CIMR Debate in Public Policy – Science parks and innovation districts: evolution or bedfellows?

On November 1st we held a CIMR Debate to discuss whether science parks and innovation districts coexist or if one is evolving to replace the other. The focus was on understanding their roles and implications for public policy, innovation and regional economic growth.

The debate was chaired by Emma Palmer Foster, who inspired this session with her PhD Research project investigating bioscience parks and how the different stakeholders and owners influence the innovation impact that the bioscience park has on its environment. This is an important question for science and innovation policy and for the location decision of bioscience companies.

The panel featured expert practitioners and academics in the field:

  • Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham; White City Innovation District
  • Dr Josep Miquel Piqué, President of Technova Barcelona – La Salle Innovation Park; President Triple Helix Association
  • Discussant: Åsa Lindholm Dahlstrand, Professor of Innovation, University of Lund

The full recording of the workshop is available here.

Stephen Cowan – Striving for an Inclusive Industrial Strategy

The session started with Stephen, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, who discusses the development of an inclusive industrial strategy for the borough.

Stephen reflects on the challenges faced by the UK in terms of economic decline and emphasizes the need for government intervention to create local ecosystems, drawing inspiration from the German model. He also highlights the importance of collaboration, relationships, and a culture of collaboration in building an economic ecosystem focused on science, technology, engineering, maths, and media. The focus is on creating an environment that fosters innovation and growth, leveraging the strengths of the local area.

He mentions their success in attracting £6 billion worth of growth investment, creating over 8000 jobs, with 85% of them in STEM fields. The White City Innovation District’s unique contribution involves monetizing innovations from the area, leading to significant green climate tech investment.

As a social democratic politician, Stephen expresses a commitment to ensuring that the benefits of this development reach all segments of the community. He discusses initiatives such as investing £180 million in a state-of-the-art Youth Center and implementing a talent management strategy that starts in kindergarten to provide opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds. The overarching goal is to shape a future that is imaginative, inclusive, and contributes positively to the 22nd century.

Dr Josep Miquel Piqué – Navigating the Evolution of Urban Knowledge Ecosystems

Josep Miquel Piqué continued the session emphasizing the evolution from Science Parks to Innovation Districts.

He highlights the historical role of universities in transferring knowledge to the market, leading to the development of science and technology parks. Josep underscores the importance of cities as platforms for the knowledge-based economy and explores the shift towards Innovation Districts, where cities become key assets for both work and life.

He delves into the concept of the triple helix, involving collaboration among government, academia, and industry, and how universities play a crucial role in this ecosystem. Piqué emphasizes the global nature of science and innovation but stresses the significance of the local dimension as a competitive advantage. He discusses the role of startups in shaping the future and the need for a collaborative ecosystem that combines startups and corporates.

Piqué provides insights into Barcelona’s experience in transforming an old industrial area into an Innovation District. He discusses the integration of social and territorial development, the use of city space as a lab, and the inclusion of social dimensions in innovation districts. He concluded with a discussion on key performance indicators for innovation, highlighting the interconnectedness of urban, economic, social, and governmental dimensions.

Overall, Piqué emphasizes the dynamic and evolving nature of Innovation Districts, integrating science, technology, industry, and market with a focus on fostering collaboration, inclusivity, and quality of life for talent.

Åsa Lindholm Dahlstrand – Perspectives on Purpose, Inclusivity, and Urban Scaling

The session ended with Åsa Lindholm Dahlstrand, Professor of Innovation at University of Lund a professor of innovation studies, who raises questions about the purpose and roles of science parks and industrial districts, exploring their compatibility and potential integration. The focus was on whether they serve the same or different purposes and how they can complement each other.

Josep Miquel Piqué Huerta emphasizes the need for both science parks and innovation districts, highlighting that universities play a crucial role in connecting talent, technology, and the market. He discussed the importance of inclusive innovation, incorporating housing as a knowledge-based infrastructure, and the role of innovation districts in connecting with society.

Stephen Cowan contributed to the discussion too by emphasizing the significance of world-class academic institutions in defining innovation districts. He mentions the importance of capturing and monetizing ideas for economic growth locally.

Finally, the discussion delves into the inclusive nature of innovation districts, addressing questions about the involvement of diverse groups, including black, Asian, minority ethnic people, and individuals with disabilities. The participants highlighted the role of municipal and regional government in promoting inclusivity and the challenges of achieving inclusive growth.

The conversation also touched on the philosophical challenges faced by governments in promoting economic and inclusive growth. The issue of scale is raised, questioning how many innovation districts a city can accommodate and where the boundaries lie. The participants share insights on creating an inclusive environment and the role of government in fostering innovation and growth.

We would like to thank again our great panel of speakers and chair for their valuable contribution to this event and to our attendees for being so engaged during the session.

Don’t miss out on our upcoming CIMR Debates sessions during the Spring Term!