Considerations for science parks to remain competitive

Prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren, Zjak Consult / Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)

Paul Jansen MSc, Arup / Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)

 Paper for 36th IASP World Conference, Nantes 24 – 27 September 2019


During the fourth industrial revolution there could be competition between science parks and innovation districts. The latter seems to be a better answer to changing demand by innovative companies and knowledge workers. However, the science park concept is not static. We think the science park has its own position amidst industrial innovation campuses and innovation districts. But (old, depreciated) science parks need to adjust to the new era. Management of science parks might find inspiration in the characteristics of innovation districts. We propose three considerations that might help science parks to remain competitive:

  • Consider adding housing (including an impact on service level and reachability);
  • Consider a shift towards multiple target groups;
  • Consider to lay more emphasis on community management.

Especially with regard to the first two considerations one has to keep in mind that a science park is not a closed entity. Setting out new strategies also requires a re-orientation of the position and role of science parks in their urban and regional context.


Disruptive technologies and new developments such as robotics, virtual reality, the ‘Internet of Things’ and artificial intelligence are changing the way people live and work. These changes are having such an impact that there is talk of nations entering the fourth industrial revolution era (Schwab, 2017). This era stresses the importance of geographical areas of innovation where companies and institutions find the right conditions to be creative and to attract the (often scarce) workforce they are looking for. Although information is shared worldwide, local networks are still vital and even seem to be gaining in importance. That is why specific geographic areas remain important for innovative companies. Spatial clustering makes it easier to get access to information, to collaborate, to use specific services and to create an environment that stimulates creativity and well-being.

In general three types of innovation areas can be distinguished.

  • The science park that creates a business environment for innovation-oriented companies, knowledge institutions and support services. Many science parks have been formed around a university or another knowledge institution (sometimes located at a greater distance).
  • The industrial innovation campus that is comparable to a science park, but where the companies and institutions do not have a knowledge institution or university as a pivot, but a leading innovative company (think, for example, of the DSM campuses in The Netherlands).
  • The innovation district that has a strong mix of functions (knowledge institutions, innovative companies, housing and facilities) and that can usually be found in or around city centres. In many cases, the realisation of such a district coincides with a restructuring of the urban environment. The concept is emerging in Europe (already more established in the United States) and currently has 22@barcelona and Knowledge Quarter in London as examples.

The innovation district is a relatively new concept. It might be a competitor, especially for science parks, as the innovation district often seems to be a better answer to changing demand by management of innovative companies and knowledge workers, especially the young ones, in this fourth industrial evolution. This is not to say that the science park will be less successful and companies and institutions might choose other options. If only because some companies have specific space requirements or possible environmental impacts that make them unsuitable for city centre locations. Innovation districts and science parks could be considered as different segments in the market of innovation areas. Nevertheless, science parks have to adapt to new requirements by their clients. Even if no innovation district is available in the region, managers of a science park have to interrogate the qualities of their park and must pose themselves the question if and how their park has to change to remain attractive. A number of science parks are already adjusting their existing plans in such a way that a more multifunctional, innovation-oriented living and working area is created. Examples are the plans for the Sydney Science Park (Australia) and Lindholmen Science Park in Gothenburg (Sweden). In the Netherlands, Kennispark Twente could be moving in the same direction, given the strategy that has recently been presented.

In this paper we will focus on discussion of the opportunities science parks have to remain competitive in the new era. We first analyse the innovation district as an assumed competitor of science parks. The attention paid to this new development suggests that it fits much better with today’s demand by the innovative industry. Based on that analysis we will suggest three considerations management of science parks can make to keep up with the changing requirements by (resident) companies and institutions.

Innovation districts as competitor

Innovation districts have been gaining a lot of attention in recent years. With a small adjustment, we can use the definition of Sanz (2016) for an innovation area for that of an innovation district: “A designated zone with its own specific management team, whose main objectives include economic development through the promotion and attraction of selective innovative business for which specific services are provided, and that may also include residential and cultural areas or facilities, or are embedded in urban spaces with such facilities, and with which the economic aspects of the area of ​​innovation interact. ” Just as with the other two concepts (science parks and industrial campuses), management is of importance in an innovation district, but functional mixing is a relatively new element here. The link with a university (or other knowledge institution) may be less strong, but can be partly offset by an annex (Van Dinteren & Jansen, 2018).

Until recently innovation districts seemed to be a phenomenon that was strongly represented in the United States of America. Although no research has been carried out into this, it could be assumed that the donut structure that had arisen in many cities in the USA and the revaluation of the old central districts contributed to the emergence of these districts. Cheap buildings and land were available for new developments thanks to the decades long neglect of these old areas. The spatial-economic changes in Europe and perhaps elsewhere in the world have to a lesser extent turned away from those central parts of cities. That does not alter the fact that outside the USA something of a catch-up effort seems to be coming: in many cities – and mainly in its central parts – plans for innovation districts are developed or areas are under construction. Recent research in western Europe alone identified at least 70 innovation districts, with some being quite mature and others only just emerging, according to Julie Wagner c.s. (2019).

Characteristics of innovation districts

One of the characteristics of innovation districts often is its centrality to active urban environments. As the economy becomes more specialised and knowledge intensive, companies increasingly appreciate the way city centres achieve a high degree of face-to-face contact and informal meetings. The prediction that thanks to new communication technologies “distance is dead”, has not come true.

The innovation district is also characterised by an ‘open’ structure. There are no sharp borders and if borders are defined it is just for reasons of coordination. The Knowledge Quarter in London, for example, describes its territory as an area within a one-mile radius of King’s Cross railway station.

Moreover, these central locations give access to a broad pool of skilled and creative employees, who themselves appreciate the liveliness of inner cities, especially when it comes to shopping and leisure offers, cultural facilities and places to meet with others. Centrally located innovation districts can be reached easily by different modes of transport. But it is not necessary to travel or commute, as the district and its immediate surroundings offer a great variety of housing opportunities. This mix of functions makes the district dynamic and attractive for especially young knowledge workers. They seek a vibrant, small community with a mix of living, working and recreation.

From an innovation point of view networks, offer of services, availability of space, information  – among others – are important and make it necessary to have an organisation that takes care of the creation of such a specific work environment and business climate. In the case of an innovation district this will be an organisation of companies and institutions established in the area, maybe with (some) involvement of the municipality or other relevant parties (Chamber of Commerce, for example). Focus will be on network and community management. Real estate (property) management is no issue. In an innovation district management in general is much more about coordination than it is about control.

Finally, the innovation district might have a mix of target groups. There are no statistics available that can prove this, but looking at the plans for innovation districts one gets the impression that creating a strong focus has no high priority. Research revealed that innovation districts in the United Kingdom “are seeking to build strengths and develop linkages across a range of different sectors, recognising the benefits of interaction between them. They have all succeeded in amplifying cross sectoral activity’’ (Arup / UK Innovation Districts Group, 2018). In this study is demonstrated that management organisations coordinate linkages between different industrial, educational and research activities. “In London’s Knowledge Quarter, examples of cross-thematic collaborations include:

  • A strategic partnership between the Public Collaboration Lab at Central Saint Martins and Camden Council. The lab explores the potential for, and value of, strategic collaboration between design education and local government and how design research and teaching can contribute to service, policy and social innovation in the local government context.
  • Through the Digital Music Lab project, City, University of London’s Machine Learning Group is working with UCL and the British Library, alongside Queen Mary University, to develop research methods and software infrastructure to explore and analyse large-scale music collections.
  • London Metropolitan Archives worked with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on an activity with school children about the spread of infectious diseases” (Arup / UK Innovation Districts Group, 2018).

There is no admission policy in an innovation district. People and companies can establish themselves rather freely (within the limits of law). This is of course due to the mix of ownership structures in such a district. On the other hand, science parks often focus on a specific group (or groups) of companies and institutions. The IASP 2018 survey shows that 61% of the science parks and other areas of innovation describe themselves as specialist or semi-specialist.[1]

Using these characteristics as a starting point we now can present a table that shows differences between innovation districts and science parks (Table 1), although we immediately have to add that this does no right to the many differences one will find in practice!

Table 1: differences between science parks and innovation districts (simplified)

Characteristic Innovation district Science park
Geography Central Away from central areas of economic activity, often at the edge of a city
Reachability Multi-modal Car-oriented
Functions Mix, including living Mono-functional
Services Great variety Limited
Cultural events and facilities (employee related) Wide range No events or incidental
Business related events On a regularly basis On a regularly basis
Atmosphere Dynamic Neutral
Urban design No master plan

(Existing) urban environment with the addition of new buildings

Master plan

New buildings and landscaping

Area No specific borders Clearly bounded area
Ownership Complex: many owners One owner or a limited number
Management focus Focus on economic networks and the community


Focus on economic networks and real estate


Target groups Mix Often a limited number
Characteristics of companies Small or medium scale, easy to mix with other functions Small, medium and large scale companies. Limited environmental risks accepted.

In many plans for innovation districts it is also assumed that such a development will have a positive impact on its neighbourhood and the surrounding neighbourhoods (in terms of inclusive growth). It is often stated that these neighbouring quarters are characterised by low incomes, lower education, et cetera. It is imaginable that the development of an innovation district can create new jobs, but it is questionable that this will be limited to the surrounding neighbourhoods. It is also questionable that the creation of an innovation district will have an impact on the education level of the people in its direct environment by offering courses and having libraries open to these people[2]. Negative effects are also conceivable as the establishment of an innovation district can lead to a pressure on the housing market, hence higher prices and the displacement of low-price rented housing. This has happened in and around Kendall Square in Cambridge (USA).

Changes in locational requirements by personnel

As the demographics of the workforce continuously change, work conditions, workplace and workplace environment have to change as well. Companies and senior management teams that are most aligned with the new generations of workers in terms of purpose, culture and professional development are likely to attract and retain the best millennial talent (Deloitte, 2018). At the same time companies have to take care of employee experience, including fitness and wellness programs, balancing financial and non-financial benefits and so on (

Many studies show shifting interests by young employees. According to a study in the USA, generation Y wants a workplace that offers – among others – flexibility and fun. They ask for modern and edgy workplaces that also stimulate communication and collaboration (Steelcase, 2011). Changes not only affect the inside of buildings, but also the outside, including geographical location. Some twenty interviews with entrepreneurs established in Science Park Amsterdam showed that they estimate that the quality of the working environment on the functioning of their employees is determined for 70% by the workplace and layout of the building. In addition, 12% will be determined by the physical environment and 18% by the facilities in the immediate vicinity. So, the immediate environment has a share of 30% and this outcome suggests that the immediate surroundings of a building do matter. In that same project in The Netherlands the following statement was presented to entrepreneurs on eight science parks: “Given the increasing shortage on the labour market for highly educated people, it is essential that a science park offers the optimal working environment for those employees. This involves extensive facilities (for example shops, hairdresser, catering, fitness, etc.) and an attractively designed science park with recreational facilities (walking and running routes, meeting places, etc.).” 45% of the respondents agreed and 24% strongly agreed (Van Dinteren, 2012).

Young employees seem particularly interested in a dynamic environment . “The work environment, so far largely contained in the corporate building, has begun to spread. Today, the city is the office. Work enters public space, third places and homes, challenging the boundaries between private and public lives, work and free time, and leading to new questions about different cultures, practices, aspirations, and more” (Gall and De Benoist cited in in Leyk c.s., 2010). But also a natural environment can play a role. Outdoor space, in particular nature, can have a positive effect on the well-being and work satisfaction of the employees and reduce sick leave (Kaplan, 2007; Terrapin, 2012; see also Bouwmeester, 2010). Moreover, the quality of the work environment can stimulate productivity. 96% of the employees working in Chiswick Park (London, UK) state that the “enjoy-work environment enhances my productivity” (

Although a stimulating work environment with good facilities is highly appreciated, it has to be recognised that these aspects are seldom decisive when it is about choosing a job, but it will help people to be more creative, more productive, enjoy work and make them stay longer in the company. Based on case studies and literature Pancholi c.s. (2015) state that the new generation of innovation areas are increasingly becoming more people oriented, diverse, open and collaborative. “Major facilitators for place making […] are to have a supportive and accessible management environment; vital and collaborative economic environment; vibrant, open and creative physical environment and a well-networked and eventful people environment.”

Changes in locational requirements by companies

Companies not only take the requirements of their personnel into consideration. The ones that have a strong focus on innovation in particular are continuously looking for the right networks to operate in and to be established in. Over the last century, many researchers have suggested, or came to the conclusion, that firms have a tendency to geographically cluster because information and ideas move badly over space. Although it was believed for some decades, technology has not caused the death of distance. Entrepreneurs are working both globally and locally. Hence, proximity still plays a role, especially in the cases of knowledge and innovation.

Apart from specific qualities of the region, entrepreneurs working in Dutch science and having an above average interest in knowledge/innovation stress locational factors such as the closeness of a university and the presence of networks between companies and institutions (Van Dinteren, 2012). Based on a limited number of interviews with entrepreneurs settled in Canadian science parks Castonguay c.s. (2018) determined the following factors (without ranking): linkages / sharing knowledge between companies (agglomeration effect), the availability of premises and equipment, the availability of skilled human resources, financial incentives, the reputation of the park, the geographical proximity with specific actors and the geographical positioning of the park. Answers by managers of science parks around the globe also point at the importance of proximity to other companies and institutions. 59% have the opinion that the quality of resident companies is a very important factor for the competitiveness of science parks and areas of innovation (IASP, 2018).

The above show present requirements. We haven’t been able to detect research, based on surveys focussed on entrepreneurs, that gives a clear picture of future requirements and that can help to design strategies for the (re)development of science parks. Nevertheless, it is clear from the changing requirements by personnel that this will influence the locational choices of innovative companies, as attracting and retaining talent is crucial. Although ‘talent’ is a regional characteristic, the possibilities of attracting talent will also depend upon the location chosen in that region. Among others, multifunctionality, dynamism and an environment that stimulates encounters and creativity seem to be important.

Moreover, from a sustainability point of view companies might be interested in locations that have multi modal accessibility. It is our impression that during the last two decades locations that have no multi-modal access were less appreciated by management. This might have contributed to a revaluation of the qualities of central areas by a part of the business and can be of relevance with regard to future location choices by entrepreneurs.

Another trend that is worth exploring is a growing interest by companies in crossovers. In the recent past companies seem to cluster with other companies in the same or adjacent sectors. Pancholi c.s. (2015) suggest that newly emerging knowledge and innovative areas seek diversity in terms of industries, firms and also in terms of knowledge workers for their long-term viability and knowledge exchange. A study by Gwebu c.s. (2019) concludes that firms residing in science parks with more co-located complementary firms demonstrate better sales and sales growth performance. These research outcomes are consistent with a trend in which crossovers between industries are emphasized, assuming that this leads to innovations and better business results. A paper by Sharp c.s. (2011) argues why the convergence of life sciences, physical sciences and engineering is of great importance, especially with regard to the future of health care. They see convergence as a blueprint for innovation and state that such a convergence will provide a new knowledge base.


Looking at today’s science parks in general, there can be a conflict between the expectations of managers and employees on one side and the qualities of a science park on the other. Changes in demand can put the market position of (older, depreciated) science parks under pressure, whereas innovation districts seem to be successful, although hard evidence seems to lack so far. Looking at Table 1, we might find inspiration here to modify the science park concept by transferring some of the assumed success factors of innovation districts to that concept. We like to suggest three considerations that might help management of science parks to adjust to the present and near future demand by the people working in these innovative companies and the companies themselves:

  • consider adding housing (including an impact on service level and reachability);
  • consider a shift towards multiple target groups;
  • consider laying more emphasis on community management.

Especially with regard to the first two one has to keep in mind that a science park is not a closed entity in a region. It is part of that region: an ecosystem within an ecosystem. Setting out new strategic lines for a science parks also asks for a re-orientation of the position and role of the science park in the region.

Consideration 1: adding housing

Innovation districts offer a variety of housing options. Can that be realized in a science park? An interesting aspect is that building houses and (student) apartments will broaden the economic base for services on the estate. That includes the reachability by public transport. It is also often suggested that adding housing should bring more liveliness and might help to create a community of knowledge workers, entrepreneurs and students. But the liveliness (especially in evening hours) should not be exaggerated: it will be the same as in every other neighbourhood….

Talking about the opportunities for housing on a science park starts with the question about the amount of space available. Since a science park can only function properly if there is ‘mass’, in this case plenty of room for the establishment of companies and institutions that can interact with each other, it is relatively easier to think about housing when a science park is large (in terms of hectares) and – of course – has sufficient space available.[3] Allowing housing on land that can also be used for innovative companies and knowledge institutions requires a sound underpinning of the added value. If that is only on the financial level, that added value is up for discussion. Think off adding housing (sometimes not even aimed at knowledge workers) to get a healthy financial exploitation. This is the case, for example, in the Alderley Life Sciences Park (near Manchester, UK) where “the funds are released from that [residential] development to be used to deliver the desired Life Science Park.” A link between who lives there and the science park is not laid in the plans for that science park. Something similar also applies to residential construction in Hong Kong Science Park and Dubai Science Park. Housing plans of the BioScience Park in Leiden (The Netherlands) have a clearly different approach. 1,000 homes will be realised that are intended for students, graduates and employees of knowledge institutions and companies that are located in the park. With this, one hopes to create a residential climate that meets the requirements that are set today. The High Tech Campus in Eindhoven wants to house expat families. In 2013, the High Tech Campus conducted research among companies to gauge the need to live in the technology park. At that time, there was hardly any demand. But in the meantime opinions have changed, according to a recent survey among the largest companies.  Expats who now come to Eindhoven sometimes have trouble finding suitable housing. Then they end up somewhere in a neighbourhood too far away from the campus, at a much too high rent. By offering them temporary housing (2 – 6 months), expats will have more time to orientate themselves and find the right accommodation. Other examples of including housing in the concept can be found in Manchester (UK) and Berlin (Germany). In Adlershof Science Park in Berlin, 1,600 rented houses and apartments are now being built, as well as 400 apartments for students. A hundred homes and apartments are being built in Didsbury Science Park in Manchester.

In these latter examples the development is connected with the science park development, but it is not clear whether this is accompanied by a strict admission policy, so that only the intended target group will actually settle in the science park. So, if one chooses to add housing specifically for knowledge workers or students on the estate, management has to keep control over the type of households that are admitted. This can be done by renting the houses and apartments instead of selling them. This broadens the activities of management, which is not always desired. Higher price levels can also have a selective effect, but it is still uncertain whether this leads to the desired group of residents.

Although creating living quarters on a science park might seem an interesting opportunity, one has to keep in mind that not everyone will be interested. A science park might serve a certain market segment, but it is possible that specific target groups are much more interested in another offer elsewhere in the region. The care for a sufficient and sufficiently varied housing supply for knowledge workers is primarily a focal point at the regional level. From numerous discussions with knowledge workers and entrepreneurs it is clear to us how important the quality of residential and living environment is. However, there is not one ideal living environment for the knowledge worker. The residential environment sought by knowledge workers partly depends on the stage of life in which the household is. A region must therefore have a housing policy that takes account of the requirements of knowledge workers. Within such a varied regional offer, the science park can take a specific, distinctive position.

Consideration 2: shifting towards multiple target groups

Given the mix of activities in innovation districts, one could conclude that possibilities for cross-fertilisation seem to be valued by knowledge workers, institutions and companies (assuming that short distances do matter). If this mix of industries in innovation districts is a success factor, it might be interesting for strongly specialised science parks to investigate the added value of broadening their scope with regard to the companies and institutions they admit. Of all parks in the IASP survey of science parks and areas of innovation 25% is specialised and 37% says to be semi-specialised (IASP, 2018). So, 38% of science parks have a broad scope. This doesn’t necessarily point at a  base for successful crossovers, for it is not clear what the admission policy is. In a study focussed on eight science parks in The Netherlands one of the outcomes was that on an average only 33% of the companies established on these parks belonged to the target group (Van Dinteren, 2012). However, managers of science parks and areas of innovation around the globe give the impression of following a very serious admission strategy. Being focussed on innovation is the most popular admission requisite (92% of all). Technology is the next most common answer (86%; IASP, 2018).

Given the growing interest in crossovers / convergence the search for companies that have the same knowledge base, might be more rewarding than the choice for specific sectors. We have described the trend here above. It is interesting to see that a comparable idea can be found in regional economic geography: the concept of ‘related variety’. This suggests that regions may benefit from producing a variety of products and services, as more variety implies more potential for inter-industry knowledge spill-overs (Frenken et al., 2007; Content & Frenken, 2016). Knowledge originating from one sector is most relevant to, and can most effectively be absorbed by, another sector that is related in the sense that companies draw on similar knowledge (about technology, markets, etc.).

So, if science park management wants to stimulate diversity and inter-industry relationships one has to keep in mind that this is probably most successful if companies and institutions involved, although having different activities, do have a similar knowledge base. That could be the leading principle for an admission policy. However, also in this case we have to keep in mind the regional setting. Linkages are never limited to the science park itself.

We present the hypothesis that the larger a science park the better it is to have a broad range of activities, using the same knowledge base, as the size of the park offers many opportunities for interactions and possibilities for cooperation. The smaller a science park, the better – probably – the creation of a specialised cluster that is very well connected with companies and institutions in the innovative region. This is not to say that large science parks shouldn’t be connected with the region, but maybe to a somewhat lesser extent.

When thinking of knowledge bases it is interesting to mention the hypothesis by Van Winden & Carvalho (2016) that activities that more intensively rely on symbolic knowledge (e.g., media, design) tend to have a stronger preference for urban settings, while this is less the case for activities based on analytical and synthetic knowledge (e.g., biotechnology and advanced engineering). This hypothesis can be seen as an invitation to think about a division of tasks between centrally located innovation areas (often innovation districts) and non-central suburban innovation areas (as is the case with many science parks).

Consideration 3: laying more emphasis on community management

Good integrated management is a characteristic of a science park and a very large part of management activity is focussed on networks and resident companies. Think of business development, incubation and acceleration, setting up international relations, investor relations and knowledge transfer. When looking at management activities, we would like to make a distinction in network, property and community management. Our argument is that more attention should be given by science park management to community management to create a high quality working environment. The atmosphere, the events, the availability of ‘third spaces’, the retail services, and so on, make an innovation district distinct and attractive and probably a competitor of science parks.

Apart from the possible competition with innovation districts, we think that community management is relevant because of the type of working environment knowledge workers are seeking today and the impact it can have on the functioning of companies. But first: what are we talking about? The focus here is the community, defined as the total group of people working in the estate. The question is how to create a working environment that helps the community to be creative and productive and that creates a healthy and creativity stimulating work environment. Here we can make a distinction in tangible and non-tangible services. Among the tangible services are services that can be found in buildings or have a specific physical infrastructure. Think of sports facilities, pubs, nursery, restaurants, dry cleaning, shops, and so on. Management can at least facilitate these services, but in many cases they even have full control. When it is about leisure services about half of these are owned by the science park. In the case of social services about one third is owned by the science park. Half of both these services is run by a third party (IASP, 2018). However, the successful offer of these services is dependent upon the size of the consumer base. Hence, management has limited power with regard to this kind of offer.

The creation of a nice, creative atmosphere (design, landscaping), the organisation of social networks (including meeting, parties and the like) and the offer of events and sport games are clear examples of non-tangible services. In a somewhat broader context the availability of bikes and courses and fitness and wellness programs could be considered as non-tangible. And although the consumer base plays a role here too, there might be more opportunities here, given the changes in the demographics of the workforce, and hence the requirements by knowledge workers. We do know that if high quality community management is among the assets, as is the case in Chiswick Park (London), it is highly appreciated. 91% of the workers on Chiswick Park say that events add value to their work life; 63% states that summer sports add value; 95% says that the physical environment and 67% says that health & wellness activities add value to their work life (

Tangible and non-tangible services can have a positive impact on the people working in a science park, but can also stimulate informal meetings, exchange of information and the creation of networks, all of which are important inputs for the functioning of a science park. In the case of High Tech Campus (Eindhoven, The Netherlands) landscaping is supposed to stimulate this: lots of green, hiking trails and many benches near the central lake and along the paths. Concentrated parking facilities and services (The Strip) makes it necessary to make short walks and stimulates meeting other people. The same design concept can be found in other science parks, for example GreenPark (Reading, England). But there is more at the High Tech Campus: companies are not allowed to have their own company canteen. In-company meeting rooms are allowed till a maximum of 25 people. For food and larger meeting rooms people should move to The Strip where all services are concentrated.

Open for discussion

During the past sixty years science parks have been very successful and were able to adapt to new demands and requirements over time. Science parks have changed from a real estate concept towards an important innovation and network concept that contributes to the success of companies and regions. Science parks now have management organisations that are aimed at removing concerns about daily, irrelevant matters among their resident companies and institutions and connecting these with other companies and institutions in and outside the park.

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution science parks probably no longer will be the most prominent concept. Demand by companies and knowledge workers is changing and new concepts, like innovation districts, are coming up. This is not to say that science parks are at the end of the life cycle. Especially the older ones need new investments and programs to keep up with the changes. Taking the assumed success factors of innovation districts as a starting point, we have presented in this paper three considerations that might help (older) science parks to become more competitive. These are early ideas to open up the discussion about new requirements for science parks in the coming decades.

Looking for research outcomes during the writing of this paper it became clear that much is argued by authors and scholars, but less is researched well. There is a serious risk of taking arguments from conventional wisdom and not robust analysis. A research agenda for the coming years could be based on:

  • the future locational demands by the managers of knowledge intensive (innovation oriented) companies and institutions;
  • the importance of the elements of a creativity stimulating work environment for knowledge workers;
  • the possibility of a division of tasks between different types of innovation areas and the way such a variety can stimulate regional development.


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[1] For science parks (in a strict sense), there may be slightly different figures here. Science parks and other areas of innovation are all involved in the IASP survey. The last category makes up 14% of total respondents.

[2] This is an argument on the ‘neighbourhood-level’. On a regional level, looking at the economy on a larger, economic scale, inclusive growth can help people to get (better) jobs and can drive innovation and greater productivity.

[3] Here we neglect several Asian science parks that have the size of a city and where housing is a natural part of that city.

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