Australian Innovation Research Centre

Coal Valley Innovation Study

Commencement Date 01 September 2008
Project Status Past

The AIRC conducted an in-depth and evidence-based study of the Coal Valley Region to identify factors and activities that formed a basis for the Valley's sustainable regional innovation and economic development.


The Coal Valley is located in the northeast of Hobart.  The major settlements in the region are the town of Richmond and the villages of Campania and Colebrook.  In this study, areas that have long historical associations with the communities of the region, such as Orielton, Tea Tree, Barilla Bay and at least parts of Cambridge were also included.  The upper limit of the region was set at the Craigbourne Dam, which largely shaped the level of economic activities and potential of the Coal Valley District.

The Coal Valley has a well-established reputation for agricultural excellence.  The early success of agriculture in the Coal Valley has been based on highly labour-intensive methods, which depended largely on assigned labour and their viability.  In 1968, the Coal Valley Products Association was established as a direct response to the devastation caused by the 1967 bushfires and to deliver recovery initiatives.
The most important development in the Coal Valley Region seems to be the Craigbourne Dam.  This single development has led to a significant increase in the productive potential and innovativeness of the district.

The AIRC's report to the Government of Tasmania found that a number of factors contributed to the innovative success of the region:

  • The value created by the addition of irrigation to the Cola Valley region came mainly from new businesses to the area
  • Traditional forms of economic (cost-benefit) analysis of the Craigbourne Dam project underestimated the project's overall value to the region
  • A small number of entrepreneurs drove value creation within the region, and influenced many others
  • Irrigation was a necessary precondition for innovation (transition to new land uses), but occurred only in the presence of other economic capabilities and activities
  • Risk proved to be a defining challenge to innovation, and perceptions of excessive risk were an obstacle
  • Organised community leadership was essential for supporting entrepreneurs
  • External research and demonstration was instrumental in overcoming perceived risk
  • The availability of high-quality logistics was critical for founding and growing new businesses

Research Output