Developing Tonsley Park: Australia's First Innovation Precinct


Designing, Developing and Transforming an Interconnected Mixed-Use Innovation Precinct to Meet Future Needs

Tonsley Innovation Precinct, built on the once-abandoned site of a Mitsubishi factory, is Australia’s first innovation business park. The innovation precinct brings together leading-edge research and education institutions, established businesses and start-ups, business incubators and accelerators as well as government and the wider community to connect, collaborate and innovate.  

Ahead of the Business Park Design, Development and Transformation Summit 2017, Milos Milutinovic, senior associate at architecture firm Woods Bagot, explores how the $260 million Tonsley Park was developed to assist South Australian businesses in their move up the value chain and into global markets.

In designing the Main Assembly Building we broke the building down into 5 different areas based on key uses; relaxation, breakout, transition spaces, retail spaces, and tenancy or office spaces, and designed based on the needs of the people in each space.” -- Milos Milutinovic, Senior Associate, Woods Bagot

Tonsley Park

Tonsley Park. Photo Courtesy of Woods BagotInnovation Master Planning

Economic factors driving Tonsley


- “While Mitsubishi was operating, it had over 3,000 FTE staff, when that closed it was huge hit to Adelaide in terms of job losses and overall confidence. So Tonsley is really about bringing confidence back to Adelaide, creating jobs and leading economic and social rejuvenation.”


– “Woods Bagot were engaged by the government of South Australia to develop a masterplan for Tonsley and one of the big questions was: How does South Australia move away from being a manufacturing economy, to a more knowledge-based economy?

It was important that we create a facility that encouraged innovation and knowledge transfer within a collaborative environment.”


– “Being an environmental sustainability leader was huge for the SA government and Tonsley, and this really drove our masterplan, especially with regard to the MAB.

Woods Bagot worked very hard to retain the existing structure, which saved 90,000 tons of embodied carbon, which is the equivalent to 25,000 cars being taken off the road.


Aerial View. Photo Courtesy of Woods BagotDesigning Innovation

As a mixed-use precinct Tonsley includes a number of global partner tenants including Siemens, TAFE SA and Flinders University -- while still allowing space for researchers, start-ups, PhD students and developers.

Tonsley’s economic development objectives are highly aligned to the SA State’s strategic priorities in particular: commercialisation of research and the student experience; growth through innovation; and showcasing South Australia as the best place to do business.

Another two of the state priorities talk directly to two of our four key target sectors: mining and energy services; as well as health, medical devices and assistive technologies.

To aid creativity and knowledge architects Woods Bagot created an agile facility with open relaxation and communal spaces that, in alignment with the State government’s requirements, encourage innovation and collaboration.

Four design elements to create a community

Relaxation Spaces:

 Four landscaped forests have been integrated into the MAB design. These act as breakout relaxation spaces within the building that are open to the elements, allowing tenants or the public to relax and interact with nature.

Town Square:

Communal landscaped space that connects all the MAB nodes together. Features cafes, eateries, shared lockers and bike racks, which create a community vibe.

Polycarbonate Roof:

The MAB has a combination of polycarbonate, which is transparent, allowing sun and light in, and solid roof with insulation and acoustic absorption; the ratio of the glass to solid changes according to usage and need. While office spaces have a majority of solid roofing to keep the heat out, on leaving the office space you can still enjoy the sun and sky above due to the translucent roofing materials.

Pod Structure:

Tenant spaces within the MAB have been designed in a pod like structure. Services including electricity, heating and cooling are provided within the roof. The pods themselves create an agile, flexible space that allows tenants to easily assemble and dismantle their site/pod. Building agility has been specifically designed with Tonsley’s future in mind.

Read the full articleRead more about:

  • Tonsley Park in Numbers: Key statistics
  • Designing the Collaboration Precinct: Fostering collaboration for innovation
  • Video infomercial about the Tonsley development

View the full article hereBusiness Park Summit 2017

Milos Milutinovic

, Senior Associate, Woods Bagot is a featured speaker at the Business Park Design, Development and Transformation Summit.

His session "The Tonsley Innovation Precinct - Creating Australia's First Innovation District", will focus on the architectural approach to creating the innovation district, exploring:

  • Creating spaces that facilitate innovation and partnerships between government, institutional and private tenants.
  • Key challenges and learnings from creating the Tonsley precinct
  • Design thinking and service delivery behind creating a global award winning and sustainable facility

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