The Victorian State Government has announced measures to place the state at the forefront of global innovation in advanced manufacturing, engineering and design, with the announcement of investment in a major new innovation precinct close to Melbourne CBD.

Premier Daniel Andrews’s Government will invest $179.4m to support stage one of the Fishermans Bend Innovation Precinct development at the former General Motors Holden factory, just 4km from Melbourne city centre. The precinct will encourage collaboration between industry and academia, with the University of Melbourne leading the way. Fishermans Bend will house the University of Melbourne’s School of Engineering from 2024 and the innovation precinct is forecast to be capable of supporting up to 30,000 STEM jobs by 2051.

The precinct is intended to cement Victoria’s status as a major centre for advanced manufacturing and support high-paid innovation jobs in defence, aerospace, clean energy and transport. It will also strengthen the state’s capacity to commercialise new ideas and foster new business ventures.

GM Holden established its Fishermans Bend operations in the 1930s, first to assemble imported engines and locally produced car bodies. In the late 1940s, the site delivered Australia’s first mass-produced vehicle – the FX Holden – and GM Holden’s operations expanded, while fellow carmakers also set up factories in the area. Development Victoria bought the former GM Holden site in 2017 and is leading the project to remake the historic precinct.

“The old Holden factory is part of Victoria’s manufacturing history,” said Martin Pakula, Victorian State Minister for Business Precincts. “This important first step will help transform it into Victoria’s manufacturing future. We’re creating the foundations for a world-leading hub for ideas, innovation and 21st century industry – it’s an investment in jobs and the people of Victoria.”

This first step will involve remediation of the 32-hectare GM Holden site – an area equal to 15 Melbourne Cricket Grounds – and the installation of crucial infrastructure and services to make an investment-ready precinct. As many as 300 people will work on the innovation precinct project at any one time, with close to 700 indirect jobs also supported. Stage one is expected to unlock developable land capable of supporting 2,000 jobs by 2024.

The innovation precinct is at the heart of the 230-hectare Fishermans Bend Employment Precinct, recognised as a strategically important employment and innovation cluster, which is already home to world-renowned firms including Boeing and Siemens. Fishermans Bend is Australia’s largest urban renewal project, covering around 480 hectares that will be home to around 80,000 people and 80,000 jobs by 2050.