Australia. Many images come to mind when we think about the land downunder. White sandy beaches, kangaroos, the Sydney Opera House. But, Australia, far from being a far-flung tourist destination, is the world's 13th largest economy, despite its modest population of just 23 million. And guess what? It's fast becoming an innovation hub as well. What are the conditions ripe for cultivating innovation over there? Let's take a look. Here are at least five reasons why Australia is at the cutting-edge of creativity right now.

Australia is in a state of transition

Tom Hajdu, Chief Innovation Officer of South Australia, explains, "Australia has a proud history of innovation and creativity and today, we continue to see the country brimming with ideas and opportunities." In fact, Australia is in a state of transition and currently experiencing an economic climate ripe for innovation. Traditionally an economy based on manufacturing, the future, according to Hajdu, is firmly fixed on high-tech industries.

Southern Australian, in particular, has converted into a buzzing technology hub. The government recently invested $80 million to accelerate the state's transformation to a modern, innovative economy, creating the jobs of the future. This widescale transition to an information economy is driving what Hajdu calls "innovative thinking, creative development and activity." The city of Adelaide has become a world leader in producing forward-thinking companies and is a place where business and industry can thrive.

South Australian company, Humanihut, for example, was named among the world's top disruptive businesses in 2016. While Micro-X is currently capitalizing on the medical devices sector with innovative mobile X-ray technology for hospitals and bomb detection in defense applications. Several international companies have also established themselves in South Australia, including the Microsoft Innovation Center and HP Enterprise's Innovation and Collaboration Center.

At the cutting edge of AI

With a mindset clearly on the future, Australia is making investments in AI technology. Hajdu confirms, "South Australia was the first jurisdiction in the Southern hemisphere to legislate and allow on-road testing of driverless vehicles." This helped pave the way for new mobility solutions to be adopted in the state, as well as opportunities for the global application of their research.

Telecommunications company, Myriota, was recently awarded best industrial startup and second best startup company at the world's largest Internet of Things Summit in Silicon Valley. The prestigious recognition was for its low-power, low-cost IoT enabled transceiver, for businesses in remote areas.

The field of Australian research is also making significant impacts in medicine and biotech. The University of Adelaide recently developed a 'smart needle' to make brain surgery safer. Their state-of-the-art technology allows surgeons to 'see' potentially risky blood vessels as they insert the needle, which means they can avoid causing fatal bleeds.

Following Silicon Valley's lead

Innovation breeds innovation and so it makes sense to set up innovation incubators and centers where great things can happen. Taking a leaf out of Silicon Valley's book, the State Government of South Australia opened up Australia's first ever innovation district. Known as Tonsley, the aim of the site is to cultivate and foster creative thinking and breed innovation. Hajdu explains, "the site brings together companies and institutions and connects them with creative startups, business incubators, accelerators and high-value industry and researchers under one roof."

Tonsley focuses on four main sectors that reflect Australia's major economic strengths. These are health and medical devices, clean-tech and renewable energy, software and simulation, and mining and energy.

There is also a thriving $3.6 billion health and biomedical precinct in the works nearby, home to state-of-the-art South Australian Health Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), and the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, as well as the University of South Australia's Health Innovation Building. When the project is completed, it will be the largest health precinct in the Southern Hemisphere.

Government support

Everyone knows about the infamous innovation behind the smartphone. Steve Jobs' creation has become the most innovative icon on earth, in fact. Yet, not a lot of people know that the iPhone could not have been a success without the available technologies partially or wholly funded by the government beforehand. This includes the touch screen, the internet, cellular technology and lithium based batteries.

Government support is often essential to create a climate of innovation, and Australia is fortunate to be receiving the necessary aid. As Hajdu explains, "maximizing the economic impact of South Australia's research sector and high-tech industries has been a focus for the government."

Through TechInSA, the government works closely with industry to bring innovative local products and technologies to global markets. This is driving job creation and building Australia's reputation as a center for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Committed to high speed infrastructure

In a further supportive move, the state government in Southern Australia is paving the way for a high-speed future. In 2016, they invested $4.7 million to enable Adelaide to join the handful of 'gig cities' around the world. They are successfully "connecting innovation precincts and co-working spaces to high-speed internet that is 100 times the national average," Hajdu reveals.

"This new digital infrastructure will help Adelaide stay at the forefront of innovation, attracting new businesses and entrepreneurs with 'bandwidth heavy' ideas, and facilitating the development of new applications across biotech, advanced manufacturing and film-post production."

Adelaide is also home to Techstars' first accelerator program in the Asia-Pacific region, adding to the state's opportunity-rich environment for local entrepreneurs. Moreover, this fall, Adelaide will host the HybridWorld and Open State festivals which aim to foster new ideas, explore cutting-edge technology and showcase local and international innovation and creativity.

There are many resources available to innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs in Australia, beyond high-speed internet and government support. South Australia, especially, has a well-connected and dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem, with around 100 programs available to talented entrepreneurs. These are funded by a mixture of government, industry, and mentoring entrepreneurs.

The future is bright for innovative thinkers in this faraway land. Great things are bound to come and Hajdu will be there to witness them all. "I recently moved to South Australia and I have not looked back. I saw the signs early enough and I am now capitalizing on the state's capabilities and infrastructure."