University-Related Research Parks

By Link, Albert N. | Issues in Science and Technology, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

University-Related Research Parks


Link, Albert N., Issues in Science and Technology


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.

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Wide distribution

States with the most university research activity have the largest number of parks, but this has not been a simple cause-and-effect relationship. State and university leadership has historically been a critical motivating factor for developing parks.

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Key characteristics

Most parks are related to a single university and are located within a
few miles of campus, but are not owned or operated by the university.
About one-half of the parks were initially established with public
funds. As parks have grown, the technologies represented at parks have
expanded, and incubator facilities have been established. Park size
varies considerably. Research Triangle Park (Duke University, North
Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina; 1959)
has 37,000 employees on a 6,800-acre site. Research and Development
Park (Florida Atlantic University, 1985) has 50 employees on a 52-acre
site.

Selected Characteristics of University-Related
Research Parks

Percentage of parks formally affiliated with
  multiple universities                            6%
Percentage of parks owned and operated by a
  university                                      35. … 

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