THE Gold Coast must stop relying on its traditional economic driver of tourism and invest in innovation and entrepreneurship if it wants to grow to be a worldly city, says leading entrepreneur Matt Desmier.

The founder of Silicon Beach UK talked to Business News Australia about growing Bournemouth from a seaside town to the UK's fastest growing digital hub, outperforming London, Liverpool and Manchester, as recognised by the British government earlier this year.

He says the Gold Coast can experience this same transition, but it must diversify its economy.

"What you have to do is change the story - your golden beaches are not going to go anywhere, your tourism industry is not going to go anywhere, so stop talking about it and talk about something else," says Desmier.

Desmier says if the Gold Coast wants to position itself as a leader in innovation, IT and intelligence, it needs to focus on three things - its people, assets and activities.

"If you get the right people, build a community that engages and are willing to collaborate and celebrate each other's successes, that goes a long way," he says.

Desmier says assets refers to businesses and that the city needs to start promoting the global players that currently reside on the Gold Coast.

The next step is to encourage the city to build a series of events that allow entrepreneurs and innovators the opportunity to meet each other. 

"If you get those three things going, you will change the story and by changing the story you change people's perception and you will become that central hub," he says.  "You are what you do and say."

Desmier, who aims to assist public sector organisations understand and grow their creative and digital economy communities, adds that a city should not be reliant on a single industry.

"You need to be able to employ people, you need to be able to generate jobs, you need to be able to generate a living for people in the area who are going to base themselves here," says Desmier.

"If the only industry you have got is low-paid tourist related jobs, they (people) are not going to want to stay here."

Desmier is currently on the Gold Coast as part of the Big Blue Sky Event - an initiative that has brought together some of the city's brightest minds to collaborate with global visionaries.

He was joined at the event by Danny Maher of Opmantek, a Gold Coast company that is proving the city can be a leader in IT.

Maher agrees with Desmier and is working to change the perception of the Gold Coast.

"The Gold Coast is well known for beaches and lifestyle and holidaying and that type of thing but we have to diversify the economy to ensure that when you have a downturn in tourism, the economy doesn't tank," says Maher.

Maher says the city needs to establish a hub for innovation.

"We have seen the Gold Coast Innovation Centre and we have seen Silicon Lakes as well but I think it is super important that they have the right linkages, so it is not just a co-working space," says Maher.

"It needs to be somewhere where people can go and derive benefits from being there.

"And, it needs to have funding that is ongoing.  The government can definitely play a role, they need to get behind funding these types of facilities and they need to look at co-funding in investment in the area.

"Finally, we need to give the Gold Coast a brand, whether it is the Golden Valley or Silicon Sands we really need a consolidated identity for the innovation that happens here."


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