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The Value of a Physical Innovation Community

By August 27, 2021August 31st, 2021No Comments

Different manifestations of the physical innovation community are constantly being introduced: from Research Parks or Innovation Districts to Knowledge Communities. Though each version might be unique, based on the characteristics of the sponsor institutions, physical innovation communities all share common tenets.

The evolution of the innovation community has progressed so much that finding a suitable label may be difficult, but it is the content of what goes on inside the community that matters.

Association of University Research ParksOver the last two decades, The University Financing Foundation Inc. (TUFF) has worked side-by-side with the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) to create a foundation for the value of the innovation community.

AURP is a not-for-profit association with decades of experience and an active membership who have helped colleagues start, grow, refine and inspire innovation communities across the world. The tagline for AURP is “Creating Communities of Innovation” and that is what motivates us and many others within the industry. Ultimately, there is tremendous value in the physical presence of an innovation community where industry, academia and government converge to produce exponential results.

TUFF is an organization with 40 years of experience, which started at the request of a university president to help expand the university’s research enterprise through the development of physical space. Over these four decades, we have gained tremendous insight both in helping many of these communities at every stage as well as learning from others.

From these experiences, we have learned many “best practices” vital to successful innovation community creation and development. Over the next three posts, we will focus on three: Purpose, Place and Activation.

It is easy to establish these at the creation of the community, but it is also important to understand how these might evolve as the community grows and success occurs. Good leadership will reflect often on the importance of Purpose, Place and Activation in their community to stay ahead of that evolution and continue to provide what their community needs. Growing an innovation community is a long-term proposition, which requires constant care and feeding.

Communities of InnovationInnovation communities are critical because innovation is critical. Many reports over the last decade have emphasized the importance of innovation. One study conducted by TEConomy Partners for AURP reflects a key finding that “standards of living can only be improved through innovation, and innovation requires a conducive environment which is almost singularly evident in university anchored research parks.” Thus, for communities or nations of any size to grow and for their citizens to progress, the convergence of actors involved in innovation within a physical community is essential. This has been evident in the scientific community’s rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that advancement isn’t only important in bio and life sciences. Innovation is necessary in all areas of scientific discovery.

On a U.S. national policy level, the recent bi-partisan emphasis on increased spending for scientific research and design via the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act reflects the sense of urgency for America to stay at the forefront of research disciplines and to continue to lead the world in scientific advancement. Most recently, the introduction of the new funding opportunities from the Economic Development Administration also focuses on building strong infrastructure in support of innovation. In the U.S. and around the globe, innovation communities are a microcosm where the best elements of democratic and free market approaches are on display in an ecosystem where government, commercial businesses and academia join forces to solve global problems. Innovation communities are the physical environments where this collaboration can flourish.

A successful innovation community is an inspiration to all other innovation communities. TUFF celebrates these world-class environments of research and innovation, while also offering to lend knowledge to those who desire to enhance their innovation community. There are numerous elements that go into the development of innovation communities, and likewise, multiple ways of measuring success. This series will explore three elements which are foundational to any successful innovation community.

Join us for the second part of this series on innovation communities called “The Value of Purpose.”

The Value of a Physical Innovation Community