How to build a 21st Century Science Park initiative to grow a University

Why a University needs a business driven science park initiative to succeed in its core mission

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Jonathan Burroughs
Creative Places

Outcomes and impact of the case
In looking at outcomes and impact I propose to focus on three locations in the UK and then look at how the University of Warwick is using this information to think about a whole new approach to its science park initiative in 2016/17.

The ideaSpace initiative has proved to be very successful and the management team is now working to establish its third centre in the city - each catering to a sector that has links to the activity in the locality. A medical based centre is due to open at Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Funding for businesses coming through ideaSpace has come from the likes of Innovate UK, the government's body working under the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to boost the country's innovation. One of its businesses, by way of example, Audio Analytic, has won an award in a worldwide competition to recognise the best innovations in engineering, science and technology. The company won the Consumer Electronics Technology section of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Innovation Awards for its sound recognition technology in 2014.

All of this helps lift the University of Cambridge's appeal to prospective students and researchers alike. They know that there is a support infrastructure developed to help them explore business ideas and learn from their peers on how best to progress such activity.

A new strategic head of property has been appointed by the University of Cambridge to consider initiatives that may help the university achieve its wider objectives. Whilst it is early days we believe that delivering adaptable space for associated industry, working with faculty, will be a key component of a strategic plan.

The White City initiative helped Imperial College secure the physical location of the London node of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology’s (EIT) ICT Laboratory. This initiative involves ICL, UCL, the University of Edinburgh, the Institute for Sustainability, Intel, BT, Vodafone and IBM. Thus it has created great opportunity for enhanced collaboration and activity on its own doorstep.

In terms of new development the College was able to secure £35 million into its Research and Translation Hub initiative and secure £40 million from one of its alumni for a Biomedical Engineering Centre alongside.

Into the future it is likely that Imperial College will seek more evidence on the benefits that it may receive from further investment in real estate for third parties. More will need to be done to research this topic.

Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP) now claims to be the UK's largest science park operator with five sites across the North West of England. It has now evolved its operation to being 'a home to a community of scientists, innovators, investors and entrepreneurs.

Proving that Manchester has a 'can do' attitude and that the community works very effectively brings with it opportunity to win many grants, awards and industry partnerships. In September this year it has just secured £28.5 million and granted Biomedical Research Centre status by the National Institute of Health Research.

The University of Warwick has developed one of the largest and most progressive science park initiatives in the UK over the last 30 years. It runs significant business support programmes that reach out into the wider Midlands area in which the University sits and it operates a number of innovation centres beyond its main science park campus.

However, the University of Warwick has just commissioned a full, independent report to investigate the University and suggest a long term vision and strategy to support the University's role in its local/regional area. There are leadership, partnership and citizenship dimensions to the recommendations and the new Vice Chancellor of the University very much believes that the University will benefit from a much stronger participation in these areas. He believes that the university's science park initiative should be revisited on a wholesale basis so as to understand how it might best adapt to these new agendas. Creative Places is appointed to work with it and by February 2017 will have up-to-date thoughts on the matter.

This presentation helps set the scene and there are many questions still to be addressed into the future. The issue of how a university can fully quantify the benefits that can flow from investing in a science park initiative remains to be answered.

Universities also need to work hard at ensuring that their systems and people are geared up to support ever greater industry engagement that a science park initiative can create opportunity for. Businesses are very able to see how any particular university can deliver added value and without confidence that this element of the business proposition is sound a science park initiative may fail to deliver to its full potential.