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2 Literature Review: The Controversial Definition of SPs

Since the 1930s, when the very first SP was developed around Boston's Route 128, SPs have become an international phenomenon. However, there is not a single and uniformly accepted definition of them (Amirahmadi & Saff, 1993; L€ofsten & Lindel€of, 2002). There are several terms used to describe similar developments, such as research park, technology park, business park, or innovation centre. Allesch (1985) focuses on the difference between research parks, innovation centres and science parks. According to him, in research parks young firms carry on research and development in relatively close cooperation with a nearby university or research establishment. Then, Allesch defines innovation centres as providing new technology-based firms (NTBFs) with an optimum chance of survival and development by offering an extensive range of services, the proximity to universities and the possibility of integration into the local and regional innovation network. Finally, the author describes science parks as an attractive way of locating industries near research establishments. The main limitation of the Allesch's classification is that actually SPs are, more often, a combination of these organisational models. MacDonald (1987) says that these models can be associated both with (a) property-based initiatives close to a place of learning, and

(b) initiatives which provide high quality units in a pleasant environment.

According to the main international associations of SPs–such as the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) and the United Kingdom Science Parks Associations (UKSPA)–a SP (Dura˜o, Sarmento, Varela, & Maltez, 2005):

(1) should be economically sustainable, (2) it should have operational links with universities, R&D centres and/or other institutions of higher education, (3) it should encourage and support the start-ups and incubation of innovative, high-growth and technology based companies, (4) it should stimulate the transfer of technology and business knowledge, and (5) it should be a property-based-initiative. However, Amirahmadi and Saff (1993) stress that the definition of SPs as property-based initiative is particularly vague because it can be confused with other similar business models.

The second aspect suggested by MacDonald–SPs are initiatives which provide high quality units in a pleasant environment–can be interpreted according to the Felsenstein's metaphor of seedbed (1994, pp. 93–94):

implicit in the seedbed metaphor is the notion of the nurturing process that eventually creates an environment for growth. The science park as a seedbed therefore refers to the conditions created to promote innovation [.. .] As such, they are said to create a supportive environment for the development of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

Actually, the worldwide history of SPs shows that they have not always been successful as supportive environments. For instance, Kihlgren (2003) analyses the SPs in St. Petersburg maintaining that they are lacking in collaboration with local industry. Similar results are attained by Ratinho and Henriques (2010) studying the Portuguese SPs. The authors conclude that the SPs contribution to job creation and economic growth is modest. Similarly, Watkins-Mathys and Foster (2006) examine the performance of hi-tech companies situated in science and technology industry parks in Beijing and Shanghai, highlighting the limited benefits of such environments for the national economy. Overall, these results show that the performance of SPs depends on a vast array of social, political and economic factors. However, other researchers have identified successful experiences, in different national contexts.

Starting from a longitudinal comparison between firms on and off SPs in

Sweden, L€ofsten and Lindel€of say that “the park milieu appears to have a positive impact on their firms growth as measured in terms of sales and jobs” (2002, p. 860, my emphasis). No Western countries have documented similar experiences. Vaidyanathan (2008), regarding the SPs in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Malaysia, says that they are successful especially in attracting foreign investment and promoting growth of knowledge-based industries. Similarly, technology parks in India are export-oriented whereas the west SPs lack an analogous attitude. Vaidyanathan argues that SPs as seedbeds have a complementary set of expectations that relates to a spatial perspective, as Felsenstein specifies (1994,

p. 94, my emphasis):

the common ground between the behavioural and spatial conceptions of the seedbed lies in the notion of the seedbed as creating an environment. This environment, while occupying dimensions in geometric space, is not exclusively spatial. It represents a milieu in both the functional and behavioural sense, as well as the geographic.

From a spatial perspective, exogenous factors (e.g., city size, level of urbanization, institutional structures and community characteristics) contribute to nurture and promote innovation, becoming integral components of a seedbed environment. Also endogenous features (i.e., attitude towards knowledge) are crucial for innovation. Both exogenous and endogenous aspects usually influence the performances of SPs orienting their success as a seedbed. The meaning of this metaphor is empowered when combined with the concept of infrastructure.

 
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