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Key To Building Globally Competitive Campus

One of the hottest topics around the world is about campuses and universities that are in transition to be innovation platforms.

The question is: what kind of innovation platforms are being talked about? There are three basic things that are happening nowadays. It is not enough anymore to build nice campuses; it should be for a purpose. There is a need for socio-economic thinking or special considerations for quality of life so that universities are able to provide something to society. One of the areas that we have to focus on is how the private-sector industry expectations have been growing.

Traditionally, universities are places for studying and doing research. But, globally, things have been changing. In the last 5-10 years, pressure on universities has increased in the sense that participation of universities to provide some real results for society are expected.

New concept
This is a fairly new concept for many universities. This concept is something that private-sector companies and society have been expecting from universities and that is why the innovation activities should become much more like everyday thinking, like normal everyday life is conducted. This is where I have collaborated with big international real-estate companies that are heavily involved in construction, in buildings, in urban planning, and in architecture. This collaboration is on this idea: Why is it traditionally so, that we build this innovation environment separate from the normal urban development? I believe that this is one of the most relevant topics today, especially for countries like India where urbanisation is going on, and the people, universities and the private sector are facing several challenges related to sustainability, ecology, etc.

I advocate the idea that, in the near future, these innovation activities can be put in to the normal urban structures, and, as a result, have innovation in everyday life. There is one word for it – connect! The university campuses and science and technology parks need to connect to urban development and transform into functional innovation platforms in cities.

All relevant elements should be put into one picture. And, try not to separate public-sector activities and private-sector activities or academia or incubation centres or creation of new companies and basic education in schools. The idea is to talk about a system and try to encourage all the actors to see the development talents in a rich context.

What is the primary idea behind the triangle? The primary idea is that all the elements that form the triangle are needed to develop an innovation hub. The hub itself can be known by many names like a science and technology park, or a regional innovation centre, or even a private corporate campus. What really matters is ‘how you plan it.’ Creating a plan for such parks and implementing them requires the consideration of all the factors.

The system
What are the various frameworks needed to run the system? The stress is on the fact that certain policy frameworks, physical infrastructure and service structure, and education are essential. Education is a huge area that takes into account everything from K-12 to university to life-long learning and training. Research and development (R&D) is another very important area in both public and private sectors. It all revolves around knowing how to build R&D portfolios, how to protect IPR, and how to commercialise it.

Similarly, cluster policies are extremely important for the growth of the system. This can comprise different types of clusters like industry clusters, regional clusters, national clusters, etc., and the important aspect is that it is essential to consider them. I believe strongly that the different culture testing environments like living labs and business labs. The basic need is for platforms where testing of ideas can be done.

We also need incubation environments, which can vary from entrepreneurial training to pre-incubation, incubation, acceleration, and so on. One of the important aspects of setting up a functional innovation hub is the existence of three different cultural companies, which are start-ups, growth SMEs, and industry-leading anchor companies. The participation of these three cultural companies is important and there needs to be accountability in the process as well.

Even when people have taken the lead to develop these hubs, they have not developed as they should or as desired. There are several examples like the Shanghai Tech Park in Pudong, Shanghai. The Shanghai Tech Park is considered as an excellent urban plan that has been developed over the last 10-15 years and now it hosts over 6,000 internationally renowned R&D centres. So it has helped in the growth and development of the R&D industry. Otaniemi hub in Finland is another example.

The Author

Dr. Jukka Viitanen,
CEO and founding-partner at Hubconcepts Inc., is a recognised scholar in innovation system development and a business practitioner with experience in several high-tech industries in the Asia-Pacific Region. He has conducted extensive studies and evaluations of national innovation systems, science parks, incubation environments and university-industry partnerships for several international clients. In the course of these projects, he developed a portfolio of practical tools and frameworks for organising and managing cross-border alliances, collaborative platforms and innovation value systems


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