Public sector research - core policy instruments - science and technology parks



Science and technology parks are business support schemes offering infrastructure and various support services to high-tech SMEs. They tend to have formal and operational links with centres of research excellence, such as research universities or PRIs, that enable technology transfer, and are viewed as a means to create dynamic regional clusters of innovation. Although science and technology parks vary greatly in scope and size, they have become significant policy instruments for innovation policy in many OECD countries. Consequently, governments often support their creation and development through various financial and fiscal incentives.


Broadly, what activities and outcomes do science and technology parks seek to influence?

Science and technology parks seek to encourage and support the start-up and incubation of innovative, technology-based businesses through the provision of collaborative links with public sector research. Specifically, they seek to influence firms’ technological development by nurturing R&D collaboration and inter-sectoral mobility with public sector research organisations and by providing access to their facilities and expertise. In doing so, they accelerate the transfer of research findings from public sector research to markets.


How do science and technology parks have an influence?

Science and technology parks can help to overcome some of the constraints faced by high-tech SMEs, when seeking to undertake R&D efforts to launch new innovations on the market:

  • Fragmentation and weak or missing linkages are common problems in innovation systems. Science and technology parks can help overcome these problems, agglomerating high-tech SMEs, public sector research and other business support services. Relatedly, they can contribute to the development of a critical mass of high-tech SMEs and the emergence of new high-tech regional clusters.


What factors should be considered when implementing science and technology parks?

Several factors should be considered when implementing science and technology parks:

  • Achieving critical mass in terms of research facilities and staff: successful science and technology parks often require the presence and involvement of large research universities and public research institutes supporting a critical mass of knowledge workers. Where this is weak or absent, science and technology parks might amount to little more than regular real estate ventures, a common fate of many schemes.
  • Availability of public and private funding: the creation and development of science and technology parks require designated and sustained public funding and active private participation, combined with effective public policies to support firms that seek to convert ideas into successful commercial innovations.
  • Wider business environmentIPR regimes need to be sufficiently robust to protect the largely intangible assets owned by tenant firms, while proximity to markets and financing can be highly beneficial to tenant firms.
  • Leadership: leadership and strong commitment are necessary for the creation of science and technology parks. Effective leadership and professional management to facilitate networking among entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, and others within and around the science and technology park are also essential.


Further resources

National Research Council (2009), Understanding Research, Science and Technology Parks: Global Best Practice, Washington D.C.: National Academies Press.

Public sector research

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