The seventh set of articles from The Future of Universities Thoughtbook |North American Edition introduces…
On May 6 1976, a series of devastating earthquakes shook the lands and the hearts of the citizens of the Fruili Venezia Guilia region of Italy, shattering the familiar image of their once burgeoning home. To revive the spirit and economy of region, and restore its competitiveness following this major setback, the Italian Government envisioned an investment in innovative research as a long-term recovery strategy. AREA Science Park was launched to realize this vision, as a hub designed to translate top quality research into innovative products and services.
From the start, AREA Science Park emerged as a frontrunner in regional science and technology, helping position Fruili Venezia Guilia among the top economies in Italy. Stimulating the growth of local and regional commercial enterprises through well-established knowledge translation mechanisms, connecting like-minded individuals, and producing cutting-edge research, AREA Science Park has gradually evolved into a full-fledged regional innovation ecosystem.
AREA operates under the auspices of the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR). As a public body, AREA receives a grant of €7-8 million from MIUR annually. Yet, its own yearly income from rent, provision of services to companies, and participation in multiple level research projects exceeds its central funding. AREA focuses on the development and management of its own sites, the creation of businesses through incubation and acceleration programmes, innovative high-tech research, the development of services for university-business cooperation (UBC), and entrepreneurship training to support the growth of regional SMEs and start-ups.
AREA is also rich in facilities that can support the operationalization of joint activities. To date, the Park has grown into 90,000 square meters of laboratories, offices, and service areas, stretching across the Trieste hills and overlooking the castle of Gorizia with its three campuses. Eight collaborative research institutes have their facilities at the site, which facilitates interactions with the 80 companies residing in the Park. The main knowledge transfer vehicle Innovation Factory is an in-house company of AREA, which functions as an intermediary organization in the regional and national knowledge transfer system.
Innovation Factory – an incubator for all
Unlike venture capitalists’ interests in promoting only the most commercially ready proposals, Innovation Factory (IF) aims to support equally all new ideas considered worth exploiting and, thus, cultivate the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the region. IF assists with the valorization of research results, promotes investment in technology-oriented businesses, supports start-ups in their business development, and creates a platform for partnering and networking.
Innovation Factory has also developed its own methodology to support local entrepreneurship. It matches researchers who have interesting ideas or research results with business development teams that explore the possibility of creating a marketable product or service. Innovation Factory oversees the process of the business idea evolution, its assessment, strategic development toward a market launch, and the establishment of a new company. It then supports new companies for up to three years, or until the start-up reaches relative stability in the market and is ready to be acquired by a serious investor. The figures are impressive: Innovation Factory has evaluated more than 1,600 projects, assessed 281 entrepreneurial ideas, co-created 20 start-up companies, and assisted another 50 in their development.
An innovation hub with multifaceted impacts
Over the years of its continuous advancement, AREA Science Park has rightfully earned recognition as a national point of reference for technology transfer and a top -level national research body by the Italian Ministry of University and Research (MIUR). Indeed, while the initial government investment has brought high technology companies to the Park, its independent income earning capability has helped to enhance the commercial capacity of the region, particularly through investment in entrepreneurial activities and promising research outcomes. The AREA complex has also attracted an influx of skilled human capital to the workforce in Fruili Venezia Guilia, and continues to support the knowledge transfer efforts of the local universities.
To learn more about the AREA Science Park’s knowledge transfer supporting mechanisms and plans for further development, visit the full case study here.
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