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Part II Case Studies

The VEGA-VEnice GAteway for Science and Technology Park: Is It a Generative Infrastructure?

Michela Cozza


Most literature has analysed Science Parks (SPs) as an economic space. However, I propose to analyse them as a relational place where knowledge and productive processes are intertwined. Applying the concept of infrastructure–as defined in Science and Technology Studies (STS)–this chapter is devoted to understanding if SPs are generative infrastructures which enact innovation. This concept is related to the seedbed metaphor meaning an environment where innovation can grow through convergence between people and things. This theoretical framework will frame the analysis of empirical data collected from my qualitative research on Italian SPs, conducted from 2011 to 2013. Precisely, I will present the case-study of VEGA-VEnice GAteway for Science and Technology and the failure of its project regarding the construction of the smart building Pandora. The case-study embodies common dynamics of Italian SPs, and it contributes to addressing challenges for future research.

1 Introduction

Science Parks (SPs) are an international phenomenon, however few academic studies discuss their performance from a sociotechnical perspective, analysing how social and material aspects are interrelated in generating innovation (Orlikowski, 2007). Theory about SPs is usually an inventory of their typologies, causations and outcomes. In this chapter I will present the case-study of an Italian SP, shedding light on aspects that influenced its capability to generate innovation.

Firstly, I will review the literature about SPs, and I will compare and contrast their definition with the concept of innovative milieus as discussed in this book. The metaphor of seedbed will support my reasoning. Then, I will pinpoint my analytical framework for interpreting the empirical data. The concept of infrastructure, as conceptualised in Science and Technology Studies (STS), will orient my understanding of SPs as possible innovative milieus. I will interpret innovation as a dialectical accomplishment enacted by a process of convergence between different actors. An ecological approach will be applied to the presentation of my case-study that is VEGA-VEnice GAteway for Science and Technology. Telling the history of this Italian park, I will shed light on the failure of its innovative Pandora project, managed by the past Director of VEGA, Michele Vianello. This story is meaningful to understanding the relationship between the process of infrastructural disalignment between heterogeneous actors and the generativity of innovation. My discussion is meant to be suggestive, rather than conclusive but, finally, it shows the possibility to extend the infrastructural framework to the understanding of the process of innovation within SPs. In the final remarks I will combine the previous concepts, addressing future research on SPs.

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