCC) is one of three elements of the Cairns Innovation Centre Project Group totaling $113m. TSCC will both provide facilities for local community and bring elite national and international athletes for tropical conditioning.

The essential idea is that due to its coastal location, higher temperatures and as an international destination, Cairns has a strong competitive advantage in this field. Add JCU’s capacity and expertise in its Sports and Exercise Science teaching and research programs and we have a compelling case for a Cairns based facility.

The tropical location allows athletes, trainers and researchers to work in such areas as heat stress and physical activity as well as training for strength and endurance athletes in conditions of heat and humidity.

Directly, TSCC yields 95 full time construction and 80 operations jobs. It brings new economic activity to FNQ through visiting teams and athletes and a base for sports science research for JCU.

The Tropical Sports Conditioning Centre is part of a proposal to create a network of top end training facilities in Cairns with the TSCC facility on the JCU campus being the hub.   A local group headed by the Federal Member for Leichardt is championing the proposal.

The expectations is that altogether $150m, inclusive of 10 years of operating funds would be invested in the Cairns area as a result.


Kevin Byrne, CEO
Advance Cairns
07 4091 2901
Professor Sandra Harding, VC
07 4781 4165

Updated May 2016

Department of Industry and Science
INVESTMENT TYPE Infrastructure
AMOUNT $113m
Project Location

JCU Cairns Campus, Cairns, Queensland

Project Timelines

To be developed

Project Proponent

James Cook University


P.O. Box 3065
Cairns, QLD 4870 Australia


51 The Esplanade
Cairns QLD 4870 Australia


Phone: +61 (0)7 4080 2900
Fax: +61 (0)7 4031 3994