What’s ahead for Brisbane in 2018: Industry experts have their say

It's a new year and while it’s easy to reflect on what was a record 12 months in many industries for Brisbane and the state, The Brisbane Report is casting its gaze forward to what the city’s industry experts say 2018 has in store.

A new Deloitte Access Economics report says Queensland will have the strongest economic growth of all states in each of the next four years, with economic growth never dropping below 3.5 per cent each year.

And in CommSec’s most recent State of the States report, it showed Queensland was leading the nation in employment growth, had the fastest annual economic growth of all the states and had driven up exports by 35 per cent.

So among all the great news for the state and Brisbane, the year ahead will continue the positive outlook that saw record tourism dollars flow into Brisbane, as well as solid growth in gross state product and key exports from the state.

Our experts delve into predictions for robotics, commercial and residential property, the digital economy, immigration, infrastructure, technology and innovation, and urban renewal, with a plethora of new industry events, and economic and built environment milestones ahead.

Look for robotics and innovation to carve a path with the International Conference on Robotics and Automation and Myriad 2018 both in May, while on the construction front Howard Smith Wharves is due for completion in October 2018 and work continues on the city-transforming Queen's Wharf precinct and the new parallel runway at Brisbane Airport.

Here’s what the experts have to say about Brisbane in 2018.

Sue Keay, Chief Operating Officer, ARC Centre of Excellence for Robotic Vision

I think 2018 will be a big year for robotics in Brisbane. The Arc makerspace has been launched in Fortitude Valley to support hardware startups. The Design Robotics Open Innovation Network will launch in March 2018 to activate clusters of innovative manufacturing and expand the possibilities for design manufacture in Australia. In May, Brisbane will host the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), which will showcase the latest advances in robotics, feature exhibits from robotics companies and allow roboticists to compete to have robots complete tasks such as tidying a room. Later this year a new Defence-focused CRC will be based in Brisbane, which focuses on Trusted Autonomous Systems and new training opportunities in AI are likely to emerge from the popular meetup group Brisbane.AI.

Ben Lyons Cardno

Ben Lyons, Strategic Development Manager and Principal, Cardno

We’re optimistic about the year ahead for Brisbane. Successful cities around the world have high levels of connectivity and accessibility, which contribute to greater efficiency, higher productivity and enhanced liveability. These qualities will always attract investment. We’re fortunate to have a number of major infrastructure projects underway that will continue to progress through the various stages of planning and construction. The challenge for us, as a city, is to not become complacent. We need to continue to plan for future growth to make Brisbane, Australia’s New World City, even more connected and accessible.

Graham Norris, Director - Industrial Transactions, Ray White Commercial Queensland

As the Australian institutional market consolidates after a very active 2016-2017, I'd expect local groups to hold on to as much of their portfolios in order not to dilute income streams. Overseas funds will try to disturb that strategy by offering even tighter yields than previously seen. We could see sub 5 per cent in industrial for the first time!

Tony Schiffmann, Managing Partner, BDO

Brisbane is emerging as a truly global city. We have a great diversity of businesses headquartered here, and for 2018 we hope to see continued growth in technology development and innovation, and continued interest in exporting overseas. This year, businesses should look to be creative and capitalise on the interest that the Commonwealth Games will bring to Queensland.

Ben Lear, Practice Leader, Fragomen Worldwide

2018 will be a year of change and adjustment in migration programs as the Commonwealth Government seeks to overhaul Australia's work and skilled visa programs.

The first half of the year will be challenging for businesses whose workforce planning includes intra-corporate transfers and international recruits. More stringent requirements and added costs will require a stronger business case and a longer pipeline between resourcing decision and arrival from overseas.

The gradual introduction of more automated processing of applications from visa sponsors identified as "low risk" means that businesses should be putting in place effective immigration management systems to ensure access to facilitated processing of applications through the Department of Home Affairs.

Cat Matson, Chief Digital Officer, Brisbane

For small and medium businesses, I suspect 2018 is when we will reach "peak-disruption". Artificial Intelligence, blockchain and commercially-applied augmented reality will continue to dominate the business narrative, but really, they’re not going to end the world, or business, as we know it.

The key for small & medium businesses in 2018 is to build their digital confidence, not necessarily their technical capability. Discerning if and how these and other new technologies can bring value to their customers will be key, and then seeking advice from content experts on how to implement in your business. For example, could augmented reality make a dramatic difference to your marketing, to your manufacturing process or to reaching new customers? If yes, research further. If not, move on with your business ... And don’t let the hype cloud your thinking.

Ben Slack, Regional Director, Urbis

Urbis Queensland is incredibly confident regarding 2018. The Cross River Rail and the Brisbane Metro, which will both form part of the future transport infrastructure backbone of Brisbane, will not only create jobs in the short term, but will also connect Brisbane’s global precincts to drive positive change within Brisbane. This is combined with Queen's Wharf, 300 George Street (W Hotel) and the Howard Smith Wharves coming out of the ground, all anchoring fantastic tourist opportunities. Connected and aligned to the two pieces of transport infrastructure mentioned above will be Brisbane Live, which is gaining momentum and will afford our city further entertainment opportunities. We in fact consider that Brisbane is on the cusp of entering a golden era of change that will see our city transform positively towards our aspirations of a true new world city.

Mark Creevey & Tony Williams, Co-Directors - Special Projects, Ray White Commercial Queensland

With Brisbane's excellent value proposition against the southern capital cities coupled with increasing rates of interstate migration and a variety of infrastructure and landmark​ projects either underway or planned, we anticipate demand for residential product in both the owner-occupier and investor markets to strengthen in 2018. Correspondingly, we anticipate competition for residential development sites in Brisbane will be strong between local and interstate/overseas groups.

Residential land and townhouse sites targeted at the owner-occupier markets we expect will generate the strongest interest with some consolidation in the apartment market with a new wave of purchasers seeking to undertake strategic acquisitions for the next upswing in this sector.