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UK Science Park Association

The UK Science Park Association is dedicated to raising the standards of science park provision



Science Parks are also known as Research Parks, Technology Parks, Technology Centres, Technopoles, Innovation Centres, Technology-based Incubators and Bio-Incubators.

It is possible to name a property development a ?science park? even if there is no technology transfer or support for tenants. The UK Science Park Association?s (UKSPA) role is to support the maintenance of high standards of science park provision in the UK through initiatives for members that help them to develop their know-ledge and understanding, grow their networks and share good practice.

UKSPA aims to raise the standards of science park provision through an inclusive membership policy and improvement of membership services to ensure that the brand of science park in the UK is maintained as a distinct property and business development offering, not just a real estate initiative.


Innovation locations supporting high-tech companies such as Science Parks and Incubators offer a specialist product to high-tech companies. From a property perspective the fact that the market is specialist has meant that property companies in the 1980s and 1990s had to make a positive choice to invest time and money to developing knowledge of the sector. Those companies who, for what ever reasons, chose to invest, are key stakeholders and key players in the science park movement today. The majority of these companies are members of UKSPA.

However, the story did not start with property, but rather with the process of ?commercialisation?, whereby a discovery made through research can, given the right business advice, be developed into a start-up company able, over time, to generate income from the commercialisation of the idea. 1986 was the year when universities were given ownership of the intellectual property generated within their institutions. As companies began to spin out of universities and the private sector, it became obvious that there was a need for physical space to support them.

The public sector, in the form of Local Authorities, Regional Development Agencies and Devolved Administrations, initially viewed science park developments as property developments. Public sector funds have been invested in capital build in an effort to provide the facilities required to retain or grow commercial activity within a particular region. By the turn of the century, the public sector recognised that this was not enough and so incubation policies were created that recognised the value of an incubation support process. The debate over the value of a ?process? strategy over a ?property? strategy ensued. Would a focus on process rather than property be the answer?

Analysis has shown that a focus on process alone was not sufficient. A new strategy merging the two elements of property and process has already emerged and hopefully will be increasingly evident in RDA and Devolved Administration enterprise and innovation strategies in the coming years. Science parks continue to recognise the value of support mechanisms for their tenant companies, and also regard the presence of an incubator service as a way to attract new companies to the area. At the same time, it has become clear that successful incubator tenants require grow-on space. So what was once a clash of ?property? versus ?process? is now emerging as a new era of property-process-economic development-partnership.

Facts and Figures

  • Estimated annual turnover of tenants: £5.5bn
  • Floor space: 1.88 million sq m
  • Number of employees: 73,000
  • Number of tenant companies: 3,300
  • Number of locations under development: 8
  • Number of locations supporting tenants: 71


In the 1990s, partnerships between universities, the private sector and the public sector were rare and, where they existed, they were not necessarily effective. Today, many science parks are made up of partners from all three key sectors, all bringing their skills and agendas to the table. Analysis of the formative years of partnership working in the sector revealed that there was a need for improved communications between partners by recognising the occurrence of miscommunication resulting from the differing cultures and expectations of the three sectors. Many of UKSPA?s Business Affiliates involved in science park developments start with partnership development work, which in their view is critical.

Given the right property, partnership and process, how should the product be managed to best effect? It was during the first half of the ?noughties? that the results of many different and disparate analyses started to reveal some of the critical success factors.

This is the beginning of a new stage in the science park evolution and UKSPA?s role is to support its members who are operating in this arena and are beginning to benefit from these new insights and developments. Recently, there has been much comment and debate regarding ?third generation? science parks. ?Third Generation? (3G) science parks are recognised as an integral part of the infrastructure that supports the growth of regional research intensive clusters (RICs).

Suporting Commercialisation ? Science Parks and Incubators

1. Commercialisation of IP - 1980s
2. Science Park properties - 1980s
3. Economic development issues - 1990s
4. Incubation - 2000s
5. Partnership - 2000s
6. Models of success - 2007

The extent of the impact of science parks on their regional knowledge economy is governed by factors outside their control, such as the calibre of research in their local university, the attractiveness of their city or region to the most talented people, the availability of risk capital throughout the lifecycle of technology-based businesses and the efficiency of local networks connecting players in the triple helix of business, academia and public sector. In short, building a science park in a region won?t necessarily guarantee the emergence of a RIC, but it?s quite difficult to identify one that doesn?t have a successful science park.

The most obvious contribution of science parks to the innovation system is physical ? they provide a variety of often specialised accommodation on flexible terms. Certainly in the initial stages of cluster development, private developers won?t take the risk of building speculative laboratories or data centres for an unproven market. Even in more mature markets, there need to be innovative public/private sector partnerships to fund the provision of innovative facilities to small companies with limited cash and a short trading history.

In some cases, shared technical resources can be provided to all tenants by science parks. Examples of this include expensive software development platform technology, clean rooms or sophisticated testing equipment. At the opposite end of the scale, the UK government is supporting the development of science parks around Daresbury and Harwell, recognising that major national science facilities should be accessible to high-tech firms ? start-ups can?t afford their own synchrotron.


A less tangible but equally important contribution by the science park is often one of image and brand. The global competition between regions for talented people and innovative firms is fierce, and a successful science park bestows an added advantage to a region that is trying to develop its knowledge economy through foreign direct investment.

The image of a science park can also act as an attractor to talented individuals whose concerns are not just the first job offer but subsequent ones for them and their partners. A third area where 3G science parks play a role in the innovation system is in acting as a focus and stimulus for the multiplicity of networks that are integral to their success.

Sometimes described as ?optimising serendipity?, science park management involves creating opportunities for interaction between the key players ? entrepreneurs, academics and investors. This may be achieved through social or professional events organised by and held on the park premises but it is also a guiding principle in building design ? using space to encourage innovation.

So, today?s science parks and technology-based incubators are critical ingredients for a successful ?knowledgebased economy?. They provide:

  • A focus for entrepreneurial talent
  • Support for high-tech businesses
  • A link between businesses and universities
  • Specialist offices and laboratories
  • Flexible tenancy agreements
  • Bespoke business support at all stages of company development.

As to the future of science parks, well, nothing is certain. The economy has begun to slip into a suspected recession where capital is increasingly difficult to access as financial institutions attempt to recover from poor lending decisions in the property sector.

We have no real feel for the extent or nature of this economic downturn, but one thing is clear ? investors of any nature will be looking very carefully at their returns from their investment in technology-based firms. Today, there is no better place to locate a firm wishing to undertake research or develop a new technology, and UKSPA members are seen to be providing the safest environment in the country for this type of firm.

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Formally opened in 1975, the 152-acre Cambridge Science Park site is home to more than 90 companies, renting premises from 500 sq ft to 120,000 sq ft. With the choice of purpose-built units on occupational or ground leases and smaller multipurpose premises on flexible agreements, it has proved an ideal location for companies both large and small.

The Cambridge Science Park Innovation Centre, opened in 2005, is typical of the flexible and practical approach to letting arrangements that has allowed early stage companies to grow and flourish according to their particular circumstances. The changing nature of the high-tech sector has been reflected over the decades in the make-up of companies and organisations on Cambridge Science Park, which now include pioneers in dynamic new fields such as mobile communications, genomics, nanotechnology, photonics and materials science.

Some companies, such as Cambridge Consultants, have spun out new ventures, which have also established themselves on Cambridge Science Park. Others, such as CSR and Xaar, have launched on global stock markets. Industry- leading names such as GSK and Toshiba have situated key research and development centres on the site.

The success of the many companies that have grown and developed on Cambridge Science Park has given the site an international reputation for world-leading technology transfer that is invaluable in both attracting talent and building reputation. Abcam, an online provider of research-grade antibodies and one of the Park?s most exciting recent success stories, is one of many companies that values the prestige attached to a Cambridge Science Park address.

?The original thing that drew us here back in 2000 was the Cambridge Science Park brand,? says Managing Director Jim Warwick. ?As a company, it means that you are more likely to be taken seriously.?

This oft-mentioned kudos looks certain to be maintained as Cambridge Science Park continues to grow and evolve to accommodate the hi-tech high fliers of the 21st century. Building 101 is a £17m, 80,000 sq ft new-build office and R&D building, which opened in June 2008 and has already attracted Dutch electronics giant Philips and well-known software solutions company Citrix. And Napp Pharmaceuticals, home to one of Cambridge Science Park?s most iconic buildings, has recently pre-let three new buildings from Trinity College.

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Set in 250 acres of open parkland, Chesterford Research Park provides a secure and relaxed working environment, served by state-of-the-art conferencing facilities, a gym, award-winning restaurant, a seven-hole par-three golf course and excellent communications to London, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. This continues to attract leading R&D companies and increase the pool of skilled labour. On completion, the Park will comprise 600,000 sq ft of R&D facilities within a low-density, landscaped environment.

US-based Illumina Inc, one of the world?s leading developers, manufacturers and marketers of next-generation life-science tools and integrated systems, is establishing its new European headquarters at Chesterford, having taken a pre-let of the Gonville Laboratory. Illumina?s new HQ will provide 41,500 sq ft of laboratory space, built to shell and core specification with 113 car parking spaces. Companies already in occupation include Pfizer, Isogenica Ltd, Biofocus DPI, Biolauncher, Biotica, Cellzome, Medivir, UKSPA, Cellcentric and Cambridge Healthcare & Biotech.

Another landmark development known as the Emmanuel Laboratory is currently being fitted out ready for Pfizer, the world?s biggest pharmaceutical company, to move in. In a major deal, signalling expansion in its Cambridgebased drug delivery research activities, Pfizer has leased two buildings at Chesterford Research Park, totalling some 52,000 sq ft, as it extends its R&D operations at the Park.

Biotechnology company Cellzome and Isogenica Ltd, developer of innovative molecular evolution technologies, have both taken space in Chesterford?s Mansion House development, which was initially developed to capitalise on demand for smaller office/lab space required by startups and growing companies.

Drug-discovery company Cellzome is working on a new generation of kinase-targeted drugs to treat inflammatory diseases. The company is expanding due to its recent collaboration with pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline, and moved its UK headquarters to Chesterford in response to a number of clear business objectives. The new location allows Cellzome the opportunity to engage partners from new, bespoke premises developed to its own specification and has allowed it to draw experienced chemists from the local skill base to the company. It also reduced senior management time spent on property issues.

Isogenica outgrew its previous location due to the company?s expansion since it was founded in 2000. It required high-quality labs combined with office space. Chesterford provided a fantastic location with state-of-the-art facilities and good transport links.

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Added the 30 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1

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