Research parks are a key component of today’s knowledge economy. Initially conceived in the 1950s as real estate development projects, by the 1990s parks had begun to shift away from recruitment of established technology companies to the support of entrepreneurs and start-ups. University research parks have achieved differentiation within this group, through the promise of engagement with university researchers and access to institutional infrastructure. The challenge facing 21st century university research parks is integrating a broad range of actors and activities—venture capitalists, IP specialists, entrepreneurs, university scientists involved in basic and applied research, engineers, product developers, marketing and sales forces—into a business ecosystem that consistently creates growth and opportunity.
Having worked with university research parks for decades, the SmithGroup team is particularly interested in the design and planning implications inherent in this shift. To better explore these issues, the team met with a group of university research park management and development staff to discuss their successes and challenges. The resulting paper summarizes that roundtable, and suggests how strategic design and planning interventions can create a competitive advantage and continued growth.