Your own industrial innovation campus

Prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren, Zjak Consult

For today’s businesses, it is crucial to work together on innovation with other firms and organisations. Technology has become so specialised that no one can afford to do everything on their own. Co-creation and co-development with partner firms, institutions and universities are essential for being successful. Most new, successful products are the result of collaborative work between engineers, marketing experts, designers and often colleagues and academics as well. The benefits are lower costs, faster time to market and higher return on investment.

In this era of technology and innovation, science and technology parks are growing in number at an increasing pace since the first one was created in the 1950s. Less well known is the development which involves medium-sized and large innovative firms establishing their own ‘science park’. We call this an industrial innovation campus.

The industrial innovation campus differs from a general science park in various ways:

  • In essence it is all about the links between the host firm and the partner firms established on the company site, whereas the focus of firms located in a science park is clearly on the nearby university.
  • The inter-company links on a science park are generally less intense than those on an industrial campus.
  • Because an industrial campus is strategically important for the host firm, it will have an admission policy which will be much stricter than in most of the science parks.

Today, your firm may have the space and buildings available to set up such an industrial innovation campus and perhaps you have taken the strategic decision to consolidate your R&D on a single site. This might be the right time to invite other firms to your site to work together and enhance the innovation potential. Although it is possible to communicate worldwide with suppliers and other firms, proximity clearly makes communication easier. Especially when it is about strategies and innovation. That is why a campus can help to improve your business.

Is setting up a campus attractive?

The answer to the above question is “yes” if the leading firm

  • strongly advocates the idea of innovation and wants to innovate in close cooperation with its suppliers (open innovation or co-innovation);
  • is established in a region which has the characteristics that stimulate innovation and
  • has the space needed by other firms and can create the qualities required to make such an estate a success?

The last two questions are very similar to the questions that should be posed towards developing a science park. See my two blogs that have been published about these aspects:

For regional innovation climate see blog:  click here

For qualities of the site see blog: click here


So, let us concentrate here on the first question about the firm’s philosophy. Let us start with the observation that nowadays it has become harder for firms to keep up with the changing technology, economy and markets merely by innovating. Technology in particular has become so specialised that nobody can afford to do everything on its own at the highest level. Cooperation with other firms, institutions and universities is essential. To succeed, companies need to overcome their deep-seated fear of sharing and in many cases firms have been able to do so: it has become popular to view collaboration with strategic partners as essential resources in the development of technology innovations.

Continuous innovations across organisational boundaries might lead a firm to the idea of establishing an industrial innovation campus on its site (or adjacent to it). A precondition is that this firm understands the dynamics of interorganisational networks and develops – or has developed – skills in managing networks and facilitating network processes. Today, firms often have the space available for such an industrial innovation campus. They may have outsourced activities to other countries, need less space due to new technology or bought too much ground in the past, etc. This offers the opportunities for developing your own industrial innovation campus.

Some Dutch examples

Examples in the Netherlands include Chemelot (DSM, Sittard-Geleen), BioTech Campus (DSM, Delft), Novio Tech Campus (NXP, Nijmegen) and High Tech Campus (originally Philips, Eindhoven).


Novio Tech Campus, Nijmegen (The Netherlands)

Our market researchers and urban planners have formulated a restructuring plan for the business area of NXP semiconductors. NXP is concentrating its activities on its site and needs less space. This offers the opportunity to create the Novio Tech Campus where start-ups and other activities can find attractive accommodation. Focus is on health care and semiconductors, but other activities are also welcomed to stimulate crossovers.

DSM Industrial & Biotech Campus, Delft (The Netherlands)

Delft wants to present itself as a City of Technology. In order to take advantage of the huge potential in white biotechnology, DSM has the will and the resources at its disposal to provide the city with an important (economic) impulse. The consultants of Royal HaskoningDHV have therefore set out a strategic vision for the (re)development of the DSM site into a high quality Industrial & Biotech Campus. The aim is to create an attractive working climate and promote collaboration with knowledge organisations like Delft University of Technology and other firms working with DSM or in the same fields.

High Tech Automotive Campus, Helmond (The Netherlands)

Local businesses in the automotive industry, education and knowledge institutes and the municipality of Helmond took the initiative to develop an automotive science park, using the available space on the industrial estate where some firms in this industry were already established. The idea is to create an innovative and sustainable environment in which businesses can cooperate within the automotive sector. Starting from market research and a site analysis, a spatial functional concept has been designed that meets the requirements of the selected target groups. This concept has been translated into an ambitious urban design that blends into the landscape and creates an inspiring working environment.

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