Back in the 1980s, when having a mobile phones meant something and hairstyles were, frankly, a fire hazard, the economic landscape was undergoing huge changes. As heavy industries were being lost across the country some universities began to recognise that that the era of the knowledge-based business had arrived and began creating areas where technology based businesses had the right environment to form and grow. Soon the United Kingdom Science Park Association was set up so that universities could pool their resources and guide other institutions who were thinking of setting up similar environments.
The number of science parks has grown from just a handful in the early 1980s to around 100 today.
At the heart of the parks is the relationship between the park and the local research centre or university. The Science Park provides fledgling businesses with a link to the research expertise of local universities as well as help with business management.
A boost to the development of science parks came in the form of the 1998 Government White Paper “Our Competitive Future: Building the Knowledge-Driven Economy”. This paper recognised the challenges coming from low cost economies, innovative processes new technologies. To meet this challenge it stated that the role of business was to:
1)Identify, capture and market the knowledge base that drives all products and services.
2)Turn the scientific and technological knowledge in our universities and research organisations into commercial success.
3) Would-be entrepreneurs need to acquire and adopt a greater understanding of risk and business management skills.
4) Form networks and clusters of excellence to win competitive advantage.
Support all their employees continually to develop their skills and qualifications.
For it’s part, the government’s role was to :
a) Invest in capabilities to promote enterprise and stimulate innovation.
b) Catalyse collaboration to help business win competitive advantage
c) Promote competition by opening and modernising markets.
You can read the paper (which has been preserved in a fairly friendly format at the national achives) here.
Whilst it is difficult to measure the effect of science parks on the overall economy, the fact that the number of tenant companies has increased from 930 in 1991 to nearly 1,700 in 2003.
Science Parks in the East Midlands
There are eight UKSPA member Science parks in the East Midlands, each with a range of fascinating companies on site . .. . .
Lincoln Think Tank
Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park
Newark Beacon Innovation Centre
No.1 Nottingham Science Park (Associate Member)
Nottingham Science & Technology Park
Wellingborough Innovation Centre