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Demand-oriented Science and Technology Parks: a New Tool for Innovation Policy

In: Triple Helix
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Sepehr Ghazinoory Tarbiat Modares University Tehran Iran

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Leila Khazdoozi Islamic Azad University – Roudehen Branch Tehran Iran

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Masoud Afshari-Mofrad Macquarie University Sydney Australia

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Abstract

Economic policies have largely tried to impact the development of innovations from the supply side. However, demand-side policies have received more attention in recent years. Science and Technology (S&T) parks have traditionally been a supply-side innovation policy instrument and have not always been successful in achieving their goals. This study conducts two surveys and constructs two S&T park management models based on the survey results. One survey includes 64 Iranian S&T park experts and managers and the other survey includes 31 S&T park experts from 17 countries. These models conform to the third generation of S&T parks. In terms of innovation policy, they are leaning towards demand-oriented policies and are expected to be more effective than supply-oriented models. The results showed that ownership, funding sources, incentives for tenants and linkages of S&T parks should move from supply-side models to demand-side models.

1 Introduction

The science park notion was introduced in the 1950s with the aim of offering an “infrastructure of technical, logistic, administrative and financial” assistance to newly established firms to help them find a foothold in the increasingly competitive market (Guy et al., 1996). About six decades after their first emergence at the Stanford University, Science and Technology (S&T) parks have proliferated throughout the world (Albahari et al., 2019). S&T parks (STP s) are a component of national innovation systems and can play an important role in covering weaknesses in the innovation system. Some studies claim S&T park initiatives have failed to seed and nurture new technology-based firms (NTBF s) or facilitate technology transfer but others highlight value-added from S&T parks (Albahari et al., 2019).

The development and diffusion of innovations has been the driver of economic development and different policy instruments have been used to stimulate innovation. In the past, policies were focused on the supply side of R&D and innovation but in the past three decades a problem in the European countries and especially

Sweden has been low commercialization rate of R&D results. This has been called the “European” or “Swedish paradox”. This situation was brought to the attention of the European Commission, leading to the assignment of a group of experts tasked with investigating and analyzing the state of in European countries. The outcome of their efforts was published in 2006 under the title “ESCO Report.” This report highlights a significant factor contributing to the low success rate in commercialization: a predominant focus on supply-oriented policies, with insufficient attention given to demand-oriented policies in European countries. Consequently, despite dedicating 2.5 to 3.5% of Europe’s GDP to research and development, the level of commercialization and success in innovation did not align with these figures. This discrepancy was rooted in the dysfunctional or inadequate consideration of demand-oriented policies. In essence, the Swedish paradox views the disparity between research and development and GDP as a phenomenon affecting the entire economy (Aho et al., 2006; Ejermo et al., 2011). Demand-oriented policies use different tools such as public procurement, standards and regulations, and promoting private demand in order to increase the demand for innovative products. In other words, governments try to create market for innovative activities instead of direct support of innovators and entrepreneurs. For instance, facilitating R&D activities and investing in technology development infrastructures are supply-side policy tools while subsidizing innovative products is a demand-oriented tool (Mohseni Kiasari et al., 2017).

The supply-oriented tendency of S&T parks has led to less attention to commercialization and marketing of products and poor economic results despite large investments in S&T parks. These problems led to the formation of second and third generation parks that pay more attention to demand-side policies.

A similar situation applies to Iran. Iran has been successful in increasing national scientific and knowledge output but there are problems in the adoption. S&T parks have had government support with the aim of meeting technological needs of the country. So far, Iranian S&T parks have been unable to meet the needs of the industry and create wealth for the nation. Most of the products developed in S&T parks do not have a market. Most of the Iranian parks have failed to generate acceptable income and attract private investments. Government support has been taken for granted and income generation has been given less attention. Since few studies have been conducted on this issue and with the lack of domestic market for most high-tech products, S&T parks have not met their goals.

Therefore, it can be acknowledged that science and technology parks in developing countries, specifically in Iran, the focus of this research, have predominantly functioned as a supply-side policy tool. Simultaneously, there has been limited attention given to addressing the industry’s demands. The significance of this issue becomes more apparent when considering that demand-oriented S&T parks offer the opportunity for technology companies to align their efforts with meeting the technological needs of their country. Furthermore, the industry sector encounters fewer restrictions in acquiring the necessary technology. Hence, there is a compelling need to shift the perspective on the management of S&T parks towards a demand-oriented approach. However, in previous studies, the factors influencing the role of demand-oriented parks as a key tool for realizing demand-oriented policies have received insufficient attention. Despite the importance of this matter, the extant literature has yet to explore the effective factors on the development of the new generation of science and technology parks, specifically those that are demand-oriented.

In order to fill this gap, this study aims to assess the tendency of experts toward functions and characteristics of demand-oriented STP s. Building on this, the central question of the current research is: What factors influence the development and establishment of demand-oriented science and technology parks?

To address this question, the second part of the article delves into various main sub-sections. We will explore demand-oriented policies in comparison with supply-oriented policies, elucidate the definitions and functions of science and technology parks, and examine existing generations of policies. Additionally, the article will discuss the demand-oriented perspective and the triple helix approach in guiding science and technology parks, assess the current status of science and technology parks in Iran, and culminate in the development of research hypotheses.

The third part of the article outlines the research methodology, offering a comprehensive explanation of the process involved in two extensive surveys. Moving on to the fourth section, a proposed model for demand-oriented science and technology parks is presented, drawing insights from two groups of experts. Finally, the fifth and sixth sections engage in a discussion and draw conclusions regarding the most significant research findings, along with presenting policy proposals.

2 Literature Review

2.1 Supply-oriented and Demand-oriented Policies

Over the past few decades, governments have increasingly acknowledged innovation as a pivotal tool in their policy agenda, recognizing its potential to drive economic growth and address social and environmental challenges. Innovation policy encompasses a diverse array of initiatives, characterized by a complex structure. While policies impacting innovation have been in effect for centuries, the term “innovation policy” gained widespread usage in the mid-1990s. The significance of this policy type has surged in recent decades, aligning with the growing role of innovation in the knowledge-based economy.

Traditionally, innovation policy initiatives have predominantly leaned towards the supply side. Numerous countries have actively employed supply support tools, including financial aid, training support, public funding for research and development, information support, and networking measures. In essence, there has been a prevailing belief that ensuring a robust supply will naturally generate sufficient demand. However, this perspective is a misconception, stemming from a disregard for the demand side or the market (Edler, 2010).

In many instances, even with well-executed supply efforts and the successful launch of innovative products, users in both the public and private sectors may not embrace the product as expected. Discussions highlighting the positive effects of demand-side innovation policies have been ongoing since the late 1970s. After a period of neglect and stagnation, recent years have witnessed a resurgence of interest in demand-side innovation policies. These policies encompass a set of measures designed to bolster the demand for innovation, aiming to facilitate the absorption of innovation, enhance the identification and recognition of market demand, and expedite the overall adoption of innovative solutions. Moreover, in the new generation of demand-oriented policies, there is an increased focus on addressing social challenges. Policies centered around demand and challenges have also emerged in this evolving landscape (Boon and Edler, 2018).Edler & Georghiou (2007) have enumerated diverse demand-side policy tools, including private sector demand support, government procurement, regulation, and systemic policies. The new generation of demand-based science and technology parks can also be considered as another demand-oriented policy tool. Through the establishment of these S&T parks, national and local governments aimed to support innovative small and medium-sized companies, encouraging them to innovate by offering a range of services. This article seeks to demonstrate that science and technology parks can also function as a tool to stimulate the demand for innovation.

2.2 Definition and Functions of S&T Parks

Science and technology parks have undergone continuous evolution, with a broader mission today than 40 years ago when the first parks were established. In essence, they not only provide procedural business development recommendations but are also deeply integrated into the regional economic context. This integration involves attracting talents to the region, offering an expanded array of services for companies (including support for entrepreneurs and their families), and serving as meeting places for individuals beyond the park’s workforce. Therefore, these transformations should be considered when developing and implementing a modern science park (Cadorin et al., 2017).

There are a variety of definitions for S&T parks. Most popular definitions are form three professional bodies: the United Kingdom Science Parks Association (UKSPA), the Association of Universities and Research Parks (AURP) and the International Association of Science Parks (IASP) (Gyurkovics and Lukovics, 2014). The IASP definition is broader and more encompassing. According to IAPS, a park is an organization with professional management aiming at wealth creation through innovation and competitiveness of its associated business entities. This is enabled by encouraging knowledge flows between universities, R&D institutions, companies and markets, facilitating the creation of new innovative companies and offering value-added services (Albahari et al., 2019; Sofouli and Vonortas, 2007).

Four elements can be identified in the definitions of S&T parks: geographical proximity, encouraging knowledge creation and knowledge transfer, and incubating new ventures. These elements help identify four functions of S&T parks for the regional economy. 1) the technology transfer function supports the diffusion of advanced technologies; 2) the knowledge creating function encourages innovation; 3) the “seedbed” function which creates a special environment and 4) the incubation function helps create new innovative businesses (Gyurkovics and Lukovics, 2014).

2.3 Generations of S&T Parks

The Stanford Research Park established in 1951 is considered as the first S&T park in the world. In the

1960s and 1970s S&T parks were adopted slowly but the real growth started in the 1980s. There were over 270 parks worldwide by 1990 and by the year 2000 the figure reached 900 (Zhang, 2005). S&T parks that formed in the 1980s and before that are considered to be the first generation of parks. This generation is known as the push factor STP s which mostly rely on government supports (Yi, 2012). The second generation of parks were formed in the 1990s (Martinez-Canas and Ruiz-Palomino, 2011) and this generation is called market driven STP s. The third-generation parks are developed in the context of regional integration (Yi, 2012). Table 1 compares three generations of parks.

As shown in Table 1, STP s are going from supply-oriented to demand- oriented and interactive bodies.

Table 1
Table 1

Three generations of S&T parks (adapted from Gyurkovics and Lukovics, 2014)

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

2.4 Demand-oriented Policies and the Need to Establish a Balance with a Triple Helix View

Economic policies have traditionally tried to impact the development of innovations from the supply side rather than demand side. However, in recent years demand-side policies have received more attention. The demand side is important in the innovation process by bringing in the users of innovations and is crucial in areas of pure public good innovations such as clean air with weak demand side. Public procurement is an example of demand-side instrument that fits these situations (Borrás and Edquist, 2013).

Demand-side innovation policy measures can be divided in to four groups (Edler and Georghiou, 2007):

  • Systemic policies create a discourse between users and consumers that helps communicate demand.

  • Regulation and standards are the other group of policies. These can set targets for technology development.

  • Public procurement is another category of incentives that can take different forms such as general emphasis on innovation in procurement policies and strategic procurement that encourages demand for certain technologies.

  • Support for private demand is the other group of policies that includes incentives such as tax incentives for technology adoption.

In Iran, developing a national system for science, technology and innovation started in 1990 through the five-year development plan. The third five-year development plan (2000–2005) devoted a chapter to science and technology. The 2025 National Vision prepared in 2005 also showed intent to move towards a knowledge-based economy.

Iranian S&T policies have mostly been supply-oriented. However, more recently, demand stimulating policies have also been adopted but compared with supply-side policies, they are not as pervasive or diverse (Mohseni Kiasari et al., 2017). The sixth development plan addresses demand and in article 64 demand-oriented project support is emphasized. Demand-oriented policies have not been in the priority and their mechanisms are relatively underdeveloped; as a result, a number of studies have suggested the need for more attention to demand-oriented policies (Ghazinoory et al, 2019; Naghizadeh et al, 2015)

Previous studies have shown that demand-pull factors such as competitor pressure are more likely to be effective in stimulating innovative activities than supply-side factors. Choosing appropriate policy instruments is important in innovation policy decisions. Three dimensions are important for this: First, an initial set of appropriate policy instrument should be selected. Second, depending on the context, these instruments should be customized. Third, a set of complementary policy instruments should be selected to create a policy mix (Borrás and Edquist, 2013).

Albeit, it should be acknowledged that achieving a balance between supply and demand-side policies in innovation studies necessitates the triple helix perspective and the associated new generation of policies (Park and Stek, 2022; Kalcheva et al., 2018; Park et al., 2005). In the triple helix, academia, industry, and government sectors are not distinct entities but interconnected mechanisms that mutually influence one another (Choi, Yang, and Park, 2015). This concept is further extended to the four and five helixes, where civil society and the environment are added to the initial three elements.

In fact, new challenges have emerged on various national, regional, and international fronts, such as the COVID-19 epidemic and the pursuit of carbon neutrality, which were not prevalent before. Confronting these challenges requires a novel approach grounded in network governance, involving more actors than the traditional three institutional players of academia, business, and government. In essence, a shift from the old triple helix model, encompassing cooperation between universities, government, and companies, has given rise to the quadruple cooperation as a contemporary policy trend (Zhu and Park, 2021; Park and Stek, 2022).

These advancements should influence the development and application of demand-oriented policy tools, with a notable aspect being a shift in the management of S&T parks. In other words, policymakers should acknowledge this paradigm shift in the management and governance of the new generation of S&T parks so that they can play a role that aligns with national, regional, and transnational developments and meets the requirements of the emerging generation of demand-oriented policies.

However, starting with the second generation of S&T parks, demand-side policies were given more attention but this new approach needs customization of the S&T park concept as a demand-side policy instrument. This study works towards this goal.

2.5 S&T Parks in Iran

As mentioned above, most policies in Iran’s S&T system are supply-oriented and  STPs are not an exception. The Esfahan Steel Company proposed the establishment of first S&T parks in Iran in 1992. The following year the proposal was approved by the government. The main goal was moving towards a knowledge-based economy and reducing dependence on the oil economy. A main national challenge until then was the lack of university-industry interactions.

The stated objectives of Iranian S&T parks are as follows: (Ghazinoory et al 2014)

  • Creating wealth through developing the knowledge-based economy

  • Commercialization of research results and improving the interaction of research and manufacturing and service sectors

  • Improving the competitiveness of knowledge-based firms

  • Helping attract foreign and international capital and know-how

  • Internationalization of domestic technology-based firms

  • Seeding technology-based SME s and supporting research and engineering firms

Over 26 years after the establishment of the first S&T park in Iran, the number of parks has increased to 54 parks in 2023. However, the objectives have not yet been attained and there are no studies on their success and failure despite large national investments.

Since most STP s couldn’t achieve their objectives and most experts argued that supply-side policies were the most important factor for such failure, this study tries to investigate the characteristics of demand oriented STP s in order to impact their development trajectory and increase their effectiveness.

2.6 Development of Research Hypotheses

There is no consensus on how to establish an S&T park; however, some commonly used factors can be identified by reviewing the literature. These are general factors and they can be used in both demand oriented and supply- oriented policies. This study extracted a few factors to construct a model for demand-oriented S&T parks. Table 2 shows these factors, their definition, examples and references.

Table 2
Table 2
Table 2
Table 2

Main factors for establishing S&T parks (adapted from (Khazdoozi Jamali et al., 2019, Wasim, 2014) with some modifications)

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

These factors can help to design a demand-oriented park. Reviewing the literature shows that four characteristic is more vital than others and therefore, this study focus on these 4 main factors to develop the hypotheses including ownership, funding, incentives for tenants and linkages. Each factor is described below:

2.6.1 Ownership of S&T Parks

Understanding the diverse models and strategies employed in the management and ownership of S&T parks extends beyond theoretical implications, offering valuable practical insights. This comprehension empowers park managers to assess their own models by comparing them with others and making informed decisions to institute changes and improvements. Effective leadership in S&T parks materializes when collaborative efforts transcend boundaries to achieve shared objectives (Afshari-mofrad et al, 2021). In this context, literature has introduced various categories concerning the ownership of parks.

In their research based on survey data, Dabrowskade and de Faria (2020), have identified seven types of ownership structures in S&T parks including Academic S&T parks, Public S&T parks, Private S&T parks, University- Government S&T parks, Triple Helix S&T parks (encompassing public-private university shareholders), Private university S&T parks, and Public-Private S&T parks. The survey results indicate a diverse landscape of ownership models for S&T parks, with all three sectors – public, private, and academic – participating in different configurations within the ownership structures of these parks.

In a 2022 survey conducted by the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), park ownership was categorized into three types: “public,” “private,” and “combined public-private”. The results reveal that over 50% of S&T parks are government-owned. However, in comparison to the previous IASP survey in 2015, the percentage of government-owned S&T parks has slightly decreased from 54% to approximately 50% (IASP, 2022).

Finally, in Bazargan’s study in 2007, four models regarding the leadership of S&T parks, namely “Anglo-Saxon,” “Governmental,” “Government- Private Partnership,” and “Private-Government Partnership,” were identified as follows:

  • Anglo-Saxon: In countries like US, UK and Canada, the funding and managing of S&T parks are done by the private sector. In these countries both the higher education and the industrial sector are privatized and it is expected that S&T parks are deregulated in these countries.

  • Governmental: In countries like Japan, France and China, funding and management of S&T parks is controlled by the government as most of the knowledge and technology infrastructure is governmental.

  • Government -private partnership: In the countries of Northern Europe and Scandinavia such as Denmark, knowledge and technology generation is controlled by the participation of the private sector and multinational companies; the government has an indirect role in attracting foreign direct investment for funding incubators but has little role in the management of S&T parks.

  • Private-government partnership: In social democrat countries such as Germany, such that funding is mostly by the government and in partnership with the private sector; managing is controlled by both the private sector and the government.

Although most S&T parks were established by governments, there is a gradual change toward private sector ownership in many countries. For instance, Sofouli and Vonortas (2007) argued that in the first years of the 21st century, Greek S&T parks have experienced a gradual shift in terms of ownership and management from university/research institute to the private sector. They asserted that such shift toward more private engagement has led to creation of a variety of models which promotes the emergence of more innovative companies. Also, in China, Weng et al. (2019) emphasized on a new trend of transforming abandoned factories into private S&T parks, which are new members of S&T park family in the country. They found that these private S&T parks play an active role in promoting regional growth in China. In the association’s survey, the pattern of park ownership has shifted towards private sector control as well (IASP, 2022). Finally, in an attempt to assess the performance of Industrial Parks (IP s) in Europe, Totoni and Qefalia (2013) concluded that privately-owned IP s showed higher rates of success than other archetypes. The shift toward privately-owned S&T parks and better performance of such parks, could lead to the following hypothesis:

H1. Ownership and leadership of S&T parks should change from government and university to the private sector and the industry.

2.6.2 Funding Sources of S&T Parks

In demand-oriented parks, the management of the park is in the hands of the private sector or the industry. These parks locate in industrial regions or special economic zones. Initial investment is provided by the private sector and the infrastructure investments come from government and private sector sources. The annual budget of demand-oriented parks comes from research contracts between park management and the industry and government agencies; overhead charges, and service charges. These parks build networks with industrial centers, special economic zones, other S&T parks, national and international funding sources, tenants, government agencies, the value chain and universities. Usual linkages are with tenants, other national institutions, companies and international institutions and universities and research centers. Martinez-Canas and Ruiz-Palomino (2011) investigated three generations of S&T parks in Spain including Science Push, Science Pull and Interactive parks and concluded that in the third generation, which is more effective than previous generations, the source of funding is moving from public sector towards the private sector. Therefore, according to the literature, it could be hypothesized that:

H2. Funding source of S&T parks should change from government investment to private sector investment.

2.6.3 Incentives for Tenants of S&T Parks

Like other abovementioned factors, most incentive schemes for tenants of S&T parks have focused on the supply side. For instance, Menkhoff et al. (2010) investigated S&T parks in Singapore and showed that the Research and Development Assistance Scheme (RDAS) has provided supply-side incentives such as R&D tax exemption for tenants of S&T parks. Studying S&T parks in Greece by Sofouli and Vonortas (2007) also shows that in addition to basic support services such as administration and reception services, networking/internet services, logistic services and so on, Greek S&T parks provide incentives such as legal advising, technology brokerage, and financial support including venture, seed and angel capital for tenant companies. Furthermore, Sagena (2016) studied STP s in Indonesia and revealed that incentives given to the tenants of STP s are usually only in interpretation of financial support; while tenant firms need more than financial support. In contrast, the study of Soenarso et al. (2013) of STP s in Indonesia proved that some STP s such as Bandung Techno Park were shifting their incentives toward more demand-side schemes such as business mediation, linking tenant firms to potential markets and marketing consultancy. In this regard, Narasimhalu (2015) argued that STP s should review their incentive and tenant mix in order to promote the demand-side policy tools. He resembled STP s to shopping malls wherein one or two anchor tenants are expected to act like magnets that bring consumer traffic into the mall. Based on these arguments, we hypothesized that:

H3. Incentives for S&T parks tenants should change form supply-side incentives to demand-side incentives.

2.6.4 Linkages of S&T Parks

Some differences in the definitions of S&T parks are due to the existence of a key stakeholder that defines the mission and strategic goals of the park. Four types of S&T parks can be identified from this perspective (Table 3) (Angulo-Cuentas et al, 2013).

Table 3
Table 3
Stakeholder patterns of STPs (Adapted from Angulo-Cuentas et al, 2013)

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

Since the establishment of the first STP s in the 1950s, these institutions were mostly related to the universities, so that some scholars called them as the “push factor” parks (Zhang, 2005). In this kind of parks, policymakers aimed at bringing the knowledge created at universities into the economy and society. Thus, a huge number of parks grew around universities and most of them failed over the next years (Kim et al. 2014). Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, some STP s across the world started a shift toward being more market-driven. In these parks, technology development is based on the needs of the surrounding environment and entrepreneurs are encouraged to introduce products or services which could best meet the demands of neighboring society (Oh et al. 2016). For instance, Su et al. (2016) showed that new policies made by the Chinese government in the early 2000s have led to effectiveness of STP s that link scientific research, knowledge spillovers and industrial system. According to this shift, it could be hypothesized that:

H4. The linkages of S&T parks should move from supply-side linkages to links with demand-side actors.

3 Methods

3.1 Respondents and Sample

Respondents for this study, were people involved closely in S&T Parks, such as managers, employees and other related experts through convenience sampling. Convenience sampling is a straightforward method of sampling where participants are chosen based on their availability and willingness to participate. While this approach yields useful results, it is susceptible to bias. The bias arises because those who volunteer to participate may differ from those who choose not to (a phenomenon known as volunteer bias). Additionally, the resulting sample may not accurately represent other characteristics important for S&T Parks. It’s a risk in all non-probability sampling methods. We have chosen convenience sampling because of its quick and easy delivery results. Also, this sampling is without investing too much money.

This study’s respondents were from two separated groups. Initially, we distributed 83 survey questionnaires which was prepared in Farsi just for Iranian participants. In total, we received 64 completed questionnaires, indicating a response rate of 77% . Iranian participants were mainly managers and employees of Iranian S&T parks and incubators. Respondents were from 23 parks from all over the country. Demographic questions showed that 75 percent of them were male respondents and 40.6 percent had worked in a STP for more than 5 years. Also, the same questionnaire was prepared in English and distributed online to international respondents. International participants were composed of S&T park managers and experts across the world especially members of the IASP.1 70 questioner was sent via email and 31 responses were collected indicating a response rate of 44%. The 31 international respondents came from 17 countries including: Spain (3); Estonia (1); Slovenia (1); UK (1); Italy (1); US (1); Brazil (4); Portugal (3); Thailand (1); Turkey (3); China (2); Russia (1); Sweden (2); Oman (2); France (2); South Korea (1); Nigeria (2). Finally, we proceeded with 95 valid responses for development of our model

3.2 Data Collection Tools and Procedure

The data were gathered through a survey questionnaire, which is a well-known tool and valid instrument within social science investigation (Bulmer, 2004). The questionnaire items were adapted from the related literature mentioned in literature review section. Based on the factors discussed in section 2, a questionnaire was developed for the study. The questionnaire was prepared in Farsi and English for the Iranian and international respondents respectively. It was composed of 13 main questions and 52 minor questions. The main sections of the questionnaire are shown in the appendix. As mentioned in table 2, 13 main characteristics of STP s were extracted from the literature and the questionnaire was designed to assess the tendency of experts toward functions and characteristics of demand-oriented STP s. Among these 13 characteristics, hypotheses on 4 more vital characteristics were developed and tested.

“Prior to distributing the survey questionnaires to participants, we emphasized the importance of confidentiality and privacy regarding their responses. We assured them that their identities would remain undisclosed, and their answers would just serve the purposes of this study. Additionally, we transparently communicated the study’s goals and objectives to the respondents. Upon obtaining their consent, we proceeded to provide them with the survey questionnaires.

In terms of validity, the questionnaire relies on face validity. This method does not have a specific structured approach and relies on expert judgment. To design the questionnaire, we tried to formulate clear questions to be able to receive unambiguous answers. After developing the questionnaire, the questions were subjected to semi-structured interviews with several managers and specialists from domestic and foreign parks. Their opinions on the content of the questions and their relevance to the research objectives were sought.

Additionally, we assessed the reliability of the employed spectrums using Cronbach’s alpha coefficient. The test results for the mentioned spectrum in the Iranian questionnaire group show a coefficient ranging from 0.67 to 0.86, depending on the number of respondents, and these values are considered acceptable. In the international questionnaire group, the coefficients vary from 0.6 to 0.86, also within acceptable ranges given the number of respondents and items. When calculating the Cronbach’s alpha for the questionnaire as a whole, it is 0.914 for the Iranian questionnaire and 0.915 for the international questionnaire, indicating high internal consistency.

A few S&T park managers and experts were asked to comments on the first version of the questionnaire. Table 4 shows the respondent demographic information.

Table 4
Table 4

Demographic information of respondents

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

Table 5 demonstrates response frequency of each question.

Table 5–1
Table 5–1

Question response frequency Percentage (Hypothesis 1–2)

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

Table 5–2
Table 5–2
Table 5–2

Question response frequency Percentage (Hypothesis 3–4)

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

4 Results

Statistical tests were conducted utilizing SPSS. The first two hypotheses, involving a nominal variable, were subjected to Chi-square tests for hypotheses testing. In contrast, for the remaining two hypotheses, comparing the mean response with the balance point score between supply-orientedness and demand-orientedness was achieved through t-tests. The choice of distinct statistical tests was made based on the diverse nature of the questions associated with each hypothesis.

In order to do the above-mentioned tests, it was necessary to test the normality of the collected data. Thus, Kolmogorov-Smirnov test was applied for each section of the questionnaire and the results showed that collected data for all 13 sections were normal. For instance, Table 6 shows the result of the test for the funding source of the STP s.

Table 6
Table 6

Normality test of collected data for the funding section

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

For testing the hypotheses, chi-square and t-test methods were used according to the type of questions. For instance, H1 was tested using chi-square method. The results of this test proved that with X2=42.25, the freedom degree of 1 and significance level of 0, the hypothesis is statistically significant (see table 7).

Table 7
Table 7

Chi-square test of H1

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

Table 8 shows hypothesis testing results. As shown in this table, all 4 hypotheses are confirmed by both Iranian and international respondents.

Table 8
Table 8

Hypothesis testing results

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

According to the Iranian survey, the most appropriate management and leadership style of S&T parks is government ownership and private management. They believe that the initial funding source should be government-private sector by a wide margin. The most appropriate funding sources for the parks are: research contracts with the industry, overhead charges, and direct government support. Networking with industrial centers, national and international funding sources, markets, tenants and universities is more important; also, links with tenants and foreign firms and institutions have higher priority. Also, important incentives are access to intellectual property and sources of technology transfer. Evaluation and attraction of tenants is based on business plan, links with the industry, number and value of contracts, and novelty of the business idea. To support the businesses formed in the park, networking, marketing, technology transfer, and regulatory support received higher scores.

Figure 1 shows the findings of the demand-oriented model based on the responses of Iranian experts. As shown in this image, the important aspects of 6 sub-factors (of the 4 main factors) are described. The same logic is applied in Figure 2 to show the results of analyzing responses of the international experts.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Demand-oriented model based on Iranian responses

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

Figure 2
Figure 2

Demand-oriented model based on International responses

Citation: Triple Helix 10, 3 (2024) ; 10.1163/21971927-bja10045

According to the international survey, private ownership and government management is the appropriate ownership and management style. Private and government partnership for initial funding and infrastructure supply is preferred. Annual income source is research contract with government agencies and industrial centers, and direct government support. Networking priority is with industrial centers, special economic zones, national and international funding sources, and tenants. Links with tenants and international firms and institutions are the priority. Access to technology transfer sources and access to special economic zones are the most important incentives. To create an organizational culture in S&T parks, meeting national needs, accessing new markets, networking and increasing exports are more important. About evaluating and attracting tenants, industry links, meeting national needs, business idea novelty, and export volume are important. To support tenants, networking, marketing, technology transfer, business planning and training are given priority. In terms of technology focus, international experts suggest an S&T park focused on one or a few technology fields.

5 Discussion

As mentioned above, in order to move from supply-oriented STP s toward demand-oriented STP s, it is important to make changes in the ownership, funding sources, incentives for tenants and linkages of these institutions. It is important to note that STP s are not some phenomena that takes place per se, but they are dynamic systems which must be managed over their different life cycle. The results of this study showed that one major managerial issue in establishing a science and technology park is its orientation toward supply, demand or regional integration. In this regard, the result of analyzing responses of Iranian experts showed that they believe that in terms of ownership and management, a combination of public ownership and private management of STP s is the best choice. This finding might be because of the current status of Iranian STP s which are mostly state-owned. According to the current regulations in Iran, changing the ownership of STP s is a complicated (or in some cases impossible) process but changing the managerial setting is possible. In contrast, international experts of this study believed that private ownership and governmental management is the best scenario for STP s. In this scenario, governments try to attract domestic or foreign investment for establishing S&T parks and public agents in coordination with private investors and in line with pre-defined policies manage the STP s. These findings are consistent with those of Totoni and Qefalia (2013) and Weng et al. (2019) who showed that privately-owned S&T parks could result in better performance.

The findings also showed that in terms of funding sources of STP s, opinions of Iranian and international experts were more consistent. Both group of respondents emphasized the importance of joint research contracts between STP s and their surrounding industries, overhead charges from contracts and direct governmental support. This finding complements findings of Martinez-Canas and Ruiz-Palomino (2011) who argued that the source of funding STP s is moving from public sector towards the private sector.

From the perspective of incentives for tenants, Iranian respondents chose facilitating access to intellectual capital and technology transfer agents while international respondents focused on the importance of access to technology transfer agents and special economic zones. This finding is consistent with the studies of Narasimhalu (2015) and Soenarso et al. (2013) who argued that STPs should review their incentive and tenant mix in order to promote the demand-side policy tools.

Finally, linkages between STP managers and technology developers inside the park and international institutions were the unanimous choice of both Iranian and international respondents for developing the networking activities of STP s. This finding is in line with those of Oh et al. (2016) and Su et al. (2016) who showed that technology development in STP s must be based on the needs of the surrounding environment and entrepreneurs should be encouraged to introduce products or services which could best meet the demands of neighboring society.

It is important to acknowledge that economic and social differences among countries contribute to variations in the functions of their parks, along with differences in respondents’ attitudes towards surveys. This is evident in international studies such as Cadorin et al., (2021), and Germain et al., (2023). While this variation is confirmed, a unique aspect exists in the specific case of Iran. In the city of Shiraz, within a relatively small distance from each other, two science and technology parks coexist – one supply-oriented and the other demand-oriented. Khazdoozi and Ghazinori (2020), through an examination and comparison of these two parks, demonstrated that despite similar economic, political, and social environments governing both parks, the demand-oriented park outperformed significantly.

However, despite this noteworthy experience, the majority of Iran’s parks remain supply-oriented, reflecting policymakers’ traditional stance towards innovation. This perspective considers innovation as a linear phenomenon driven primarily by scientific pressure.

This approach is not the sole issue in the implementation of demand- oriented parks. The structure of Iran’s S&T parks has become as rigid as any other government organization. These parks are accustomed to receiving funding from the government, primarily driven by lobbying rather than being merit-based. Personnel within the parks often lack familiarity with intellectual property concepts, hindering their ability to leverage it for financial gains. Companies within these parks tend to prioritize low establishment rent over networking opportunities. Additionally, the challenging international relations, exacerbated by US sanctions against Iran, further complicate efforts to foster global connections.

The array of challenges faced in transitioning the current parks into demand- oriented models is significant. Recently, the government has opted to retain the existing parks in their current supply-oriented form, while new parks will be established by the private sector with a demand-oriented focus. While this is a commendable idea, achieving tangible results is hindered by the weaknesses present in Iran’s private sector and the high cost of land. It is evident that such obstacles are not unique to Iran, likely existing to varying degrees in many other countries and regions as well.

It appears that the most viable approach to implement the concept of demand-oriented S&T parks is by leveraging the capacity of large industries. These companies have the potential to establish dedicated buildings and facilities on their extensive lands, deploying NTBF s to address their technological challenges. Initiating competitions and calls to attract talent stands out as an effective method for identifying and recognizing such NTBF s.

6 Conclusion

Innovation has been a major source of economic development and policymakers have used a variety of policies to support innovation. In the past decades, supply-side policies were more popular and S&T parks have been used as a supply-side policy instrument. These policies have not always been successful and there has been a move towards demand-side policies. S&T parks need to be redesigned to work as a demand-side instrument. In order to create a better understanding of demand-side STP s, in this study the characteristics of demand-oriented S&T parks was extracted from previous studies and two surveys of Iranian and international S&T park experts was done to design demand-oriented S&T park models. The results of analyzing collected data from Iranian and international experts showed that both groups of respondents preferred demand-oriented parks.

Based on a comparison between supply-oriented and demand-oriented S&T parks and an examination of the current status of Iranian S&T parks, the following lessons are suggested:

6.1 Policy Implications for S&T Parks

As stated earlier, strategies supporting innovation supply primarily encompass financial aid, educational support, public funding for research and development, information assistance, and networking measures. To execute these policies, governments often leverage science and technology parks. These parks serve as tools for the government to consolidate newly established companies and SME s in one location. This enables the government to streamline the provision of diverse services, concentrating on offering financial, educational, and research support to these companies while also providing a dedicated physical space for their operations.

Recognizing the significance of formulating policies to foster innovation demand over the past three decades, parks should undergo a transformation to become effective tools on the demand side. As previously mentioned, the spectrum of policy tools supporting innovation demand encompasses backing private sector demand, government procurement, regulation, and systemic policies (drawn from the Triple Helix model). Demand-oriented parks, organized around major industries and enterprises (the origin of substantial demands), can emerge as pivotal players in shaping the entrepreneurial ecosystem within their sphere (Germain, 2023).

The present study aimed to address the question of the characteristics that third-generation parks should possess (refer to Table 1). The survey results from international respondents presented in Figure 2 outline the features that science and technology parks are expected to exhibit. Concurrently, it is understood that:

  • S&T parks, especially when managed with a demand-driven approach, necessitate a multidisciplinary board capable of effective communication with all stakeholders. This entails the presence of representatives from the government, universities, industries, and intermediate institutions within these parks.

  • The imperative for robust international connections highlights the importance of these parks being situated in proximity to an international airport or having fast transportation links to one.

  • The establishment of an evaluation system that assesses short-term, medium-term, and long-term performance is crucial. Challenges may arise due to the presence of various and potentially conflicting indicators for these three distinct periods.

  • In critical global regions, the creation of multinational parks has the potential to foster progress and peace among parties, exemplified by potential collaborations between two Koreas or within the Middle East.

  • Collaboration with financial institutions is essential for the development of demand-oriented parks, as investments and product leasing play pivotal roles in encouraging customer participation.

  • The ecosystem surrounding each park can be entirely unique, necessitating a tailored design of goals, missions, and structure for each park.

  • Providing financial and legal training for managers and personnel of demand-oriented parks is necessary, enhancing their understanding of financing and commercialization mechanisms.

  • A demand-oriented park requires a distinct cultural approach compared to supply-oriented parks. Without this cultural shift, the park’s objectives may not be effectively achieved.

6.2 Policy Implications for Iran

In developing countries, particularly in Iran, policymakers have consistently prioritized supply-side policies. This preference can be attributed to the relative ease of implementing such policies. However, with a two-decade lag compared to developed countries, policymakers in Iran have also come to recognize the significance of demand-side policies. Despite this awareness, science and technology parks continue to be managed in a supply-oriented manner, characterized by government ownership and organizational affiliations with universities.

The survey results presented in this article regarding Iranian respondents indicate a prevailing belief in demand-oriented parks. However, it is noteworthy that they still advocate for the majority of the costs associated with establishing the park to be borne by the government. Furthermore, respondents express a desire for parks to operate independently rather than being industry-dependent. These preferences present a clear paradox: if the government funds the park’s establishment and its current income primarily comes from the industry, mainly government-related, it naturally leads to institutional intervention in park management. This becomes evident considering Iran’s administrative structure.

In the current Iranian context, marked by limited international communications and exports due to US sanctions, and with most industries and companies being government or quasi-governmental, achieving truly independent parks seems unlikely. However, a viable alternative could involve envisioning parks as dependent on large, predominantly state-owned industries. Additionally, it’s noteworthy that Iran’s parks presently serve more as tools for regional development rather than fostering innovation. They are established even in remote areas, whereas demand-oriented parks ideally should be strategically located near large industries and industrial zones. Consequently, there is a need to reevaluate the perspectives of Iranian policymakers in these regards.

6.3 Limitations of the Study

The main limitation of this research pertains to the sampling. While the Iranian questionnaire exhibits a well-proportioned sample with a suitable distribution in population, the international questionnaire sample displays significant dispersion across various countries and is constrained solely to individuals who responded to our emails. Convenience sampling may lead to bias because participants are not random from the entire population. Those who volunteer or are easily accessible might differ from the broader population. Because of the bias in the sampling method, convenience sampling often lacks external validity. Consequently, findings derived from the sample may not effectively apply to the broader population. As a result, we approach our hypothesis testing conclusions with caution. Also the sample may lack variety, limiting the insights gained from diverse perspectives, that’s why it does not guarantee a representative sample as it relies more on ease of access rather than randomness.

Besides, findings may not generalize well beyond the participants who responded due to proportionally low response rate, especially within international participants. But to eliminate this challenge, we try to include responses from diverse countries to enhance the representativeness of our sample.

We acknowledge the inherent limitations associated with this type of sampling, especially when dealing with a diverse community of international experts.

6.4 Future Research Directions

Future researchers can explore the concept of science and technology parks through the lenses of triple, quadruple, and quintuple helix frameworks. This involves establishing a balance between supply and demand while considering the perspectives of civil society and the environment within the framework of government policies. Moreover, each country or multi-country region (such as Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, America, etc.) can develop its own model for demand-oriented parks through independent surveys.

While the innovation process resembles a three-person dance involving policymakers, academicians, and practitioners, the academicians hold a central role in justifying the contributions of the other two. Hence, future researchers should emphasize the importance of actionable insights for policymakers and practitioners, addressing knowledge gaps in a pragmatic manner. S&T parks, being a systemic category, encompass various aspects. The establishment of demand-oriented parks necessitates a comprehensive study of financial, legal, economic aspects, innovation processes, territorial planning, human and industrial training, and education.

Classical innovation incentives, primarily supply-oriented, are comparatively less complex, relying on various forms of government spending. However, demand-oriented parks represent genuine businesses that operate within a cost-benefit framework. Consequently, like other demand-oriented tools, they entail considerable complexity, requiring in-depth analysis by future researchers.

Notes

1. It is important to note that one limitation of the present study lies in the sampling method. While the Iranian questionnaire benefits from a large sample size with a proper distribution in society, the sample for the international questionnaire is widely dispersed across different countries and is limited solely to individuals who responded to our emails.

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