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date: 21 April 2018

Geographic Proximity and Science Parks

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance. Please check back later for the full article.

Science parks, also called research parks, technology parks, or technopolis infrastructures, have increased rapidly in number as many countries adopted the approach of bringing together in park research-based organizations. A science park’s cluster of research and technology-based organizations is often located on or near a university campus. The juxtaposition of ongoing research of both the university and of the park tenants creates a two-way flow of knowledge; knowledge is transferred between the university and firms, and all parties develop knowledge more effectively because of their symbiotic relationship.

Theory and evidence support the belief that the geographic proximity that a science park provides for the participating organizations creates a dynamic cluster that accelerates economic growth and international competitiveness through the innovation-enabling exchanges of knowledge and the transfer of technologies. The process of creating innovations is more efficient because of the agglomeration of research and technology-based firms on or near a university campus. The proximity of a park to multiple sources of knowledge provides greater opportunities for the creation and acquisition of knowledge, especially tacit knowledge, and the geographic proximity therefore reduces the search and acquisition costs for that knowledge.

The clustering of multiple research and technology-based organizations within a park enables knowledge spillovers and, with greater productivity from research resources and lower costs, prices for new technologies can be less and stimulate their use and regional development and growth. In addition to the clustering of the organizations within a park, the geographic proximity of universities affiliated with a park matters too. Evidence shows that a park’s employment growth is greater, other things being the same, when its affiliated university is geographically closer, although evidence suggests that effect has lessened in the 21st century because of the information and communications technology revolution. Also stimulating regional growth, university spin-off companies are more prevalent in a park when it is geographically closer to the affiliated university. The two-way flow of knowledge enabled by clusters of research and technology-based firms in science parks benefits firms located on the park and the affiliated universities.

Understanding the mechanisms by which the innovative performance of research and technology-based organizations is increased by their geographic proximity in a science park is important for formulating public and private sector policies toward park formations because successful national innovation systems require the two-way knowledge flow, among firms in a park and between firms and universities, which is fostered by the science park infrastructure.