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From past to future: Technology Parks

Just an idea can change the world - or the way we see the world - via treating a disease, launching a new product or defining a new industry...

Just an idea can change the world - or the way we see the world - via treating a disease, launching a new product or defining a new industry. In this regard, The Research Triangle Park in North Carolina has probably the best motto to define technology parks: “Our home is built to nurture bold ideas.”

Even if technology parks have different names in different countries such as science park, science-based industrial park, science and technology park, science city, technology development zones; they move in the direction of the common goal which is transformation towards knowledge-based economy.  

Turkey is at the beginning of the technology park race, especially compared to the examples such as Silicon Valley in which the concept of science parks first emerged in the 1950s. Global examples below offer roadmap alternatives to shape the future of Turkey in technology journey.

From 2D to 4D

The ultimate goal of technology parks is to improve international competitiveness and export potential of industries by developing advanced technologies. This might be possible through increasing the synergy between academia - universities, research institutes- and business in technology development zones (TDZs). At this point, cooperation model should evolve from two dimensions – academia and business – to four dimensions – including government and community – for joining the forces of R&D, education and production. 

Aside from tax exemptions, incentives and land allocation, the government has to decide on whether to take responsibility as the playmaker or not. Whilst technology parks in the U.S. are mainly private sector initiatives, most technology parks in East Asia tend to be established and directed by government planning. The government in Turkey is the playmaker of technology park development process with Technology Development Zones Law (Law No: 4691). In the current situation, attracting local and international tech firms seems impossible without VAT, income tax and corporate tax exemptions, and financial incentives by the government and public institutions. The government should produce additional policy to encourage the players to invest in technology parks until private sector becomes the leading actor of sustainable technology environment.

On the other hand, the Research Triangle Park, which is the largest research park in the U.S., is the symbol on how a technology park can change a community’s destiny. North Carolina, whose economy fluctuated with annual crop yields, was one of the poorest states in America because job opportunities were scarce in the dawn of the post-war era. Today, the Research Triangle Park hosts more than 200 companies and over 50,000 people with expertise in fields such as micro-electronics, telecommunications, biotechnology, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and environmental sciences. Industries invest more than USD 296 million in R&D at the region’s universities each year, and this is double of the average R&D investment for innovation clusters elsewhere in the nation.

SMART National Technology Goals and Outputs

The role of technology parks is to demonstrate to whole nation how to transform its innovation capacity into industrial power to gain competitive advantage through making measurable progress in a reasonable time. Technology development process is a long and challenging race, thus overtaking the competitors would become almost impossible without rapid growth in a short period of time.   

INNOPOLIS, which is known as ‘The Heart of the Creative Economy’ in South Korea and a rapidly evolving innovation hub, represents the technological development in the context of statistical data and ground-breaking products. INNOPOLIS has contributed to creation of national growth for only ten years via marked improvement in statistical indicators such as registered patents, technology transfer, and the number of enterprises listed in KOSDAQ. South Korea has gained technological independence with locally-produced major outputs including “Baekgom Surface-to-Surface Missile”, “Standard Nuclear Reactor”, “High-Voltage Electron Microscope (HVEM)”, “Running Robot Hubo 2”.

Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) of Turkey has shown significant increase in recent years, and the share of GERD in GDP reached to the level of 1%. Despite all positive developments over the years, Turkey has still room for growth in terms of GERD/GDP ratio to reach tech-countries’ level.] On the other hand, TGBD - Technology Development Zone Association – annually organizes “Technoparks Summit” and announces “TDZs Performance Index”, number and industry-specific distribution of firms, number of employees, R&D projects and registered patents. Turkey does not have any handicap to reach its technology goals with such transparent market conditions when it sets reasonable statistical goals and analyses the performance in the given period.

International Collaboration

TDZs are innovation and R&D clusters wherein technology and knowledge are efficiently created, transferred and utilized. International mutual-benefit model would provide combined leverage effect on technological development, technology transfer in particular.

The FinChi Innovation Centre, which is cofounded by Technology Zhongguancun Software Park in Beijing, was founded in order to form a platform for China-Finland collaboration. The FinChi is aiming to form cooperation between the two countries in terms of innovation, technical expertise and human resources. The centre serves as a platform for companies in the area to broaden their overseas business and promotes the international trade volume of both countries.

Chinese authorities are aware that technology revolution might be possible with sophisticated strategy. Haidian Science Park is the most important part of Zhongguancun Science Park, and "Preferential policies is not our only offering," said Lin Fusheng, mayor of Haidian district, "Our tasks will include proposing a strategic development plan, continuing to improve infrastructure and services, deepening financial reforms, strengthening international cooperation and promoting closer ties among enterprises, universities and research institutions” he continued.

In Turkey, not only foreign private sector but also international academia cooperation is in progress and should improve to have a promising future in technology centres. TeknoJump was set in 2013 to accelerate the internationalization process of companies in METU TEKNOKENT. METU also has liaison and representation office in Washington and Malaysia along with T-Jump San Francisco Business Accelerator Centre, which is an example of international business and university cooperation. As a result, METU TEKNOKENT has remained at the top of TDZs Performance Index for four consecutive years. Yildiz Teknopark is also in association with The University of Warwick Postgraduate Certificate Program in Industrial R&D and Technology Management which aims to develop professionals in industrial R&D and technology management fields. 

Technology Towns

As a self-sustaining centre, One-North is the symbol of Singapore’s transformation towards a knowledge-based economy in the new age. The TDZ hosts three purpose-built hubs: Biopolis, the biomedical R&D facility; Fusionopolis, dedicated to R&D in the audio-visual, media, science and engineering industries; Mediapolis, a self-contained digital media cluster.

Aside from organized hubs, One-North comes into prominence with its design that offers homes, offices, parks, playgrounds and retail units in a vibrant ecosystem. This ecosystem serves more than 150 leading companies and global institutions along with almost 25,000 employees from around the world. While universities and foreign systems schools have campuses within the technology centre, facilities such as gyms, clubs and childcare centres are also available for residents.

One-North is a very successful business park,” says Chris Archibold, Head of Markets at JLL Singapore: “To draw people to an area, the place needs to have retail, F&B, entertainment and leisure components, and One-North has all those elements in place.”

Whilst several off-centre technology park projects such as “Bilisim Vadisi” and “Teknopark Istanbul” are under construction in Turkey, most of the TDZs are placed in downtown university campuses. If the off-centre technology parks, which will become operational in the future, have strong retail, F&B, entertainment, hotel and residential components there will be no barrier on attracting employees to these centres.