Paper for the 36th IASP World Conference: The 4th Industrial Revolution: areas of innovation and science parks as key boosters for a successful transition
Nantes 24 – 27 September 2019
- Tom Bridges BSc, MSc, MRTPI, Leeds Office Leader, Director Cities Advisory, Arup
- Paul Jansen MSc, Cities Market Leader Europe, Arup / Founder Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)
- Prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren, director Zjak Consult / Founder Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)
Innovation districts are urban areas with networks of knowledge-producing organisations such as universities, research bodies, teaching hospitals, cultural institutions, and knowledge-intensive businesses. Innovation districts are becoming the locations of choice for spin-out, start-up, and scale-up science and technology driven firms, as well as for larger businesses undertaking research and development.
There has been previous work on innovation districts in the US and London, but the UK story is less well-known. This paper looks at the progress and lessons from the six innovation districts that form the UK Innovation Districts Group. Whilst these projects are at different stages of development, their success to date and future potential is clear. Through major investments in new campuses and cultural buildings, public spaces, physical and digital infrastructure, and proactive curation of social, research and business networks, innovation districts are emerging as some of our most significant and productive economic locations.
In the 1980s and 1990s ideas about the West European economy changed from service economy or post-industrial society into knowledge-based economies. Innovation was considered crucial to be able to compete worldwide and, by doing so, to prosper economically. From that moment on the generation of knowledge, the establishment and growth of networks of business and knowledge institutions and the availability of high-quality education (and in the end a high-quality workforce) were considered to be essential to hold or strengthen economic positions. Information and communication technology play an important role in the networks needed: the exchange of data, information and knowledge. But this technology seemed to make distances disappear. That is why three decades ago the concept of ‘death of distance’ was introduced. It questioned the necessary proximity of persons in the case of knowledge exchange. The concept did not hold. Areas of innovation, such as science and technology parks, still had a reason for existence. However, it was realised that, as the economy became more knowledge based, it was both spatial proximity and high densities of face-to-face contact as well as being well incorporated in global networks that makes the exchange of information and ideas, and hence innovation, successful. Knowledge driven firms value being in locations where they have wide access to a skilled workforce, and which can provide the spaces and networks for people, firms, researchers, clinicians, entrepreneurs, creatives and investors to collaborate, compare and compete.
Thanks to agglomeration effects it is the cities and urban agglomerations that have the best opportunities for companies and institutions to innovate. Within these urban agglomerations the areas of innovation, where innovative firms, universities and other institutions cluster, still play a role. In recent years the typology is even broadened. Initially areas of innovation consisted of science and technology parks and industrial innovation campuses, but in the 1990s a cautious, new development was detectable. There was a steady growth of start-ups and for most of them science parks were too expensive or (still) had too much a focus on real estate instead of managing and stimulating the local networks. Former manufacturing districts and city centre fringe seemed to be more attractive for this group of entrepreneurs thanks to the low rents. The real estate market saw new opportunities and started to create ‘creative factories’ in old buildings. Restaurants, copy shops and other service activities detected the new opportunities and new, unplanned developments occurred. Examples in London are Old Street Roundabout (also known as Silicon Roundabout) and Shoreditch. These kinds of developments made local governments curious and made them think of helping to create such districts – now known as innovation districts – to stimulate the economy and, at the same time, rehabilitate old (industrial) areas in their cities.
Poblenau Quarter in Barcelona used to be a very important, large industrial district and is generally considered to be the first government led development of an innovation district in Europe. Almost at the same time comparable developments started in the United States. Members of the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) noticed the trend and it eventually led to changing the name into the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (still abbreviated as IASP). But for somewhat unclear reasons a publication by the Brookings Institution ensured that the concept of innovation districts came to the centre of attention in 2014.
Many innovation districts in the United States have since then been standing in the spotlights, but the UK story (with London as an exception) is less well-known, despite the success achieved by the first wave of innovation districts and the huge potential of others. As a result, there is a risk that the UK will not grasp this opportunity fully. We need to ensure that innovation districts secure the investment and support necessary to maximise their success. Arup have worked with the UK Innovation Districts Group to assess the progress made by innovation districts, factors for success, issues to be overcome and the priorities and opportunities for the future. The research has included a review of literature and interviews with those involved in innovation district projects. This paper describes some intriguing developments in the UK. Based on these and other developments (which can be found in the full report; Arup, 2018) a series of recommendations to make the most of the opportunities innovation districts offer is set out.
The six innovation districts that were the focus for the research
Manchester: Oxford Road Corridor
Co-located on the Corridor are two universities, five specialist hospitals, local government, entrepreneurs, global businesses, cultural assets and an Enterprise Zone. The Innovation District is underpinned by world-class research and has particular specialisms in advanced materials and health and life sciences. An ongoing series of transformational investments has created an environment that has seen exceptional jobs and GVA growth. This pro-active approach to place-shaping has supported the development of a wider mix of uses and has seen improved public realm and shared spaces; the introduction of ‘Dutch cycle lanes’ and traffic restrictions; development of new cultural facilities; and the integration of leading-edge smart city technologies. Targeted business interventions have focused on accelerating innovation, commercialisation and improved health pathways.
Glasgow West End and Waterfront Innovation District
This area is an ideal environment for innovation. It boasts one of the world’s largest hospitals, a top 100 research-intensive university as well as cultural facilities on the banks of the River Clyde. With the main partners – Glasgow City Council and Scottish Enterprise – and the support of the Scottish and UK Governments and the wider business community, Glasgow University is establishing an innovation district that will help push Glasgow into the top rank of global innovative cities. Within the innovation district, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum and the Riverside Museum combined rank 10th in all UK visitor attractions. Glasgow also boasts one of the most successful music venues in the world – the SSE Hydro. The West End and Waterfront area also hosts the BBC, STV and other media companies, together with the University and its own significant art and museum collections. The redevelopment of the city’s historic Kelvin Hall, believed to be the first place in the world to combine major collections with health and wellbeing linked to sport under one roof.
London: Knowledge Quarter
Within a one-mile radius of King’s Cross (approximately a 10-12-minute walk) is a remarkable cluster of organisations spanning research, higher education, science, art, culture and media.
Individually, they offer resources for specialists in numerous fields, from architecture and the arts to biotechnology and veterinary science. The Knowledge Quarter brings together over 85 cultural, research, scientific, business and academic institutions both large and small under one umbrella. The Knowledge Quarter fosters knowledge exchange and collaboration between staff and users of cross-disciplinary communities to exchange ideas, expertise and evidence. Developing networks to encourage collaborative projects, training, commissioned research and access to funding, engaging a wide variety of audiences and benefiting the local research community.
Leeds: Innovation District
The Innovation District will be focused on the academic and economic strengths of the city, particularly health innovation, engineering, financial and business services, data analytics and digital technologies. Digital pathology innovation is the core of the development as Leeds is a globally leading centre in this field. The development boasts the largest online pathology repository in the world. The collaboration between Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust and the University of Leeds has created a number of novel spin out technologies and applications. For example, their strategic partnership with Leica Biosystems has led to full digitisation of their pathology lab and establishment as the Leica Global Centre of Excellence in Digital Pathology. Digital Pathology provides significant opportunities to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to increase the speed and consistency of cancer diagnosis.
Liverpool: Knowledge Quarter
In the heart of Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter are two University campuses, the School of Tropical Medicine and the Royal University Teaching Hospital, as well as Sensor City and the Materials Innovation Factory. Interesting to see that also the Liverpool Science Park is established here (two buildings). Eye catcher, among others, is the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Disease Research (CEIDR), launched in 2017 by the University of Liverpool and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and focuses on translational partnering in infectious diseases. CEIDR provides a single point of access for the industry into a broad infectious disease expertise base in Liverpool for translational activity and helps to develop relationships with industries. Apart from innovative firms and institutions and learning Knowledge Quarter offers a mix of cultural activities, theatres, cafés, restaurants and the likes.
London: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
In this area, where the Olympic Games have been held, a new Culture and Education District will be developed, focussing on education, innovation and enterprise. Already two universities are established here (including the Advanced Propulsion Centre and the High-Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute) and three more will be located here soon. Based in the former Olympic Press and Broadcast Centre, Here East provides space for start-ups and companies, offering a high-quality work-environment. Special attention is given to programmes that support these entrepreneurs and help building linkages between companies and universities. For Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the Knowledge Quarter at King’s Cross is an inspiring example. It is even suggested to create a link between the two developments, as they are only seven minutes away by high speed rail link.
Main Features and Typologies of UK Innovation Districts
The research identified the main features of UK Innovation Districts, which are set out in Figure 1. There are three main categories of actors.
First, there are knowledge producing anchor institutions such as research universities, major teaching hospitals, and other research bodies. In some UK innovation districts this includes cultural institutions. Professional bodies such as the Royal College of Physicians (in KQ London and Liverpool) are also important. Many of these organisations are investing significantly in new buildings and campus developments, and in doing so seeking to reflect an increasing importance of supporting local economic growth as part of their mission.
Second, there are knowledge intensive firms that value proximity to the knowledge intensive anchor institutions as well as each other. These firms range from start-ups and spin-outs from universities and other publicly funded organisations, fast-growing technology-driven scale-up firms, to larger corporates who locate part of their research and development and intrapreneurship functions in innovation districts. The engagement of angel investors and venture capital is also a necessary feature for success.
Third, innovation districts require the development of the right type of physical spaces: workspaces; collaboration space; infrastructure; and public spaces. A range of workspace is needed to accommodate and facilitate the growth of knowledge intensive firms of different types. This may include specialist physical requirements for lab space. Formal and informal spaces are needed to foster collaboration and interaction between organisations and their people, including co-working space, spaces for met-ups and conferences, as well as cafes, bars and restaurants. Increasingly, high quality public realm, good physical and digital connectivity and a strong amenity offer and vibrancy is needed to support informal interaction and networks, as well as creating an environment that is attractive to knowledge workers and occupiers. The management, programming and curation of activity in these spaces is important, in addition to the physical design.
A proactive and coordinated approach to building the right softer networks and relational infrastructure between the different actors is essential for a successful innovation district.
Government is also an important stakeholder. At a national level UK Government directs research spend in the context of its National Industrial Strategy, and there is scope to focus and join-up this investment more effectively within places, including Innovation Districts. National and local government also have research intensive departments or agencies that contribute to the success of innovation districts. Example include NHS Digital in Leeds, the Financial Conduct Authority or Transport for London at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London. City Government also have a significant role in the planning, promotion, leadership, governance and public sector investments necessary to make innovation districts a success.
It is possible to identify a physical typology of UK Innovation Districts, as set out in Table 2.
Increasingly knowledge intensive jobs are clustering in the CBDs of UK cities. Several cities such as Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Newcastle are expanding the physical size and economic contribution of their city centres through regenerating and connective city centre fringe innovation districts.
Others are creating or enhancing separate new urban quarters that are well connected with the CBD and other economic assets. The most high profile example is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London which has benefited in huge transport infrastructure investment to connect it to central London and Canary Wharf, as well as to surrounding centres and neighbourhoods. Other examples include the Glasgow West End and Waterfront Innovation District where recent and current investments in a major expansion of the university campus, a new hospital, and new conference and exhibition facilities are being brought together to create a coherent urban district. In Knowledge Quarter Liverpool, new campus and commercial development is creating a vibrant urban district.
There is still a role for out-of-centre science and technology parks, particularly for land-hungry uses such as manufacturing and transport technology.
Figure 1. Main Features of UK Innovation Districts
Table 2. A locational typology of UK Innovation Districts
Progress and Lessons
This paper looks at the progress and lessons from the six innovation districts that form the UK Innovation Districts Group. These projects are at different stages of development. Some projects, such as Oxford Road Corridor and Knowledge Quarter Liverpool are well-established. In these cases, there are ambitious plans to build on the achievements to date. Other projects, such as Knowledge Quarter London and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, are building on the growing networks of knowledge producers in their areas, with a focus on enhancing collaboration, securing investment and promoting their areas’ strengths. Projects such as Glasgow’s West End and Waterfront Innovation District and the Leeds Innovation District are at early stages of development with huge potential.
All innovation districts 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. This is based on an understanding of particular areas of expertise, informed by evidence (including Science and Innovation Audits). This approach combines a broad-based approach along with a focus on specific strengths, seeking to increase agglomeration and knowledge spill overs. There are also similarities and potential linkages between innovation districts, and the potential to build on collaborations between academic institutions.
There are differences between innovation districts in the way in which they seek to support entrepreneurship. Providing incubation and collaboration space and support is an important focus of most (but not all) of the projects. There are differences in the extent to and the way in which these spaces are curated by research-intensive organisations. In some cases, the approach to supporting business start-ups and scale-ups is integrated within wider approaches to business support in relevant cities and city regions. However, in other cases there is not a structured approach to attracting and growing firms within the innovation district. There is a view amongst some of the stakeholders interviewed for this project that more could be done to build the wider ecosystems of support for commercial spin-outs, start-ups and scale-ups.
Cultural institutions and attractions are becoming increasingly important component of innovation districts. Several innovation districts include, or are close to, significant cultural or visitor attractions, and they are securing new investment from cultural bodies which want to move into these areas or upgrade their existing facilities. Several also include arts and cultural academic institutions and departments. This adds to the offer of innovation districts. It provides an important area of academic research for some, one of which is relevant to the economic trend of increasing synergies between technology and the arts. Cultural institutions also create a buzz, vibrancy and activities in evenings and at weekends, helping to retain the student population post-graduation.
Innovation districts are supporting inclusive growth. Some innovation districts are involving partners and organisations in initiatives to forge links with schools and young people in the surrounding areas. This increases awareness of, and access to, the range of learning and career opportunities available to them, providing mentoring, advice and work experience. Innovation districts are creating new public spaces and amenities for residents of nearby areas, and through physical investments are linking these residential areas to education and employment opportunities.
Successful innovation districts require substantial capital investment in infrastructure and place shaping. A feature of well-established, successful innovation districts has been large-scale capital investment in public realm and infrastructure. More investments are asked for by digital infrastructure. This is an important ingredient for success. Several innovation districts are developing strategies for investment in advanced digital infrastructure, including fibre to the premises, 5G, and sensors and Internet of Things systems, and are putting in place frameworks for exploiting the research and economic potential of the data that will be generated from this. They are becoming exemplars in the context of the smart cities agenda and are creating new platforms for testing and developing advanced urban services. And talking about investments, it is obvious that a proactive and enlightened approach to development is required to build the right type of business space to attract and accommodate the right type of occupiers. More attention is paid to the way the design of buildings can help to create linkages and an image of openness. Whereas previously buildings and spaces between them faced inwards, increasingly the design of new buildings and campuses are facing outwards. The aims are to attract people into these buildings and spaces, encourage and facilitate interaction between people and animation, and improve connectivity with other assets and areas.
As said before, the concept of an innovation district initially was a spontaneous one, without any governmental meddling. Given the potential of such developments, that seem very well to fit new demands by companies and institutions, leadership and coordination are essential to successful innovation districts. A feature of all the projects considered for this research is that they are being championed and steered by the relevant university Vice Chancellors, NHS teaching hospital trust chairs and Chief Executives, and local authority/development corporation Leaders and Chief Executives. The successful projects have been prioritised for investment at a city or city region level.
Good leadership and coordination need a clear vision and plan, which can flex over time. Many of those interviewed stressed the importance of setting a clear vision and masterplan and embedding this in planning policy to provide a clear and consistent framework for development. Whilst it is important that this can flex over time, several interviewees identified the risk of allowing or bringing forward development that offers a short-term commercial gain, which may not be in the long-term best interest of the core mission of innovation districts.
Several of those involved in the interviews and discussions through this research spoke about the importance of linkages between innovation districts and wider networks as economic assets in their cities and city regions. The general view is that innovation districts can provide a useful focus for promoting innovation across the economy of a wider city or city region area.
Conclusion and recommendations
Government should prioritise support for economic growth in the places and initiatives where it has the greatest chance of a return on its investment. Innovation districts are enabling our cities to create the new products, processes, technologies, and high growth firms that will drive productivity growth. They are supporting the creation of new, high quality jobs in accessible locations, regenerating parts of our cities, and supporting inclusive growth. A clear conclusion from the research is the importance of development the right softer networks and relational infrastructure between actors in innovation districts alongside the approach to developing the right buildings and physical infrastructure.
The main conclusion from this research is that government should prioritise place-based investment in innovation districts to boost productivity, support inclusive growth, and to deliver the Industrial Strategy.
Innovation districts and knowledge quarters are emerging as transformational projects which are driving economic growth. Knowledge intensive jobs and firms are increasingly clustering in or near city centres where innovators, entrepreneurs and R&D intensive businesses can benefit from access to a wide pool of skilled people, university researchers, healthcare clinicians, and knowledge spill overs. This is a result of people and organisations collaborating, comparing and competing across different sectors. Cities, universities, teaching hospitals, cultural and professional institutions are supporting and capitalising on this trend through significant investments in new buildings, campuses, workspace, and public realm which are creating new urban districts and engines of more productive growth. These projects are at different stages of development in different locations, and there are a range of approaches and areas of focus. Generally, the focus on innovation has emerged in response to a physical regeneration opportunity and reflecting how new infrastructure and place-shaping has attracted innovative organisations into areas.
Universities, hospitals and cultural institutions are recognising their role as anchor institutions for economic growth. Cities are recognising the need to support initiatives to boost productivity and to attract and grow the firms that will create the new products and processes to create, and sustain, wealth in the future. And enlightened developers are recognising the opportunity to support new patterns of working, living and leisure in urban areas.
The full potential of innovation districts will only be realised if there is stronger support from different tiers of government, and if all cities and innovation district projects ensure there is a clear focus and sufficient resources (both in developing and delivering these projects), and by working more closely together. Through a renewed focus on support for innovation districts, the UK and devolved governments and cities can help deliver against the aims of the Industrial Strategy, secure accelerated productivity, support inclusive growth, continue to reshape and regenerate our city centres, and build the networks of collaboration to create the firms, products and processes to drive forward our city economies.
We would like to end with the following recommendations (details can be found in the report; see ‘further reading’):
- Government and cities and city regions should prioritise innovation districts to support the delivery of the Industrial Strategy;
- Innovation districts should build on their existing work to help lead the way in increasing productivity through inclusive growth;
- Innovation districts should work together more closely as a national network;
- Cities, city regions and innovation districts should continue to secure capital investment in public spaces, physical and digital infrastructure, and new buildings in innovation districts;
- Government, LEPs and Combined Authorities, and cities should invest in developing the hard and soft networks to support business growth in innovation districts.
- UK Innovation Districts Group & Arup (2018), UK Innovation Districts and Knowledge Quarters. Driving more productive growth. London.
- Van Dinteren, Jacques; Paul Jansen (2018), The university as a catalyst in innovation district development. Paper for IASP World Conference 2018.
- Prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren, Zjak Consult / Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)
- Paul Jansen MSc, Arup / Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)
In this paper, we focus on the role of universities in innovation districts. Regarding the growing interest in innovation districts, the question arises if an innovation district can do without a university. Or, the other way round, can a university campus be a good starting point for an innovation district? Can an innovation district be successful without a university? In which way can a university function as a catalyst in innovation district development?
The outcomes of research and recent developments suggest that it is relevant to have a university or an annexe of a university in an innovation district, as distance does matter. However, there are yet no hard research outcomes that make it clear that the success of an innovation district is dependent upon a university. Apart from that, the cases described here, in short, suggest that the establishment of a university or annexe can help the development of an innovation district by creating trust and contributing to a positive image of the development.
Looking at different types of innovation areas a distinction can be made in four crucial drivers:
- networks & community,
- entrepreneurial dynamism,
- infrastructure & facilities and
- a comprehensive business case (figure 1).
Until the 1990s there has been a strong focus on the physical aspects, mostly real estate, when developing innovative working environments. This focus was typical for the first decades of the, quite often mono-functional, science & technology park (STP) concept. Nowadays we very clearly understand that developing an STP or another type of innovation area is not (solely) a real estate operation. We – and others – like to stress the importance of the functional linkages between companies, institutions and universities enforced by strong management of these networks. The added value of an innovation area is in these networks, but also in the creation of a working environment that stimulates creativity. Altogether also known as the ‘software’.
So, in today’s innovation areas, the development of a knowledge network of companies and institutions is essential. The same goes for the creation of a community (which is more focused on personnel, organising activities and an excellent working environment). All together this forms the ecosystem. Although this doesn’t alter the fact that ultimately businesses and institutions located in the innovation areas also need modern real estate, adaptive infrastructure and attractive public spaces. Given this, specific requirements can be placed on buildings, particularly respecting the needs for community building and networking. For instance, pedestrian flows, the creation of meeting points, the concentration of catering and restaurant facilities where pedestrian flows meet, creative work environments, etc. For the successful management of any area of innovation, it is crucial that the different layers in the social-spatial structure of a site or area are recognised and respected: the networks, the infrastructure and the buildings.
But first of all, the ‘guests’ in the estate (companies, institutions, others) are central. In many cases it can be observed that one guest is ‘leading’ or – better said – is considered to be the ‘anchor’ of the development. That is often a university in the case of an STP and – per definition – a large, innovative company in the case of an industrial innovation campus. But what about the upcoming innovation districts? The available literature points out that in general one has the opinion that a successful innovation district needs at least one anchor firm or institution. This can be a research university, another institution working in the field of research and innovation or a (large) company.
Figure 1: IADP-model to create a successful R&D work environments (www.iadp.co)
The leading question for this paper
Given the great importance of innovation and the exchange of information between stakeholders involved, (research) universities and leading, innovative firms probably plays a crucial role in the development of innovation districts. “Probably” because, as far as we know, there are not yet research outcomes available that make clear what exactly that impact can be. Until now it is more about expectations.
In this paper, we particularly focus on the role of universities in innovation districts. These districts are characterised by their embeddedness in the city, innovation, a dynamic mix of functions and good public transport. It seems that for a growing number of firms and institutions, active in the fields of science and innovation, the innovation district is the working environment of the future. Such an environment might also (or maybe specifically) attract the millennials in the war for talent. Given the link of STPs with universities, this raises the question if an innovation district can be successful without a university in the district? Or, in case of an already established university or university institution: can such a university be the starting point for an innovation district?
The latter question is posed by the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. This university is very well established in the city with three of their four sites located in Amsterdam. An ‘interconnected concentration’ of specialised clusters, which together constitute a network of knowledge and individually function as catalysts for their immediate surroundings. One of these clusters is situated in the inner city, and the university intends to create an innovation quarter (‘University Quarter’) here, consisting of university buildings and the surrounding area. It is the opinion of this university that a modern university is no longer an ‘ivory tower’. It stands in the middle of society and in front of that society and is a crucial member of a modern, knowledge-oriented society. Against this background, the question arises how the University Quarter can be turned into a success. The aim is to create added value to the university, the environment and the city and what role the University Quarter plays in this respect. Also, the surrounding area is important to the university: the space between the different buildings, but also between the clusters, needs to stimulate the interaction between inhabitants, students, companies and knowledge institutions. At the sub local level (University Quarter), that space must also provide a pleasant working environment that stimulates creativity and innovation. The key question is: how can we shape this area into a successful whole, involving all stakeholders and stimulating innovation?
In this paper, we will focus on the question of which way a university can function as a catalyst in innovation district development. To get a preliminary answer to this question we have used the available literature, news items and some interviews with representatives of universities in existing innovation districts.
Many different developments have been recognised that, positively or negatively, elucidate the growing interest in and success of innovation districts. At IADP we think that the following main trends are relevant.
A response to the trend of deconcentration – In Europe in the sixties of the 20th century, apart from some centuries old universities (Cambridge for example), many universities tended to concentrate their activities in areas at the edge of the city where sufficient space was available. The upcoming phenomena of STPs at that time and the link these parks sought with the university also led to favouring isolated areas at the edge of the city. For both developments, STPs and universities, there is growing criticism about this spatial pattern and the way it functions. Too mono-functional, too much focussed on car accessibility, too far away from the inner city, not well connected with or embedded in the city, and so on. Some STPs try to find solutions for the problem (if it is perceived as a problem) by developing living quarters on the park, which also helps to ease the threshold for facilities and services in the park itself.
Companies are looking for ‘density’ – It seems that the aforementioned developments of STPs have stimulated the rise of innovation districts. The changing functions of inner cities and the mass re-allocation of traditional industries from the inner cities and surrounding old quarters give room for new developments such as innovation districts. Innovation economies reward urban density because of the agglomeration effects. Open innovation stresses the importance of working in close proximity, being able to share ideas rather than invent in isolation.
Companies are revaluing vibrancy and authenticity in (inner) cities – This trend is an extension of the former one. It is well-known that artists, people working in creative industries and researchers value a sense of place, including coffee shops, art galleries, and so on. A work environment that encourages creativity and innovation, and offers a balance between life, work and play. This is more important for millennials, which is an important target group for innovative companies and research universities in their competition to get the best talent.
Cross-overs instead of specialisation – In the worlds of innovation and areas of innovation the clustering of companies and institutions working in the same field was the adage for a long time and still is. On some STPs, we see a shift in the concept from specialisation towards crossovers. We have the impression that it is expected that especially the innovation district can offer the right environment for a functional mix of innovative companies and institutions and hence an environment or a seedbed very well suited for crossovers.
When looking at the possible (anchor) role of a university in an innovation district the following two trends might be relevant:
The ‘opening up’ of the university – According to Goddard & Valance (2013) universities have to become civic universities, meaning that they have to turn into an urban ‘anchor’ institution, being of significant importance to the economy and the wider community life of the cities in which they are based. Or, as Goddard & Valance put it, institutions that are of the city not just in the city. Universities try to do this in different ways by appointing innovation officers (linked to the industry), setting up incubator centres, organising specific education programs for the city population, and so on. The ‘opening up’ is sometimes also stimulated by taking the initiative to settle between the population in an innovation district or by starting an innovation district by itself.
From triple to quadruple helix – It is not surprising that this interweaving of the university with the city led to a shift of the triple helix concept towards the quadruple helix. It is the cooperation of university, (local) government, firms and inhabitants. This might have to do less with innovation, as far as the local population is involved, and points at – among others – education, continuous learning, living labs and other forms of co-production with citizens. Several authors state that universities should go to or settle next to deprived areas to encourage developments there.
Although these trends can explain the upcoming phenomena of innovation districts, we do not suggest that this is the end of STPs. STPs will continue to exist, but the concept has to be adjusted to new standards. The innovation district is just another concept in the realm of innovation areas.
Moreover, it is important to consider STPs, innovation districts and innovation campuses as focus points within an innovative region. It would be a serious mistake to think that such a cluster or set of clusters will in itself determine the innovation power of a city or region. Also, because too many relevant, innovative firms and institutions are established outside these innovation areas.
Figure 2: distance of European STPs to their closest university (EC, 2014)
The university, the networks and the ecosystem
Given the trends above, a university might choose to move (partly) into an innovation district which seems to be more open to the city than a campus at the edge of a city. Will that make it easier for a university to become a part of that ecosystem? Let us first have a look at the relationship between a university and an STP. It is often stated that universities play a crucial role in the development and success of the networks and the ecosystem on an STP. Proximity to a university is generally believed to be helpful (if not crucial) to establishing and maintaining a working relationship. Figure 2 shows that 84% of STPs are within 5 km of their closest university and 66% are either on or adjacent to the university campus (EC, 2014). This suggests that proximity of a university is crucial to the development of an STP. With regard to the new concept of innovation districts, the question arises whether an innovation district can do without a university. Or, the other way round, can a university campus be a good starting point for an innovation district?
A study of six STPs in The Netherlands (Van Dinteren, 2012) revealed that such a relationship with a university can cover a lot of activities and is not solely limited to knowledge linkages. It even appeared that other aspects/facilities were generally seen as more important by the entrepreneurs established on the STP (figure 3). The most important are the availability of graduate students, the access to libraries and data systems, and the access to laboratories and clean rooms. Only after that come the aspects more directly associated with research such as the opportunities for joint research between the company and the university and the presence of relevant research activities. These percentages are influenced by the fact that, in these STPs, firms are established that do not directly belong to the target group. Admission policy on some STPs in The Netherlands is rather weak. If we focus on firms and institutions that belong to the target group, these show above-average scores with regard to the appreciation of research activities (relevant to the company) present in the university (96% versus 74% overall), of being able to carry out joint research (89% in comparison to 73%) and of the availability of laboratories/clean rooms (72% versus 51% of the total population).
Figure 3: assessment of the opportunities from the neighbouring university (Van Dinteren, 2012)
Proximity, mass and density
The need for a university in some type of innovation area can be related to the desire of firms and other institutions to be able to consult researchers at the university quickly and informally. On the other hand, how relevant is proximity given globalisation, the internet and other possibilities for rapid exchange of knowledge? Recent studies seem to indicate that proximity still plays a role. Linkages between firms and research institutions function both on the local and global level. Sometimes a university is even criticised for too much global interest. For example, Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto agrees with the criticism that his university focuses too much on global relationships, reputation and rankings than on its community partners.
A study about research outcomes by Dutch CPB (2017) shows that the chance that a company builds on the knowledge produced at a university decreases the further it is from the university. This suggests that knowledge spill-overs are localised. The size of the effect also depends on the sector and the size of the university. The study is, however, focused on the regional level and is not clear about the impact of small(er) distances.
Andes (2017) states that over the last century hundreds of studies have proved the benefits of density and proximity for innovation and that these findings suggest that knowledge sharing among universities, research labs, and firms exists at the neighbourhood level. Andes does not elaborate on what proximity exactly means, but he shows that size of the city (mass) and density of the urban environment play a role, as universities established in that type of environment flourish. He analyses downtown universities in metropolitan areas (the reasoning here is based on numerous economic studies which show that large metropolitan areas experience much stronger positive effects of proximity than smaller cities). In his study, Andes compares the commercial outcomes of research universities located within employment-dense neighbourhoods (e.g. downtowns) in the 100 largest cities to the average research university. He finds that compared to their peers located in smaller towns, suburbs or rural areas on a per-student basis, ‘downtown’ universities:
- produce 80% more licensing deals;
- disclose 123% more inventions;
- receive 222% more income from licensing agreements;
- create 71% more start-ups.
These outcomes suggest that universities located in dense employment centres of cities achieve greater commercial impact for their research. Clustering of economic activities does matter and inner cities, where most of the innovation districts can be found or are located nearby, provide the right conditions for such a clustering.
The university and the innovation district: two models
There are two simple models when we look at the possible relationship between a university and an innovation district. In the first case, an innovation district is under development and looks for a university or annexes of a university to complete the picture, as it might be clear that a strong institution or company can be an important anchor in such a development. It helps to create an image, but it is also an important node in the local innovation network.
The second option is a university taking the initiative to develop an innovation district next to its premises, or maybe even mixed with its own buildings. The motivation, as described above, is to become a part of the city and not just being located in it.
Model 1 – Katz & Wagner (2014) state “universities are particularly helpful drivers for growing districts; for this reason, many districts that did not originally include universities (…) have convinced universities to build satellite campuses”. Initiators of the I.D.E.A. District in San Diego were worried about this development because a few years ago the migration of technology companies to the downtown area had started to take hold. In 2013, 25% of the new downtown leases, many of them tech companies, were executed by companies coming from outside of downtown. To speed up and assure development a corporate leader was needed “who can accelerate the transformation”. In December 2016, UC San Diego, a major research university, announced a 6,100 m2 downtown outpost. It is now expected that satellite businesses will surely follow. “As soon as UCSD or one of the other big academic institutions puts a beachhead downtown, then we’ll know downtown has arrived”, potential users told Carlson, a CBRE commercial broker active in downtown office leasing.
In the early days of the well-known Boston Innovation District, its position was strengthened when a satellite campus of Babson College was established. In 2011 this campus was expected to serve “as the academic anchor to help fuel further growth in the Innovation District”. “Nobody creates jobs like entrepreneurs, and nobody creates entrepreneurs like Babson,” said Mayor Menino. “The inclusion of a top-tier academic institution here in the Innovation District is a key part of the supportive infrastructure we are building and providing to the people and businesses in this neighbourhood. Babson’s expertise and partnership undoubtedly will help us fuel even more connectivity and growth across this district.”
In the case of the 22@Barcelona innovation district, companies have been the anchors in the early stage, but nowadays universities seem to have taken over this role. Being a publicly financed university, the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, for example, felt it was obliged to move a part of its activities, especially in the broad fields of communication, to the Barcelona innovation district.
Model 2 – or ‘the other way around’: the university that wants to become an innovation district. The reasons for this can differ. Offering a nice environment to work and study in is one possible reason, but creating stronger links with companies (the entrepreneurial university) is certainly another one. An example is Seattle’s University District. This district extends beyond the physical boundaries of the university which makes the development much more difficult because of the existing neighbourhoods. This raises a conflict between the envisaged development and liveability. The city takes care of good planning, assuring that there will be sufficient affordable housing, instead of gentrification. A light-rail station in the district will help to discourage motor vehicle traffic.
In the case of Melbourne (Australia) the development of an urban innovation district (MID) is an initiative of the City of Melbourne, RMIT University and the University of Melbourne. Home to 21% of all knowledge sector jobs in Melbourne, the urban innovation district features the central campuses of RMIT and the University of Melbourne, State Library Victoria, Queen Victoria Market, Royal Exhibition Building, Trades Hall and the Melbourne Museum. “Through community events and improved public spaces, MID will provide more opportunities for Melbourne’s knowledge workers, researchers, students, business and community organisations to connect and collaborate, creating innovative ideas essential for the city to continue to thrive and prosper. Planning considerations for the area will help innovation flourish and will include upgrades to streets, parks and other public spaces, while at the same time protecting the district’s suburban character”.
The added value of a university for an innovation district
If in an innovation district it is felt that a university is needed as an anchor it is assumed that such an institution will be crucial in stimulating innovation, and in creating a scientific, innovative ecosystem. The development of the Boston Innovation District mentioned above shows that such an anchor helps to strengthen the image of the development and stimulates entrepreneurs to choose to settle in the district. But the added value of a university is not limited to companies and other institutions. From the idea of a civic university, a university well embedded in society, there are also (high) expectations about the ability of the university to stimulate social and economic development in deprived areas, as it is often stated that many innovation districts are located near such neighbourhoods. Special (education) programs might help young people (with parents that have no university education) living in these neighbourhoods, offering better opportunities to visit a university. Students at the university can also play a role in these deprived areas as volunteers, supporting people, local schools and organisations. For the people living in these quarters, but also for others living in the surrounding areas, the university can provide access to facilities, such as gyms, meeting rooms, restaurants, library and the like. The university can also organise exhibitions and lectures and can actively participate in local projects, helping to find solutions for specific problems (see also box).
|The University of Sheffield
The university has a programme of open days, lectures, seminars, exhibitions and family events running throughout the year. It offers a range of courses to members of the public, some of which are free. For example, Discover is a free award winning short course, designed to inspire adults who haven’t been to university. The course is delivered one morning each week, and focuses on themes that link into the subjects offered by the Department for Lifelong Learning. Sheffield Volunteering supports students and staff to get involved in activities in the city. Its aim is to increase awareness of local community issues amongst students as well as an understanding of how they can make a positive impact through volunteering. In 2014 2,213 students and staff took part in 2,922 volunteering opportunities within the local community and across Sheffield. The university’s sports facilities are open to the public, with many of the facilities available on a ‘pay and play’ basis such as the swimming pool, fitness classes, squash and badminton.
Source: Goddard & Kempton (2016)
It is our impression that, in the literature, particular attention is paid to the relationship of the university with surrounding districts, while in practice it is a relationship with the city, and perhaps the region too. This doesn’t exclude that a certain accent can be placed on deprived neighbourhoods.
The added value of an innovation district for the university
Although a university might be important as an anchor in an innovation district, the innovation district can also be of importance for the university itself as Bruce c.s. (2015) have described. Being established or having satellites in an innovation district helps research and innovation in universities. The authors sum up many examples (in the United States of America) of educational and research institutions that have moved key facilities and departments as a means of generating greater innovation output to retain or achieve competitive advantage in their respective clusters and fields. By seeking the best places within their region (or even within other regions), universities want to retain or strengthen their competitive power.
Of less significance is maybe the fact that the settlement of a university (or an annexe) might be perceived by students as an attractive location because of the dynamic environment “where people unexpectedly bump into each other again and again in their daily routines”. An environment formed by cafeterias, convenience stores, theatres, restaurants, and so on. As many innovation districts can be found in the central parts of a city, good public transport is guaranteed.
Further details from three cases
Besides the desk research, various interviews with representatives of universities were held. Special thanks to the following persons, because they were so kind to provide us with detailed information about their developments:
- Anna Belchi (Pompeu Fabra University, director Campus del Poblenou, Barcelona, Spain)
- Margaret O’Mara (associate professor of History, University of Washington, Seattle, USA)
- Derek McCormack (Vice-Chancellor Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand).
Barcelona and Seattle have already been shortly introduced above. The development in Auckland is in an early stage. Massey University, Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development (ATEED) and BNZ are working together to develop a smart innovation district in the northern part of the city, comprising five districts. Goal is to create a highly prosperous, vibrant and liveable community, where aspirational businesses and talented people will want to live and work, produce exportable innovation and collectively build a better future for themselves and their families.
Looking closer at these three examples, it’s obvious that there are significant differences in the relationship (and its origin) between the university and the innovation district. In Barcelona the establishment of an innovation district was going on for almost a decade when the Pompeu Fabra University decided to move a part of their activities to this redevelopment area. The university jumped, in a way, on a moving train. The universities in Seattle and Auckland were already established in the neighbourhood that started turning into an innovation district. These universities were in the heart of a development that seems to be partly autonomous and partly driven by their presence.
So, the Pompeu Fabra University was acquainted with the development of the 22@barcelona innovation district. Therefore the university was able to look at the economic profile of the innovation district and decided to move specific activities to the 22@barcelona district that have strong linkages with the clusters established in the area. The Campus del Poblenou is focused on ‘Communication and Information Technologies’. This is not to say that this is the strict focus. It was stated that the combination of specialisation and cross-overs will stimulate innovation. So the collaboration of the university with other institutions and companies is not limited to media and computer technology, but also involves other clusters such as medical, energy and design. The combination of specialisation and cross-overs is emphasised by the other interviewees as well. In Auckland one perceives the cross-clustering a characteristic of innovation districts, giving to new patents, business start-ups, and industry involvement, thus also effecting an increase in employment and wages.
In Seattle the University of Washington was surrounded by a university-oriented neighbourhood in its immediate vicinity before the concept of an innovation district was even mentioned. Its huge potential became clear only a few years ago and since 2012 the government and university have been working closely together to manage a more robust and future-oriented change. The commitment of the University of Washington to build a better U(niversity) District is driven by:
- continuous, meaningful collaboration with the City and community partners;
- learning from the experience of the most dynamic neighbourhoods around the region, the nation, and the globe; and
- fostering growth that is complementary to other parts of the city and region, adding to overall economic and cultural dynamism of the State.
The case of Seattle also shows possible disadvantages of a spontaneous development. In Seattle it became apparent that walls along and overpasses across 15th Avenue had created a physical barrier between the city and campus. The new development plans provide an extraordinary opportunity to knit together campus and city, according to our interviewee.
Like Seattle, universities in Auckland were already established in the area that has become an innovation district. Since its transition to a university in 2000 Auckland University of Technology saw its surrounding neighbourhoods change, which might have been partly related to the presence of the universities. The same goes for Massey University, established in the same part of the city. Recognising that this part of Auckland was in the midst of constant residential and commercial property development and growth, Massey University held a symposium in 2015 to consider the future of Auckland North. This symposium demonstrated a clear interest in and excitement for bolstering an innovation district, and engendered the support of city leaders, university leaders and researchers, various business owners and entrepreneurs. This led to the ‘Grow North’ initiative that focusses on establishing a (more formal) innovation district. Clusters of innovation are already beginning to emerge organically in Auckland North.
For the universities of Seattle, Auckland and Barcelona, it is obvious that they contribute significantly to the success of the innovation district. Although it is difficult to determine it exact benefits, there seem to be some common take-a ways:
- being partners in joint innovation projects with companies established in the district (not excluding others, of course);
- providing facilities and equipment to support company R&D projects;
- foster start-ups by setting up incubators;
- offering educational programs to the inhabitants of the surrounding neighbourhoods, especially in the case of deprived quarters, in order to enhance education levels and lower the threshold to the university (inclusion and engagement; sometimes also relevant to the city as a whole);
- creating positive urban change in the cities they are located in, especially in the direct vicinity of the innovation district: more varied housing options (enhancing diversity) and amenities, and engagement in neighbourhood revitalisation.
When it comes to the benefits of being located in an innovation district, all interviewees agree that also the university benefits. Most important advantages for the universities are:
- understanding the needs of society / companies and adapting the education program to it;
- the interchange of staff and students across porous boundaries. Innovation districts are able to enhance student experiences, and stimulate research and creative activity among the university staff and students;
- having close working links with start-up and more mature companies in innovation districts enabling the flow of graduates into employment and cooperating on joint R&D projects;
- the possibility of neighbourhood redevelopment in order to expand the campus footprint.
Finally, according to our interviewees, many factors determine the success of an innovation district development. The following starting conditions were stressed:
- having a strong basis: innovative firms present and willing to engage in collaboration, an entrepreneurial university focussed on innovation, the active contribution of venture capitalists and other investors;
- taking the very long term as a starting point, but also focus at quick wins;
- creating a vision and strategy that is shared with and supported by investors, companies, universities, government, inhabitants and other stakeholders.
And especially with regard to the university:
- a pro-active strategy by the university for open collaboration with business and industry;
- an active commercialisation office or company within the university;
- active support for student entrepreneurship plus entrepreneurship training for staff and students;
- flexible commercialisation policies to enable easier spin-out of new ventures or licensing of Intellectual Property;
- having the university commercialisation office well linked to relevant industries and product sector experts who bring IP ventures to the right know-how and seed capital in the Innovation District.
In an innovation economy, networks are essential. Large innovative companies and universities can build the webs connecting these networks. Although we have all the opportunities to establish worldwide networks, research suggests that proximity is still important. But what is proximity? Is that on the neighbourhood, the city or the regional level? What about smaller cities and larger ones? 66% of all STPs are established on the campus of a university. That seems to suggest that short distances are relevant. And, as we have seen, that it is not just because of networks, but also about facilities and the like, we could state that proximity also helps to create that dynamic environment that students, innovators and companies are looking for. In that respect, it is also interesting to notice that universities in dense areas flourish.
Given these outcomes, one could suggest that it is relevant to have a university or an annexe of a university in an innovation district, as distance does matter. However, there are as yet no hard research outcomes that make it clear that the success of an innovation district is dependent upon a university. Apart from that, the cases described here suggest, in short, that the establishment of a university or annexe can help the development of an innovation district by creating trust and contributing to a positive image of the development.
It is also interesting to note that universities themselves believe in the concept. Innovation districts can try to attract a university, but we have seen that there is also another model in which the university wants to develop an innovation district on its premises or adjacent to it. In our opinion the interviews we have held confirm the outcomes of our desk research.
Although it is all based on circumstantial evidence, our research seems to suggest that the establishment of a university (annexe) can be a significant anchor in the development of an innovation area. We like to invite our fellow researchers to gather more hard information on the linkages between a university and its innovation district. What does proximity mean in terms of (kilo)meters? Keep in mind that proximity not only refers to exchanging information but is also relevant with regard to other aspects such as availability of students, facilities and the like.
- Andes, Scott (2017), Hidden in plain sight: The oversized impact of downtown universities. Massachusetts: Brooking Institution.
- CPB (2017), De regionale impact van universiteiten; een literatuuroverzicht. The Hague: Dutch Central Planning Office (CPB).
- EU – European Commission (2014), Setting up, managing and evaluating EU science and technology parks.
- Goddard, J. and Vallance, P. (2013), The University and the City, Abingdon: Routledge.
- Goddard, John and Louise Kempton (2016), The civic university. Universities in leadership and management of place. Newcastle University.
- Katz, Bruce and Julie Wagner (2014), The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America. Massachusetts: Brooking Institution.
- Katz, Bruce, Jennifer S. Vey, and Julie Wagner (2015), One year after: Observations on the rise of innovation districts. Blog.
- Van Dinteren, Jacques (2012), Science parks in The Netherlands. Stimulating innovation or just iconic for firms? Paper for the 41st Annual Conference of Regional Science Association, British and Irish Section. Galway, Ireland, August 2012.
 In our opinion science & technology parks, innovation districts and industrial innovation campuses are different forms of innovation areas.
Kees Christiaanse (KCAP) in ‘Campus and the City’
The ‘campus’ is a phenomenon of increasing relevance to modern urban planning. In Europe, universities are reconsidering their position in society and taking on extensive reorganisations and expansions of their physical structures. The postwar university campus as an isolated community of scholars is subject to thorough revision. In Asia, on the other hand, new campus-style universities are shooting up like mushrooms. Global companies build campus-style factory sites for their international headquarters or for their research-and-development departments. The controversy over the desirability of openness and interaction with the urban environment versus the increasing popularity of the ‘gated community’ and restricted access, demonstrates the need for a radical debate on the shape and the position of the campus in relationship to its context.
An interesting archetype for the relationship between the university and the city is Cambridge University in Great Britain. Here, cloister-like ‘colleges’ in the shape of more or less closed compounds surrounding an inner courtyard are scattered in clusters all over the city. Although Cambridge is one of the oldest universities in the world, this constellation may well be highly relevant to the present search for the ideal accommodation of today’s university: an ‘interconnected deconcentration’ of specialised clusters, which together constitute a network of knowledge and individually function as catalysts for their immediate surroundings. This complementary symbiosis of the ivory tower and everyday life is expressed in various ways: in the architecture of the buildings, in the dress code and lifestyle of the Cambridge students and in the famous map of Cambridge pubs, which serves as a diagram of social activity.
In Cambridge, the intimate relationship between ‘town and gown’ did not result from a deliberate avoidance of functional segregation. It developed from the limited size of the historical city, from its spatial structures, which are based on walking distances, and from the limited scale and complexity of teaching and research at that time. Likewise in Leyden, home of the oldest university of the Netherlands, virtually all the university buildings and even the private residences of the professors were originally situated along a single canal, the so-called Rapenburg.
The increase in scale which led to our contemporary problems concerning functional and social segregation and mobility did not begin until the second half of the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth century, the ram-parts surrounding European cities were demolished. Under the influence of the industrial revolution and the emergence of social awareness, large urban institutions were founded. In Zurich, the train station and the polytechnic school designed by architect Gottfried Semper were built on the edge of the city in the area of the former ramparts.
From an ideological point of view, these interventions were equivalent to the creation of a postwar campus in the 1960s: both involve the outplacement of huge monofunctional entities to an isolated location beyond the city limits, as can be seen in a late nineteenth-century map of Zurich. Contrary to the original intentions, however, Zurich’s ETH Zentrum and the adjacent University are now being praised for their inner-city locations and their close interactions with the city. As a matter of fact, the city caught up with the university and eventually integrated it into the urban spatial structure. Nowadays, an implicit aim of ETH Zurich’s Science City project is to embed the ETH even further and to reconciliate it with its context, while simultaneously preserving a certain autonomous identity.
Islands of Quiet
In a way, this is also what happened to the postwar university campus of the 1960s. The EPF in Lausanne is a prime example of such an isolated extra-municipal campus. In its structuralist urban planning concept, the various faculties, lecture halls and laboratories are arranged like modules along a central spine. In the middle of the spine is an ‘agora’ which provides a wide range of collective facilities. This geometrical shape, pressed into the sloping banks of Lake Geneva, perfectly reflects the idea of a knowledge centre in the midst of nature, geared to provide a maximum of quietness and concentration.
However attractive and pure this idea may seem, thirty years after its widespread implementation it is evident that this type of university campus does not lead to a desirable sociocultural and urban environment. It is hampered by its isolated location, its monofunctional disposition and its remoteness from mixed urban structures. Revisions generally aim at adding living quarters for students and staff, providing high-quality public trans-port and attracting commercial and cultural functions, such as spin-off enterprises, shops and a library or a theatre, which are also open to the in-habitants of the surrounding suburbs.
These suburbs are in fact the selfsame city which, like nineteenth-century urban expansions, has encircled and swallowed the university. Despite their flaws, the suburbs show the modern city’s true appearance, which has virtu-ally the same shape all over the world. This is where the greater part of the population lives and a major part of economic production takes place.
If the campus is not surrounded by suburbs, adding non-university functions to encourage functional diversity and social interaction is likely to increase the risk of further isolation. The campus of Twente University in the Netherlands, for example, offers such a complete range of amenities for living, working, shopping and leisure and is so far removed from the city, that it is turning into an autonomous compound with all the characteristics of a gated community or an Asian campus.
In Silicon Valley, however, no city had formerly existed to catch up with the university. Here the spin-off activities around Stanford University generated such a boost that it made an Edge City expand into a veritable urban conglomeration, which in turn now determines the socioeconomic life of an entire region.
However, the ideal model in the head of many planners for the campus revisions that are taking place all over Europe is not a university of deconcentrated clusters of various sizes, positions and characteristics, reconciled with the city on the scale of polycentric conurbations. Their ideal is the illusion of the inner-city campus within walking distance from the city, as it is embodied in the Technical University of Berlin (TU), Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, or the London School of Economics (LSE).
The TU Berlin is a mono-functional campus, whose mono-functionality is compensated for by its central position in the middle of the city. Situated on the interface between a city park, the Tiergarten, and the nineteenth-century district of Charlottenburg, the TU Berlin enjoys the advantages of a traditional campus as well as the perks of a university that blends in with the city. Due to the ravages of World War II, there is still sufficient space for expansion.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the opposite is true. Here, the heart of this former suburb now consists of Harvard Yard and Harvard Square, the oldest parts of Harvard University, and the development of the city has kept up with the growth of the university. It is a convincing example of a harmonious exchange between university and city, with central functions (Harvard Square), a city park (Harvard Yard) and a university centre at its heart. Our third example, the LSE in London, occupies a historical city district. It consists of a network of alleys and squares and a collection of large and small, old and new buildings that are placed within the original allocation pattern. Over the years, premises have been joined together, enlarged or replaced. The result is a university nestling in the city district as if by mimicry. The formidable urban qualities of such an unplanned university raise the question as to whether we should actually design universities at all, or perhaps rather allow them to infiltrate and transform a city district through improvisation and embroidering existing structures.
While the postwar university campus of the 1960s is presently undergoing an identity crisis and major revision in Europe, this is certainly not the case in other parts of the world, as recent developments in Asia indicate. In many Asian countries the extra-municipal, monofunctional campus of quietness and concentration is not perceived as a problem, but as a symbol of progress (and social control). The University City Guangzhou in China even consists of a ‘city of campuses’. Here, about ten university campuses form a conglomeration where students and staff virtually spend their lives, well provided for by all kinds of infrastructure.
Global enterprises have also adopted the campus as a blueprint for their international headquarters or their research-and-development departments. Companies like Microsoft, Novartis, Volkswagen, Benetton, Adidas and Nike each have their own way of using the campus concept as a leitmotif.
In reaction to severe criticism of Nike’s deployment of child labour in sweatshops in low-wage countries, the company made a radical turn to-wards a policy of sustainable production techniques and social responsibility. One of the new techniques allows for sneakers to be recycled as ground material for floor-coverings in gyms. In Guangzhou, Nike developed Shoe-City, a production campus inspired by the garden cities built by philanthropic entrepreneurs in the nineteenth century, where employees can find affordable housing and send their children to school. By comparison, the Nike World Campus in Beaverton, Oregon, is a less inspiring project. In-stead of using a former industrial area to build a headquarters within walking distance of the city centre, like Benetton did in Italy, Beaverton Campus is a quintessential gated community, with white, Richard Meier-like buildings that look like ships run aground in the green belt. Instead of offering a multiple network of footpaths and bicycle tracks within an urban environment, the area is only accessible by car. The layout of the campus is defined by parking lots rather than by jogging tracks.
Far more interesting are the developments of Benetton in Treviso and of VW in Wolfsburg. Both projects inject new life into a run-down city centre by generating interaction with new functional clusters.
In many urban and architectural situations, redeveloping existing structures leads to more interesting results than building virginal new premises.2 The archetype of a university working as an instrument of revitalisation for derelict industrial sites is the project Potteries Think-belt by Cedric Price, which was never built. In this concept, the faculties, laboratories, lecture halls and student dormitories are situated far apart in disused ceramic factories, which are connected by a railway system originally built for trans-porting raw materials and ceramics. Lectures were to be given in the trains while students and staff commuted between the various locations.
This utopia, which reverberates in projects like IBA-Emscherpark in Germany, is an early version of the concept that universities can serve as networks of dispersed concentrations which activate weaker areas. It also tallies with the idea that traffic infrastructure can structuralise the economics of knowledge. In accordance with this idea, the universities and colleges of Rotterdam have arranged themselves along an ‘axis of knowledge’, the subway which traverses the city. The faculties are concentrated around three subway stations. This stimulates urban development in the areas, as students are the social group most willing to engage in urban activities.
One of the most radical and impressive examples of a university that stimulates urban activity is Bilgi University in Istanbul, Turkey. The institution buys and restores former industrial buildings in less developed areas of the city in order to provide adequate and affordable premises for its own growing activities, while at the same time giving a huge socioeconomic boost to the surrounding city quarters. Most notably the Santral project, involving a former power station on the peninsula at the source of the Golden Horn, demonstrates a degree of commitment and ambition com-parable to the zeal of Zeche Zollverein in Essen, Germany. The peninsula is being transformed into a city park at the Golden Horn. In this park, the power station is converted to accommodate the main building of the uni-versity. Such a catalytic enclave creating a network across the city reflects not only the spirit of Cedric Price’s Potteries Think-belt, but also that of the time-honoured Cambridge colleges.
Science City, ETH Zurich
The Hönggerberg campus of the ETH in Zurich is a standard university complex from the 1960s, when the creation of large-scale universities led to expansion outside the city. The campus was built as an isolated enclave on a green hill. In the 1960s, it still stood outside the city; now it is a mono-functional island in the middle of the archipelago formed by the Zurich agglomeration. Just as the city has evolved into an agglomeration, the atomisation of the university has resulted in its development into an ag-glomeration within the city or, to put it more positively, the university has become interwoven with the city despite separation and specialisation. Proceeding from this interpretation, we can try to bring the suburban cam-pus into contact with surrounding city districts, generating a communal basis capable of supporting new activities. A basis for commercial functions like shops, cafés and restaurants is achieved by a densification of the campus with, alongside additional university buildings, residential buildings where live/work combinations and spin-off business activities are possible as well as complementary amenities like a primary school. Thanks to lecture halls and foyers also being used for events and community activities, there is a sociocultural exchange with the city. While it is true that no inner-city urbanity will evolve here, it does provide fertile ground for a gradual development towards a well-balanced environmental quality. This attempt at an integration of city and university constitutes the true significance of the term ‘Science City’.
Science Park Amsterdam
While Science City in Zurich was a pre-existing campus on a beautiful site, the Science Park planned for Amsterdam’s Watergraafsmeer, originally a polder, is an urban bathtub. Surrounded by water and dikes, a railway yard and Amsterdam’s orbital motorway – all the elements of contemporary, closed spatial systems – it is self-contained. It is of little consequence for the rest of the city whether a residential district, an industrial area, a quarantine terrain or a university campus is located here. This shocking conclusion is alas no longer unusual. It applies to most suburban enclaves, except that these are generally not perceived as being so extreme because they have softer edges. On the one hand, there is something attractive about the idea that the city can consist of interchangeable ‘patches’; on the other hand, the insularity, concentrated access and monofunctionality of such areas leads to a lack of social control, uneven daytime and nighttime rhythms, a lack of multiple relationships, an increase in mobility – in short to primitive, one-dimensional systems.
In this area, which is only accessible at three points, the Science Park, the scientific cluster of the University of Amsterdam (UvA), is being developed. Construction zones run from east to west, interspersed with wide bands of green. The construction zones are subject to a building code that is characterised by a labyrinthine structure that establishes a system of successive public and semi-public spaces. Situating communal amenities at junctions fosters concentrations of public activity. Instead of standing like bonbons on the grass, the buildings ‘fold’ themselves around the courtyards and interweave with adjacent buildings. It is not the form of the actual buildings that dominates, but the system of spaces between the buildings: this ‘anti-hierarchical network’ reflects the idea of ‘university’. The system for non-motorized traffic, meandering through the courtyards and atria like a net-work of rabbit runs, can expand and contract, depending on the intensity of use and the day-and-night rhythm. The public green strips also serve as a logistical zone for goods deliveries and as a cable route, where fibre-optic cables, nitrogen pipes or central heating for the blocks can be laid, as de-sired. Thus all the laboratories enjoy flexible access to the technical infra-structure.
Housing, cafés and restaurants, a public transport facility, a hotel, and sports facilities will also be developed in the Science Park. But unlike Science City, these functions do not mix. Within the polder bathtub they form a miniature archipelago of monofunctional islands, because the faculty buildings and laboratories produce emissions and must be able to expand and contract. This situation is illustrative of the dilemma between the desire for functional interaction and the imperative of programmatic criteria.
With this design concept we try to provide an instrument to enable non-mixable entities in the urban archipelago to function in complementary ways, by designing their interactive and relational structures rather than forcing an unfortunate integration.3