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.
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|
|Functions||Mix, including living||Mono-functional|
|Cultural events and facilities (employee related)||Wide range||No events or incidental|
|Business related events||On a regularly basis||On a regularly basis|
|Urban design||No master plan
(Existing) urban environment with the addition of new buildings
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. 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 (http://tiny.cc/m6gibz).
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” (http://tiny.cc/zghibz).
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. 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 (http://tiny.cc/arhibz).
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.
- Arup, UK Innovation Districts Group (2018), UK Innovation Districts and Knowledge Quarters.
- Bouwmeester, Henk (2010), Groen werkt beter. Kansen voor bedrijventerreinen en natuur. Den Haag: SDU.
- Castonguay, Yan; Samuel Saint-Yves-Durand; Rhizlane Hamouti (2018), The Expectations of Businesses Settled in a Science Park. In: International Journal of Research in Science, Vol 4(3), September.
- Content, Jeroen, and Koen Frenken (2016), Related variety and economic development: a literature review. In: European Planning Studies, Volume 24, Pages 2097-2112.
- Deloitte (2018), Millennial survey.
- Frenken, Koen; Frank Van Oort & Thijs Verburg (2007) Related Variety, Unrelated Variety and Regional Economic Growth, Regional Studies, 41:5, 685-697.
- Gwebu, Kholekile L.; Jeffrey Sohl; Jing Wang (2019), Differential performance of science park firms: an integrative model. In: Small Business Economics, January, Volume 52, Issue 1, pp. 193–211.
- IASP (2018), General survey.
- Kaplan, R. (2007), Employees’ reactions to nearby nature at their workplace: the wild and the tame. In: Landscape and Urban Planning, 82, pag. 17 – 24.
- Leyk, Dietmar en Steelcase WorkSpace Futures (red.; 2010), Working and living in the city of Knowledge. A Berlage Institute project in collaboration with Steelcase.
- Pancholi, Surabhi, Yigitcanlar, Tan, & Guaralda, Mirko (2015) Place making facilitators of knowledge and innovation spaces: Insights from European best practices. International Journal of Knowledge-Based Development, 6(3), pp. 215-240.
- Sanz, L. (2016). Understanding areas of innovation. In A. Nilina, J. Pique & L. Sanz (Eds.), Areas of innovation in a global world (e-book).
- Sharp, P.A. c.s. (2011), The third revolution: the convergence of the life sciences, physical sciences, and engineering. Washington: MIT.
- Steelcase (2011), Gen Y United States. Grand Rapids.
- Schwab, Klaus (2017), The fourth industrial revolution. Random House Usa Inc.
- 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.
- Van Dinteren, Jacques; Paul Jansen (2018), The university as a catalyst in innovation district development. Paper for IASP World Conference 2018.
- Van Dinteren, Jacques (2010), Hoe werken we straks? En waar? In: Stedebouw en Ruimtelijke Ordening, 04, pag. 40 – 45.
- Van Winden, Willem; Luis Carvalho (2016) Urbanize or Perish? Assessing the Urbanization of Knowledge Locations in Europe. In: Journal of Urban Technology, 23:1, 53-70.
- Julie Wagner, Bruce Katz, and Thomas Osha (2019), The evolution of innovation districts. The Global Institute On Innovation Districts.
 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.
 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.
 Here we neglect several Asian science parks that have the size of a city and where housing is a natural part of that city.
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.