UNIVERSITY of Newcastle vice chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky has flagged the possibility of businesses - such as a retirement facility - being "co-located" with the $200 million science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine precinct to be built at the university's main Callaghan campus.
Professor Zelinsky made the suggestion about the precinct - the design of which will be unveiled in July - at a Hunter Business Chamber luncheon on Friday, when he spoke about the importance of collaboration between universities, businesses, industry and government to create a more economically diverse and resilient region.
"We believe campuses should be driving collaboration," Professor Zelinsky said.
"Looking from the outside in, universities can sometimes seem like labyrinths, difficult to get into and impossible to navigate.
"We want to turn the campus inside out and bring the rest of the world into our university and we want to design it in a way where it really does open the doors to business.
"Every part of the [new] building is designed so the best teams across all disciplines can work together on cutting edge problems.
"So our vision for the precinct includes co-location with industry and my personal ambition is to have leading technology companies on site working with students in five years. We want to bring industry onto campus.
"This means our health students can work in a hospital next to our campus, or having aged care students work in a retirement village on our campus potentially, or having the world's leading technology companies housed at [our] innovation labs."
Professor Zelinsky used the example of being in Oxford and people asking where The University of Oxford was. "But it's actually the [whole] town," he said.
"So our vision is that Callaghan becomes like a living breathing thing. HMRI ... we think part of them should be at Callaghan and part of the university could be there - it's more integration.
"We can't move John Hunter Hospital and we can't move the university, but what we can do is put little hubs on each site so people exchange and move between them."
Professor Zelinsky said UON wanted to be the country's leading university in work integrated learning, where students build skills, gain academic credit and contribute by working in their future industry while studying.
"We want to see every single undergraduate student... have at least one meaningful workplace experience that builds their employability and helps make the connection between theory and practice.
"I want them to come back and tell the lecturer how it's done in practice.
"No other university in Australia does this yet and we want to be the first."
He referred to book The Smartest Places on Earth, which focuses on how collaboration has fostered innovation,and said Newcastle had all the ingredients to be successful.
He said UON hoped graduates of its aerospace engineering degree introduced this year would secure many of the jobs associated with the Joint Strike Fighter program at Williamtown.
"If we don't stand up [together] and start thinking about how much we want to attract here, the jobs will go elsewhere."