In this paper, we focus on the role of universities in innovation districts. Regarding the growing interest in innovation districts, the question arises if an innovation district can do without a university. Or, the other way round, can a university campus be a good starting point for an innovation district? Can an innovation district be successful without a university? In which way can a university function as a catalyst in innovation district development?
The outcomes of research and recent developments suggest that it is relevant to have a university or an annexe of a university in an innovation district, as distance does matter. However, there are yet no hard research outcomes that make it clear that the success of an innovation district is dependent upon a university. Apart from that, the cases described here, in short, suggest that the establishment of a university or annexe can help the development of an innovation district by creating trust and contributing to a positive image of the development.
The ‘campus’ is a phenomenon of increasing relevance to modern urban planning. In Europe, universities are reconsidering their position in society and taking on extensive reorganisations and expansions of their physical structures. The postwar university campus as an isolated community of scholars is subject to thorough revision. In Asia, on the other hand, new campus-style universities are shooting up like mushrooms. Global companies build campus-style factory sites for their international headquarters or for their research-and-development departments. The controversy over the desirability of openness and interaction with the urban environment versus the increasing popularity of the ‘gated community’ and restricted access, demonstrates the need for a radical debate on the shape and the position of the campus in relationship to its context.
Any services and knowledge economy includes numerous innovative companies and institutions that are engaged in research, data, knowledge and information and the acquisition and transmission thereof. For a large number of these organisations an office location is sufficient. However, when it comes to basic research – especially in terms of beta disciplines – there are often more stringent requirements. With a view to cooperation opportunities, appearance and work environment quality, some of these companies have a need for specific job site concepts that capitalize on these aspects, such as science parks and industrial campuses. Moreover, the past two decades have seen the rise of new concepts that will discussed in more detail in this paper.
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.
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.
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.