Innovation Area Development Partnership

Considerations for science parks to remain competitive

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.

The emergence of innovation districts in the United Kingdom: progress and lessons

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.

Your own industrial innovation campus

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

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

Concept and market orientation; heart and soul of the urban master plan

Studying major urban developments worldwide, we find that successful projects have a clear and convincing concept in common. A concept strong enough to guide the planning and building process and attractive enough to tempt the market to invest. The question is how to generate such a concept. A second question concerns the role of market studies in this concept generation.

Our studies show that some major projects suffer from delays and lack of sales and even bankruptcy due to the lack of a concept for the envisaged urban development plan. Mistakes we found included:

absence of any concept, based on the idea that real estate will always sell;
lack of ambition: too much reliance on strategies from the past (“it worked before”);
no idea about the preferences of the demand side, no awareness of the competition;
a too rigid mono functional concept resulting in a ‘Blue Print’ plan;
a concept consisting of marketing slogans, which are expected to tempt investors;
failing relations (economic, social, transportation) with the surrounding built environment.

Success factors for Science Parks

Innovation is the key word in government plans to strengthen the economic climate. Numerous conditions will have to be created for a successful innovation policy. What cannot be overlooked in this process is the physical environment that businesses need in order to be able to successfully work on new ideas, products and services. These are usually very specific buildings that often require major investments. These could be offices as well as laboratories, clean rooms, small-scale (trial) production units, etc. Buildings that can usually be found at Science and Technology Parks. Science and Technology Parks (STPs) are growing in number and at an increasing pace since the first parks were built in the 1950s. Together with universities and other knowledge institutions, STPs, and especially the businesses established there, play a crucial role in the progress of science and the economy. These specialised business parks have become an essential part of local and regional innovative ecosystems.