The Relationship between Innovation, Campuses and Cities

Lessons about Synergy from the Development of the MIT in Cambridge

In: The Translational Design of Universities

Abstract

In the context of the knowledge-based economy (KBE), tech-campuses can be considered as strategic infrastructure resources to stimulate innovation. Tech-campuses comprise the land and buildings joined or separately developed by universities, Research and Development (R&D) companies and governments and used to accommodate technology-driven research activities (Curvelo Magdaniel, 2016). The science park is the most common type of tech-campuses, but the previous definition refers to a diversity of environments including the campuses of universities of technology and corporate R&D parks.

Since the late fifties, tech-driven research increasingly involves the interaction between universities, R&D companies and governments, which relationship is referred as the concept of the Triple Helix (Etzkowitz & Leydesdorff, 1995). This concept positions these three spheres as crucial in the knowledge society because the potential for innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development resides in their capacity to generate new institutions and social formats for knowledge creation, diffusion and application. Although some of these new formats take place in tech-campuses, it is difficult to demonstrate how the built environment can possibly stimulate innovation. My doctoral thesis explored the relationship between innovation and the built environment at the urban level. It looked at the campus as a physical and functional area that is part of the city. In this sense, the research approach fits very well the “town and gown” component of this book, but with a focus on technology campuses or “campuses that accommodate technology-driven research” as the main activity.

This definition includes campuses of universities of technology but also corporate campuses. Indeed, the main conclusions are derived from the in-depth case studies of the MIT campus (university campus) and the High-Tech Campus Eindhoven (corporate campus). Thus this chapter focuses on the relationship between innovation, campuses and cities using an evidence based approach from the case of MIT.

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