Innovation Area Development Partnership

Considerations for science parks to remain competitive

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

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

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

Abstract

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.

Introduction

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

In general three types of innovation areas can be distinguished.

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

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

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

Innovation districts as competitor

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

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

Characteristics of innovation districts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Existing) urban environment with the addition of new buildings

Master plan

New buildings and landscaping

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

Coordination

Focus on economic networks and real estate

Control

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

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

Changes in locational requirements by personnel

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

Considerations

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

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

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

Consideration 1: adding housing

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

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

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

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

Consideration 2: shifting towards multiple target groups

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

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

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

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

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

Consideration 3: laying more emphasis on community management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurens Tait MSc, Arup / Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)

Ir. Frank Werner, KCAP Architects&Planners / Innovation Area Development Partnership (IADP)

While the emphasis early on was on the physical development, along with the way developers started realising that science and technology parks (STPs) require an entirely different approach. This blog (partly based on earlier ones) starts with presenting an overview of the development of the STP-concept and the impact of management on the success of these parks. In The Netherlands that success is to a certain extent often hampered by the fact that several parties are involved, having their own responsibilities. A simple model is described in which daily management can have control over the socio-economic and the physical aspects. This model can also be used for co-innovation parks and the upcoming concept of innovation districts (all together: innovation areas). In the last part, it is stated that changing concepts have led to changes in management and this evolution will continue due to, among others, globalisation.

The innovation area as an umbrella

The ‘science park’ is a phenomenon of increasing relevance to modern urban planning (Christiaanse, 2007). In Europe, universities are reconsidering their position in society and taking on extensive reorganisations and expansions of their physical structures. The post-war 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.

Given the nature of the activities and the institutions a science or technology park (STP) focuses on, it should not be considered likely that this would be a static concept. Companies and institutions that are focussed on innovation generally are highly dynamic. Nevertheless, in the first decades of its existence, the STP-concept was predominantly viewed as a ‘stand-alone’ activity and often primarily as a real estate development. In western economies this has significantly changed over the last three decades and the primary focus has shifted to stimulating innovation. That is the first trend.

A second trend is the broadening of the concept. When it is about specific locations for innovations it is no longer about STPs alone. (Industrial) co-innovation parks, developed around a leading innovative company instead of a university, were created when these companies opened up their sites for other companies and institutions.

A relatively new concept is the innovation district which can be defined as “a designated zone with its own specific management team, whose main objectives include economic development via the promotion and attraction of selective innovative business for which specific services are provided or made available, and that may also include residential and cultural zones or facilities, or be embedded in urban spaces having such facilities, and with which the economic aspects of the area of innovation interact” (Sanz, 2016). In fact Sanz and others (Nilina c.s., 2016) use the term “innovation area”. The scale of such an area can vary widely. Ann Arbor SPARK (U.S.A.) covers an entire region, while 22@Barcelona is 200 ha. In our opinion all the more reason to distinguish between innovative regions and innovation districts which, in terms of scale, are comparable to co-innovation parks and science parks. We suggest using the concept of an “innovation area” as the umbrella term for science parks, industrial co-innovation parks and innovation districts. On a higher geographical scale one can distinguish the “innovation region”.

The shifting away from a real estate development towards stimulating innovation has changed the management of these sites. It is not about managing buildings, but managing a community of people working on innovations. Due to its character managing an innovation district might be somewhat different from managing a STP or a co-innovation park. The management of such a development is still important, though functional blending of activities is a relatively new element in this concept and might ask for a somewhat different approach. Due to the functional mix, other parties than the usual ones might become involved, such as the inhabitants of the area. Moreover, the link with a university is generally less strong, though this can be partially overcome by establishing a ‘branch’.

The above demonstrates that there are alterations in the concept over time and this has led to changes in the way these estates are managed. Such modifications will continue, for example due to the rather isolated geographical position of many STPs, often at the edge of a city. That poses questions about the embeddedness of STPs (and probably also co-innovation parks) in the region. Maybe the region is a better scale: an innovation region with multiple focal points (innovation areas) and a network of companies and institutions which are located in those innovation areas and elsewhere in the region. That poses questions about the way innovation areas and their linkages with the region are organised. It also raises the question whether management at the regional level is needed. And in the next step one has even to consider the global level. Thanks to travel options, telecommunications and the like, regions are included in worldwide networks through the process of globalisation and innovation parks become hubs in the global knowledge network.

This paper will discuss some of these changes, using a simplified model of changing innovation area concepts and changing management activities.

Changing concepts, changing management

Figure 1 sketches the development of the innovation area concept over the past decades, also showing the emergence of innovation districts and the growing interest of embedding these concepts in regional and worldwide networks. It is an ideal-type image which will rarely apply to a specific innovation area. The figure mainly shows that currently much more emphasis is placed on networks and (therefore also) on the regional and worldwide embedding of an innovation area. The more complex these networks are, which is also related to the geographical scale, the more important the management of the ecosystem.

There are many ways to manage a company and there are also many ways to run an innovation area. When analysing management concepts, ownership is an important starting point. A survey of IASP in 2012 (European Commission, 2013; refer to figure 2) shows that the public sector dominates: 55% of STPs in Europe are owned by public parties, mainly local government, public universities and regional government. This can be a mix of public parties. 15% of the STPs are privately owned (private universities and foundations, and private companies) and 31% of the STPs have mixed ownership. In this latter case, local government, public universities and private companies dominate.

Figure 1: Ideal-type development of the innovation area concept and its management Ontwikkleing management

Figure 2: Ownership of STPs in Europe (source: European Commission, 2013)Ownership

The above-mentioned survey by IASP relates ownership to land, sites, infrastructures and buildings. If perceived in such a way managing a STP doesn’t differ from managing an industrial estate or a business park. This focus on the physical aspects of a STP was typical for the first decades of the STP concept, as stated earlier. In that stage, the typical characteristic of a STP was a physical clustering of a certain target group, in this case a group of companies focussing on research and development. During the years the insight grew that the real economic asset of a STP is in the linkages between companies, institutions and a university. The conclusion was that successful STP management needed an extra layer. Management of a commercial estate will focus on infrastructure underground and the surface and will take care of buildings and the built environment figure 3). But the added value of an innovation area is in the ‘software’ as an extra layer. That distinguishes it from a regular industrial site or business park:

  • management of the networks between companies, institutions and a university;
  • management of the facilities for companies, institutions and a university;
  • management of the services for the community (the people who work on the site).

Figure 3: physical and socio-economic layers as individual and interconnected components of an innovation arealagenbenadering

The right section of figure 1 shows the manner in which the management of innovation area concepts has adapted to evolving concepts and the shift from real estate towards the community (to put it briefly). Today many STPs in the western world are ‘halfway’, although many differences exist between countries and regions. There is a focus on creating networks between the parties in the estate and management also takes care of a high-quality environment for the employees to sustain creative processes and to attract and keep a critical and highly educated workforce, the community. When looking at creating the community joint festivities, sports events and having a drink together should help to develop this. Part of this is also the quality of the working environment. Two third of the managers in Dutch science parks stated that due to the scarcity of highly educated personnel a sublime working environment is essential. Although it isn’t a science park, but much more a cluster of media companies, Chiswick Park in London is still one of the most striking examples of creating such a work environment. Although building a community is perceived today as an essential part of an innovation part, the most crucial is creating the networks between companies and institutions. Matchmaking, organising seminars, support with patent applications are all matters which are part of the extensive service package which innovation area management offers.

So, today, there are many different management activities: area and real estate management, network and community management, but also facility management, asset management, etc. All these management activities generally have different stakeholders. This can cause problems. How can these different fields become properly connected and organised in a coherent way? Is it possible to have one organisation that can do business on behalf of all partners? If there is only one owner managing a STP is (relatively) easier, of course. In The Netherlands that is the case with the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. Other STP’s show a somewhat more complex organisation.

Managing STPs in The Netherlands

Although there are many differences one can generally state that many of the Dutch STPs now are in the stage of further developing the community and building networks. The question who manages the STP is relevant here. because in general there are two or more stakeholders. The exception is the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. The starting point for the Philips High Tech Campus were the high-quality laboratories of Philips (NatLab), the trend towards open innovation and the feeling by management that the company had to stimulate the regional economy. This latter aspect had to with the decision by Philips to move their headquarter from Eindhoven to Amsterdam in 1998. In a discussion with the government the idea of an open innovation park came up to compensate for the loss (although only 300 jobs were involved). Initially, the park was managed by Philips, but in 2008 Philips decided to sell the campus to focus on their core business.  In January 2012 Philips established High Tech Campus Eindhoven Site Management B.V. (without the name Philips). This organisation takes care of daily management, including marketing and promotion. In that year a Dutch investor  Chalet Group) bought the campus and today all management activities are still in one hand. However, some specific and unique facilities are still owned and managed by Philips.

New tenants in HTCE get two types of contracts with two organisations affiliated to Chalet Group: a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with HTCE Site Management and a Lease Contract with Calittum HTCE for rent and parking space. The first one overs three types of services: collective obligatory services that are site related (e.g. energy, ICT, infrastructure, etc.); collective optional services if needed; and optional services that are free choice and taken via HTCE Site Management (Curvelo Magdaniel, 2016).

TU Delft Science Park once started in 2005 as a predominantly real estate project by property developers Bouwfonds MAB and ING Real Estate: Technopolis Innovation Park (120 ha). University and municipality took care of the financial aspects of land development, including financial risks. The developers took care of the master plan and the investments needed, would buy the land from the owners and develop the buildings. All parties worked together in a project organisation, but due to the lack of expertise in the development companies the project failed and the university took over. The exclusive cooperation agreement between the landowners of Technopolis and ING Vastgoed and MAB / Bouwfonds was disbanded. Today the university has the lead and is looking for the best form to manage the development. The university also offers space for companies in their own buildings. Municipality and university work together on the marketing of the science park in ‘Delft Technology Partners’.

So far for the involvement of real estate companies. One being successful, but another wasn’t. In the Netherlands property developers are reluctant and if a developer is interested the question often is how to convince investors. It is a niche market and if developers or investors don’t feel comfortable, projects will not start. Even when it is only about buildings it is sometimes difficult to get the project going. Specialisation, however, helps as is shown by the successful developments of Kadans Science Partner. A very interesting aspect is that this developer/investor combines a real estate development with the management of the building, as the building remains in the portfolio of Kadans. Kadans provides a total package of services, including workspace facilities, coaching, advice, financing and access to its network.

To stimulate investments and to make investments easier to get, the Netherlands Investment Institution (NLII) is now organising a fund for science parks and R&D related real estate. Pension funds and insurers can invest directly in this fund.

In the case of the Amsterdam Science Park the estate is owned by municipality and university together, however, it is a patchwork of ownership. The estate of the Dutch Scientific Organisation (NWO) covers the northern part of the science park and has its own park management. Municipality and university sell the available land for the same price. Both took care of the urban master plan, which is supervised by the municipality.

The construction zones are subject to a building code that is characterized by a continuous and varied network 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 isolated jewels in the landscape, the buildings ‘fold’ themselves around the courtyards and interweave with adjacent buildings. In this way, interactivity, knowledge exchange and cooperation among the companies in the area are stimulated. This creates a base for successful social and economic interaction through stimulating a ‘xenogamy’ of various talents, ideas and insights.

Companies that want to establish on the park go to the central organisation which takes care of the first contact. Contracts are handled by the landowners and the municipality checks if the company fits into the profile as described in the spatial plan. Daily management is carried out by the Science and Business Organization of Amsterdam Science Park. This is the central and joint organization of the three founding partners, which are the city of Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam and NWO. These three are in the board of directors and are joint by four other representatives of companies and institutions on the park. The main goal of the S&B organisation is to connect entrepreneurship, education and research and to connect Amsterdam Science Park with its external partners. The main focus points of the management organisation are:

  • acquisition & retention;
  • valorisation & entrepreneurship;
  • corporate communication;
  • functions & facilities;
  • internal & external relations.

It all works well together, but it is said that an improvement can be achieved if the land is in one hand and competencies are concentrated, both preferably within the existing management organisation.

The same ideas can be heard in Utrecht Science Park. Stakeholders are the Utrecht University, the academic hospital and the Hogeschool Utrecht (College). Provincial and local government is also involved but not an owner of building or land. Daily management is carried out by Foundation Utrecht Science Park.

Several parties own the land. That includes parking spaces, but the fares for parking are not synchronised. Interested companies and institutions can have a site on the basis of a land lease. Available land is sold by the university, but in general interested parties start the discussion with the foundation.

In a project carried out in 2016, the joint conclusion was that too many parties were involved in too many aspects of the science park. The ambition is to get a slim and flexible organisation, which will be the existing foundation. The question is, however, which tasks can be handed over, under what conditions (mandate). The joint ambition is

  • a common vision regarding the development of the science park (urban development, economic impact, target groups, growth strategy, etc.);
  • joint park management;
  • joint mobility management;
  • joint parking management;
  • cooperation in offering services to the community;
  • marketing and acquisition of the target group, including a strict admission policy.

In the vision attention has to be paid to the question of how costs, profits and risks can be distributed among the stakeholders. Whatever the organisation, the stakeholders are all customers of the daily organisation (the existing foundation). A  stakeholder analysis it is determined to find out which stakeholders are involved and the degree of the influence they can get.

With regard to the area development, each party retains his responsibilities as currently laid down. Joining forces in this field will be discussed in a later stage.

Looking at Utrecht and Amsterdam it is clear that there is a feeling that the governance of a science park should be organised in such a way that all relevant tasks are carried out by one central organisation. This can be heard in several other places in The Netherlands. Managers involved are very much interested in (rather) simple organisations as have been set up for Oxford Science Park or Surrey Science Park in the United Kingdom. So, during a project for Utrecht Science Park, the question rose: what can be a rather general governance model that takes every stakeholder seriously, but makes one central, coordinating management office possible? How to optimise governance?

Optimalisation of governance

The starting point is that in today’s innovation areas the development of a knowledge network of companies and institutions is essential (including facilities). The same goes for the creation of a community (which is more focussed on personnel, offering services and a top working environment). All together: the ecosystem. Of course one needs also an attractive area and buildings that suit the needs of companies and institutions that are focussed on innovations. This leads to following simple way of reasoning: development strategy à ecosystem à physical development. It cannot be denied that first of all the ‘guests’ in the estate (companies, institutions, university, leading innovative company, others) are central. This leads to the scheme presented in figure 4.

The scheme makes a distinction between the social-economic system (blue) and the physical, spatial system (brown) which creates the conditions for the social-economic system. The two main activities in the social-economic system will be carried out by one organisation, taking care of daily management and strategies and is controlled by a supervising council in which all relevant stakeholders are represented. That includes the stakeholders responsible for the area and the buildings. Now we have to add government. First of all because the plans have to fit into the legal plans of (local) government. Also the university, for example, will have its own policy that can be relevant for the development. Now we have a model that is recognisable in several science parks in The Netherlands (figure 5).

 Figure 4: in search for a governance structure – starting positionOrganisatie 1

Figure 5: The extended schemeOrganisatie 2

Problem is, however, that daily management has no direct control over the physical environment. In many of the Dutch cases this doesn’t hamper the functioning of daily management, although it is often said that it makes coordinated management of the estate less easy and asks for more coordination than would be necessary. Therefore, the next step in the model is to give the ecosystem management organisation the mandate to take care of the area and real estate management Figure 6). To complete the picture we can add the linkages between the central management organisation and external parties that offer financial solutions, which are of great importance for the companies and institutions working in the innovation area. Stakeholders in the Utrecht Science Park are now together exploring the possibilities for such a model.

Figure 6: Final schemeorganisatie 3

New themes in management

The ideas about managing an innovation area have changed over the years. It would be simple to think that it would stop here. New developments are coming up, like serendipity management or changing the introvert character of STPs and co-innovation parks and making these estates focal points in a regional network.

Serendipity management

A new element in managing the networks of an innovation area is creating or stimulating serendipity. Essentially serendipity management comes down to: how can people with different backgrounds be connected and collaborate, to enable new insights and ultimately new products to be developed through “pure coincidence” (= serendipity)?  This may manifest itself in a building in which the concept resembles all kinds of creative workplaces which are popping up all over the place in which flexible, playfully designed spaces with all kinds of facilities and short lease periods are available for creative people, entrepreneurs and others. An example of this in a science park is the NetWork Oasis at the Joensuu Science Park (Finland). This concept will only become truly interesting when the idea of serendipity is combined with a method in which different researchers and product developers with different characters and backgrounds are brought together. This is done via a step-by-step process including training camps and work sessions to build teams, which will then focus on the development of a new product (see Kakko, 2013). This has consequences for the management method, as shown in the table below. Not that this will make project management obsolete. The schedule shows that by including networking, and particularly from the perspective of serendipity, other skills are required from managers and involved parties.

Table 1: Difference between project management and management of serendipity (Kakko, 2013) Serendipity management

Regional embeddedness

A STP can only develop and be successful if it is situated in an innovative region. So, it is logical that a STP, but also other innovation areas, is well connected with its region. An innovation area needs regional embeddedness. An innovation area, in fact, is nothing more than a spatial cluster of R&D related activities within an innovative region. And even than: what is a region when we are talking about innovation? The best innovation areas are or are becoming hubs in large, global networks, thanks to enhanced telecommunication and travel options.

Linkages in the regional network can be established by companies and institutions. Part of the game can be the creation of satellites by an innovation area. As an innovation area has reached the limits of its growth, occasionally “branches” are developed in other parts of the region. One out of three members of IASP already has one or more branches. In The Netherlands none of the innovation areas have branches. In 2016 the Utrecht Science Park was the first one to think about establishing satellites because the park itself is almost fully occupied. A project has been carried out to find out what the best locations are. Two branch types were distinguished:

  • development cluster: applied R&D and development of products based on the results of basic research;
  • testing cluster: laboratories, pilot plants and the like.

After the first selection of 37 locations, 11 were investigated in more detail. 14 variables, grouped in three main dimensions, were used to test the suitability of these possible satellites:

  • (spatial) quality of the location and companies present (availability of sites and buildings, representability of the buildings, availability of services, quality of public space, other companies present);
  • reachability (travel time to Utrecht Science Park by car and by public transport, time to reach a motorway, time to reach a railway station);
  • development potential by local government (legal cooperation, welcoming attitude, willingness to invest, park management, strict admission policy).

To test the stability of the outcomes two sets of weighted variables were used, which had no great impact on the outcomes. Utrecht Science park now starts to use a nearby complex as its first satellite. The other selected sites are under further investigation.

With or without branches, larger regions can have several innovation areas within its borders. An interesting example in The Netherlands is the Eindhoven region (figure 7) which has a mix of co-innovation parks, science parks, university campus, so-called creative factories (a cluster of creative or innovative small firms in an old factory). To profit from such a constellation and in general of an overrepresentation of innovative companies just innovation area management will not be sufficient. Regional management is needed to link innovation companies, institutions and innovation areas. Such strategic regional cooperation between all relevant parties is also a good starting point to link the region to global networks and become a hub in these networks (some information on networks on a higher geographical scale will be presented later on).

Figure 7: Eindhoven region (The Netherlands) as an example of an innovative region with several focal points Eindhoven

Regional cooperation

The combination of different types of innovation areas with regional cooperation between parties involved, has made the Eindhoven region a key player in innovation and in global innovation networks. The Eindhoven region promotes itself as Brainport. Main goal of Brainport management is not the development of innovation areas but is achieving economic growth. The focus is primarily on innovation networks and the business environment that is needed to develop and sustain these networks. There is no direct link between the management of the innovation areas and regional management.

The region is now working on a new strategy: Brainport Next Generation to be able to adapt to new developments. They will move towards a Multi Helix model which also involves citizens, customers, consumers, investors, designers, artists and corporations. It is expected that by broadening the scope faster implementation and an accelerating rate of innovation will be possible. Brainport wants to achieve breakthrough projects and ‘living labs’ will be set up by strong consortiums of innovative companies, knowledge institutions and social partners.

Another example of regional economic cooperation is Science Port Holland which was founded in 2008 and is a regional partnership of the municipalities of Delft and Rotterdam and the Technical University of Delft. Together they worked towards the realization of an attractive business environment within the region Delft – Rotterdam for knowledge-intensive companies. One of the tasks of Science Port Holland was the development of five innovation areas. Today the name of the organisation has changed into InnovationQuarter and there is no longer a focus on developing innovation areas. The focus today is much more on the regional-economic aspects of innovation. “The mission of InnovationQuarter is to strengthen the regional economy by supporting and stimulating the innovation potential of the area. In close cooperation with all major corporations, educational and research institutions – like the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Delft University of Technology and Leiden University – and government organisations, InnovationQuarter supports technological developments, encourages entrepreneurship and invests in start-up companies.”

Hubs in global networks

At the regional level linkages between companies and institutions are easy to establish. Good functioning of regional networks, together with other factors (such as labour market, infrastructure, living environment, etc.) can make a region and its innovation areas a success. Although these regional networks or ecosystems are crucial, most important are the higher-level networks: national and international, which are in first instance determined by the linkages of individual companies and institutions. Information on innovative developments is such a valuable asset that in fact distances do not matter. Today worldwide communication has become so easy that innovation often happens on a global scale. “The innovation activities are becoming borderless, yet interconnected. Thus, the future success of innovation ecosystems is measured increasingly in the abilities of innovation actors (and core organisations) to connect and manage talent, partnerships, clusters and practical innovation processes – in combining the local knowledge base into the global innovation power grid” (Launonen and Vitanen, 2011). In a survey among entrepreneurs established on Dutch STPs 64% acknowledged the following statement: “”If it is about really crucial knowledge for my business, distant is no issue. If necessary, I will travel to the other end of the world to gain this knowledge”.

Results from the same research project seem to suggest that size and constellation of innovation areas seem to play a role in the linkages and the intensity with which an innovation area or a region is taken up in global networks. Leiden Bioscience Park in the western part of The Netherlands is a rather stand-alone development in its region, whereas – as shown before – the Eindhoven region has a number of innovation areas and strong regional cooperation of stakeholders involved. It is interesting to see that the companies in Leiden Bioscience Park are much more interested in global linkages than Eindhoven is, whereas the companies established on High Tech Campus Eindhoven show strong local and regional linkages, demonstrating the strong regional network (figure 8).

Figure 8: the regional focus of companies on two Dutch science parks

Focus eindhoven en leiden

To conclude

It must have become clear that buildings are no longer the main aspect of science parks and – more broadly – innovation areas, but that community building and networking are essential. This distinguishes this concept from industrial parks, business parks and office parks. Which doesn’t alter the fact that ultimately the businesses and institutions located in the innovation areas also need a roof above their heads. In view of this, specific requirements can be placed on buildings, particularly from the desires 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 a science park, it is crucial that the different layers in the social-spatial structure of a science park are recognised and are connected: the infrastructure, the buildings and the networks. This actually makes an interdisciplinary set up of the management team an absolute necessity.

In light of the developments outlined here, it is obvious that new innovation areas should be developed in accordance with a modern plan. This means they are embedded in the regional economy and are part of broadly set up innovation programs. All of that in an attractive spatial setting with real estate which optimally facilitates this specific way of working. This can only be successful if these developments are managed from an integral management philosophy. It concerns not only the management, though also the nature and the design of the buildings, the quality of the surroundings and the possibilities for meetings etc. The older science parks and co-innovative parks are not sufficiently geared to do this. If they want to keep up with the increasingly faster-paced developments in the area of innovations, a physical and functional redevelopment will be required, including a reorientation of the management.

Quoted literature

  • Christiaanse, K. (2007), Campus and the City.
  • Curvelo Magdaniel, Flavia (2016), Technology campuses and cities. A study on the relation between innovation and the built environment at the urban area level. Delft, The Netherlands): Technical University.
  • European Commission (2013), Setting up, managing and evaluating EU science and technology parks.
  • Kakko, Ilkka (2013), The Fundamentals of Third Generation Science Park Concept. Paper for the UNESCO-WTA International Training Workshop, Daejeon, Korea.
  • Launonen, Martti, and Jukka Viitanen (2011), Hubconcepts. Helsinki, Finland.
  • Nilina, Anna; Josep Pique; Luis Sanz (red.): Areas of innovation in a global world. IASP (e-book).
  • Sanz, L. (2016), Understanding Areas of Innovation. In Anna Nilina, Josep Pique, Luis Sanz (red.): Areas of innovation in a global world. IASP (e-book).

 

 

Prof. dr. Jacques van Dinteren, Zjak Consult

The importance of location still cannot be denied

Thanks to the multitude of ways to communicate that are available today, it is sometimes said that distance no longer matters and that – by extension – the geographic location of STPs has become much less important. Nothing could be further from the truth. Surveys among businesses located at STPs demonstrate this. For example, for businesses at Dutch STPs, the proximity of a university, the STP’s geographic location and its accessibility on the regional scale level are still the most important factors. The failure to satisfy these kinds of crucial requirements has jeopardised the success of more than one STP. In some cases there had been no critical analysis of the regional conditions, or those in charge were too convinced of the possibilities of being able to make favourable changes to those conditions, such as accessibility and networking opportunities with other businesses and knowledge institutions. Not all environments are conducive settings for an STP.

If a region has good market prospects for the development of an STP, it is still relevant to ask where exactly the best location is. Site selection compares the available alternatives in terms of various characteristics such as accessibility, environment/landscape, the infrastructure in place (the internet backbone, for instance), the space for future expansion and the proximity of interesting companies and knowledge institutions. From the vantage point of sustainable development, it is also logical to look at the possibilities for (creating) multimodal access and good integration in the landscape. Given the trend to consider STPs an important node in an innovation area, site selection specifically has to provide for a careful integration of STPs in that regional knowledge ecosystem.

Market-based site design: key to success

The target group, functional concept, financial feasibility and functional programme of requirements for the development of an STP can be outlined on the basis of market research. Because STPs usually involve a long development period (up to thirty years even), this requires a specific approach: after all it is virtually impossible to sketch out the market prospects for the next twenty years, for example. The market research for an STP must therefore also explicitly contain an analysis of the region that investigates whether all the conditions imposed by such a development are satisfied.

Our experience has taught that as far as the time horizon is concerned, an in-depth, detailed market research is mainly useful for the medium term. Not many property projects are established in this period however, but a market study gives a first (but nothing more) picture of the feasibility in these early years. In this stage it is important that market research also clarifies the target groups and functional concept. The functional concept describes the STP ‘product’ in functional terms. It is the creative idea that lays the foundation for the design. This has to do with the atmosphere/ambience, ways of working, communication possibilities, spatial quality, etc. Testing should demonstrate that the concept appeals to the target group and will incite them to set up business at the STP.

In our approach market analysis does not stand alone. The exchange of ideas and cooperation between market researchers and designers in developing a vision and concept is unusual, but in our view are precisely the keys to success in achieving a successful plan. In our market studies, the designers and colleagues from other relevant disciplines are involved from the very beginning therefore.

Interdisciplinary site design

“The 21st century science park once again regards the built environment as vital, not as an end in itself but as an aid to the process of creativity, interaction and innovation,” John Allen said during one of the IASP conferences. This calls for new types of buildings, high-quality landscaping and the availability of a great range of services. A design that provides for these new requirements will be a significant success factor for the park. On the other hand, more traditional aspects of a design are still needed, such as safety and security, transport and communication infrastructure, parking facilities, and space for expansion.

It is important to point out here that in our opinion, urban planners are just one of the categories of specialists working on the site design for an STP. A 21st century site design for an STP is not resilient unless it is underpinned by a far broader, interdisciplinary team. Along with a focus on environment and sustainability, market research must be brought into the entire development process in order to share ideas – continually – and create a joint vision from a variety of perspectives or disciplines, which include urban planners, landscape architects, traffic consultants and financial experts.

Because the development of an STP is a long-term project (provided there is a good selection strategy), flexibility in the site design is key, as is stability to secure the return on investments. This means keeping as many options for future development open for as long as possible. The design needs to be organised in such a way that opportunities can be combined right up to the last moment. The core team continually tracks developments that affect the plan, tests the foundation for stability and adjusts the plan if necessary.

Attracting the brains: changing the work environment

The importance of an intelligent design that maximises the chances for innovation, ‘serendipity’ and the exchange of ideas is considered increasingly important by developers, businesses, designers and other parties involved. The line of reasoning in this is as follows: if employees enjoy their work, they work better. If they work better, this positively impacts productivity and creativity. This ultimately leads to better results for companies.

Based on this kind of thinking, a work environment can be created that can benefit the STP’s companies in the War for Talent. Not only in order to generate employees, but also to retain them for as long as possible. A work environment must be created that stimulates the process of creativity, interaction and innovation. A survey we conducted among companies located at Dutch STPs indicated that 69% of them agreed or agreed strongly with the statement that given the increasing shortage of highly educated people on the job market, it is essential that STPs offer these workers an optimal work environment. This means extensive facilities (for instance, shops, hair salons, restaurants and cafés, fitness studios) and an attractively designed STP with recreation options (walking and jogging routes, meeting places, etc.).

The interior design of each building on an STP is largely informed by the need for a pleasant and attractive work environment. The current trend is for employees to collaborate in project- and program-managed working formations where they increasingly connect through virtual meeting points rather than in person on the work floor. This trend is revolutionising our idea of a work environment. A work environment is no longer simply a physical site (i.e. an office with meeting rooms); it may include virtual elements (ICT), as well as more abstract elements (corporate culture and shared beliefs on how to do certain things). Each of these elements is equally important in the creation of an effective and productive work environment, and they are all interdependent.

The need for multi-purpose buildings

Many STPs come with laboratories and cleanrooms. These high-tech spaces have sophisticated and expensive equipment which is often shared by multiple users. Shared use of laboratories and/or cleanrooms requires clear communication lines between users so that security can be safeguarded while innovative experiments are being carried out. Whether the buildings in question belong to small start-ups or to large multinational corporations, it is of vital importance that user requirements be discussed and defined upfront. This is an important step towards ensuring that the requirements for the yet-to-be-built laboratories can be met and that clear boundaries be established with regard to what the various users are and aren’t allowed to do. One way to make appropriate decisions for all parties involved is to carefully weigh one’s choices regarding flexibility and the total costs of ownership (TCO). By doing so, one can establish a well-considered program of requirements that can be used to determine which design criteria the various end users expect to be implemented. Once these steps have been taken, the program can then be used as a guideline in monitoring the design, engineering and construction of the new buildings.