Real Numbers: University-Related Research Parks

Real Numbers

Albert N. Link

University-Related Research Parks

A university-related research park is a cluster of technology-based organizations (consisting primarily of private-sector research companies but also of selected federal and state research agencies and not-for-profit research foundations) that locate on or near a university campus in order to benefit from its knowledge base and research activities. A university is motivated to develop a research park by the possibility of financial gain associated with technology transfer, the opportunity to have faculty and students interact at the applied level with research organizations, and a desire to contribute to regional economic growth. Research organizations are motivated by the opportunity for access to eminent faculty and their students and university research equipment, as well as the possibility of fostering research synergies.

Research parks are an important infrastructure element of our national innovation system, yet there is no complete inventory of these parks, much less an analysis of their success. The following figures and tables, derived from research funded by the National Science Foundation, provides an initial look at the population of university-related research parks and factors associated with park growth.

Park creation

The oldest parks are Stanford Research Park (Stanford University in California, 1951) and Cornell Business and Technology Park (Cornell University in New York, 1952). Even though by the 1970s there was general acceptance of the concept of a park benefiting both research organizations and universities, park creation slowed at this time because a number of park ventures failed and an uncertain economic climate led to a decline in total R&D activity. The founding of new parks increased in the 1980s in response to public policy initiatives that encouraged additional private R&D investment and more aggressive university technology transfer activities. Economic expansion in the 1990s spurred another wave of new parks.