ETC Future


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It sounded like a script from a Hollywood movie.

A big, internationally-recognised university selects a small, but creative city on the other side of the world to set up shop.

It would find the best and brightest to train, and help foster a burgeoning computer gaming and movie industry right here in Adelaide.

Sounds great, right?

Games guru Shane Yeend thought so too.

"It was a sort of a dream for us because the talent pool is just really hard," he says. "I mean, we can only mentor so many of them."

Shane runs one of a handful of world-class entertainment and gaming companies in Adelaide, as well as a specialist gaming business in Los Angeles.

"It's about people and creative talent. We now compete with the biggest companies in the world for creative talent, and it's tough."

That's just where the Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center comes in.

Not to be confused with its Heinz School (which educates public servants), the Entertainment Technology Center was announced amid great fanfare in 2005 by the Rann Government.

Enter: the flamboyant Don Marinelli. The E-T-C is his brainchild and its Adelaide operation received 2-point-5 million dollars in government funding.

"It's the only place in the world to get a Masters of Entertainment Technology and it deals with all the cutting edge technologies: video games, themed entertainment, theme parks, edu-tainment, things like that," says Dr Marinelli.

"They came, they saw it and they thought this would be a wonderful addition to the educational and cultural scene of Adelaide, so that's why we were invited here."

But this movie doesn't have a happy ending.

18 months on, enrolments in the E-T-C have dropped dramatically, a key staff member is about to move on and there are no local projects on the drawing board.

"I think it is a level of concern," says Dr Marinelli.

It certainly is. But Dr Marinelli, or "the Don" as he's known, is far from admitting it's "game over" for the E-T-C in Adelaide.

We asked how secure the future of ETC was here in Adelaide: "Well, I think the future of ETC here in Adelaide is� secure. It will more than likely� lemme start this one again."

Okay, then.

Today Tonight: "Is the future of the Adelaide ETC secure?"
Dr Marinelli: "I think that the future of the Adelaide ETC is secure. I think that it's about quality and it's about the application of what we do and not necessarily about numbers."

That's code for: "we don't have any students".

A spokesman for the Premier denies the E-T-C has closed up shop saying they've formed a partnership with Uni SA.

Not so, according to this internal memo obtained by Today Tonight. It says the only project on the drawing board for SA will be conducted from Silicon Valley, California, and those working on it will travel here, from the U-S.

"The memo I've read, which is the same memo you've read, says: 'it's over' and another $2.5m down the drain," says Shane Yeend. "That's my tax-payer's money, and imagine how many people I could have hired and trained with that amount of money."

He says the loss of the world's premier school to prepare graduates for the gaming industry is a big blow for business here.

"We supported the idea so much, the ETC, that when it was flagging last year, and their student numbers went from, I think their target was 30 down to 8, down to, now nothing, we were trying to find a way that we could contribute scholarships, contribute to help Adelaide people go to school and learn this at world class level."

All the more embarrassing, with the Premier currently touring Hollywood talking up Adelaide's achievements.

Shane says while the Federal Government and Austrade have been helpful in developing exports, it's been a different story locally.

"I guess there's been plenty of promises, but nothing's really amounted to too much. In fact if anything, they've put lots of obstacles in our way."

He's disappointed there's been more talk than action.

"I think the Premier did a great job in attracting a world-class school in entertainment technology to Adelaide. It's just a pity it's a press release and there's nothing left."