While the disruptions wrought by COVID-19 over the past two years have been immensely challenging, I remain optimistic that Queensland is well positioned to seize the growth opportunities of the pandemic recovery phase.

My confidence is based partly on the underlying momentum in the Queensland economy that’s apparent in growing household savings, improving job figures, the pick-up in business investment, and the wealth effect associated with strong house price growth.

But, more particularly, there’s been a pronounced flow of both financial and human capital into our State. In the first year of the pandemic (April 2020 to March 2021), ABS figures show that Queensland’s net population grew by 43,000 people, which is more than all of the other states and territories combined.

This demographic shift, alone, will provide a genuine growth spurt for our State over the coming decade.

The second factor that gives me confidence in Queensland’s economic prospects is the increased activity that we are seeing in our state’s innovation ecosystem. I have a privileged perspective on this scale-up because UQ is a major producer of both the education and research programs that are a vital input to our innovation ecosystem.

Over the past year, two companies founded by UQ graduates have now reached “unicorn” status. The first is Tritium, a manufacturer of fast chargers for electric vehicles; and the second is Go1, which operates an online corporate training marketplace. Both companies are run from Brisbane and now employ hundreds of people globally.

Their success is a demonstration that Queenslanders have the capacity to build globally-competitive businesses in knowledge-based industries – and it also highlights the vital importance of investing in our local innovation ecosystem.

Importantly, there is increased commitment, right now – across government, industry and research institutions – to creating a more joined-up innovation ecosystem that will help to drive growth and broaden our economic base over the coming decade.

That commitment is evident in the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy and the recent release of a discussion paper by the Queensland Government seeking input to the 10-year Queensland Innovation Places Strategy.

Given the concentration of world-leading research we produce in areas such as agriculture, life sciences and medical sciences, Queensland has enormous untapped potential to translate more of our research into progressive ideas, better services and new products.

So, as we look ahead to Queensland being in the global spotlight in 2032, I’m convinced that the maturing of our innovation ecosystem is going to be every bit as consequential for our state as the infrastructure investment that will occur ahead of the Brisbane Olympics.