“Isn’t “Innovation Park” just a rebranding of “Business Park”? How is an innovation park any different from a business park?”
This was an audience question that comes up a lot more than one might think. The question is really what is an innovation park and how does it differ from a more traditional business park.
We start with the Studio 30 report, which researched and defined an Innovation Park. They write, “The first question facing Studio 30 was to define a 21st Century Innovation park. The business park concept has been rapidly changing as the market demands new places to do innovative work.”
Studio 30 would conduct an extensive literature review to understand the characteristics of a contemporary business park.
“The Association of University Research Parks (AURP), October 2007 report , A Study of Characteristics and Trends of Research Parks in North America, analyzed basic information, revealed trends and determined the economic impact of 134 research parks in the US and Canada.”
Although Studio 30 focused on Innovation Parks, “there are many similarities between the research park concept and an innovation park located in Davis. Studio 30 found ARUP’s definition of a university research park clear and comprehensive and adopted it.”
It defines a university research park “as a property-based venture,” which has the following components:
- Master-planned property and buildings designed primarily for private-public R&D facilities, high-technology and science-based companies, and support services;
- A contractual, formal, or operational relationship with one or more science-research institutions;
- A role in promoting the university’s R&D through industry partnerships, assisting in the growth of new ventures, and promoting economic development; and,
- A role in aiding the transfer of technology and business skills between university and industry teams.
What we can understand from this definition and explanation is that an Innovation Park is a specific type of business park that focuses on the public-private partnership with research and development facilities focusing on high-technology and science-based enterprise.
A lot this focuses on the nexus between research work at the university and commercial enterprise. For example, the Innovation Park at Notre Dame “is a commercial accelerator that helps transform innovations into ventures ready to enter the marketplace.”
As they explain, “Innovation Park is an essential building block to Notre Dame’s goal of becoming a pre-eminent research university. The Park will provide the means to translate research innovations from the campus to the marketplace, in many different fields. It will also provide new, experiential learning opportunities for students from all colleges within the University.
“Similar parks associated with other universities in the state and around the country have proven to be solid means for inspiring new research, bringing innovative ideas to the marketplace, creating industry-university relationships, and for spurring local economic growth.”
On the other hand, a business park is more generic defined as “an area of land in which many office buildings are grouped together.”
The city of Davis is not looking to bring together a group of office buildings, what Davis is looking to do is closer to what Notre Dame describes, taking research transforming it to the markplace.
As Studio 30 describes, “Innovation centers do not focus on recruiting a particular business or industry but instead try to attract a wide range of businesses whose only similarity maybe that they are innovative or cutting edge. Many centers include incubators for new and emerging companies to nurture cutting edge new technology.”
So to answer the question, no the Innovation Park is not simply a rebranding of a business park. An Innovation Park is a specific type of business park focusing on university research and high technology research that is transferred to the private sector.
Key to this concept is the notion of technology transfer which allows technology that was created during research activities to be further developed into marketable products for the benefit of the public.
The Studio 30 report outlines some key benefits to the university, including the ability to “attract research anchors, such as major national laboratories, major corporate tenants, or centers of excellence.”
These research facilities will help to attract research faculty, they increase the opportunity for the university to commercialize its intellectual property, they offer a place for faculty and students to work with industry, they “foster the type of interaction between industry and universities that is critical for translating research knowledge into new technological inventions.”
Studio 30 writes, “Research parks can bring these varied professionals to a single location and, through shared laboratory space, meeting room, and break facilities, can provide a forum for efficient communication.”
On the community side, we can see the benefits of bringing in high caliber firms, growth in the number of existing and new companies, high salaries for employees, employment growth in the community and region, improvement on the local tax base, and business will provide services to center customers and employers generate additional revenue for the community.
—David M. Greenwald reporting