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Welcome Charles Wessner National Research Council Dr. Wessner welcomed the participants and thanked the speakers, many of whom had travelled long distances to participate in this event. He noted that the National Academiesâ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) and the Association of University Research Parks (AURP) were jointly convening this symposium on global best practice in science and technology parks. This symposium, he noted, is a key element in the ongoing efforts of STEP to identify and compare as appropriate best practices in innovation policies from around the world. STEP is also interested in the synergies between state and federal programs, he said, as well as the synergies between the activities of foun- dations and regional economic growth in the United States. The involvement of foundations is typically an American feature of development, he said, and one that must be examined to understand the innovation process in the United States. He noted that STEP has consistently sought to bring objective analysis to these exercises. â See National Research Council, Innovation Policies for the 21st Century, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2007. â STEP has initiated a study of âBest Practice in State and Regional Innovation Initiativesâ in order to identify best practices with regard to their goals, structures, instruments, modes of operation, syner- gies across private and public programs, funding mechanisms and levels, and evaluation efforts. 41
42 UNDERSTANDING RESEARCH, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY PARKS The Importance of Evaluation Effective innovation policies require an active program of evaluation and learning. But this is not always the case. âYouâd be surprised at how often people move uncomfortably in their seats when you ask them, âHow do you know if youâve succeeded?ââ he said. ââAnd how could you measure that, or replicate it?â Too often we hear, âDonât ask if it works or notâitâs for a good cause.â We think thatâs the wrong approach.â A Portfolio for Innovation He called research parks an increasingly important element in a robust inno- vation ecosystem, but just one element. Another is the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which STEP had also examined in depth. âFrankly,â he said, âwe were surprised at how effective that program is. A distinguished committee found it to be âsound in concept and effective in practice,â and that has encouraged its renewal by Congress.â The Innovation Imperative Dr. Wessner noted that as policymakers around the world recognize the im- portance of innovation for economic growth and national competitiveness, they are increasingly adapting public-private partnerships like SBIR and S&T Parks to their own national circumstances. Then, summarizing what he called the âin- novation imperative, he drew out the following three points: â¢ Innovation is the key to maintaining a countryâs competitive position in the global economy. â¢ The importance of small businesses and universities in the innovation process is seldom recognized. â¢ Science and technology research parks have quickly become one of the most important catalysts of innovation. Among the key issues to be addressed in the symposium, he said, is the evaluation of research parks and their role in commercializing government- funded research. Underscoring the fact that research parks are diverse, and all have Â different histories, goals, and structures, he cited, what he called, the âLink Âdictum,â of Professor Albert Link of the University of North Carolina at G Â reensboro: âIf youâve seen one park, youâve seen one park.â At the same time, âSee National Research Council, An Assessment of the Small Business Innovation Program, Charles W. Wessner, ed., Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
Welcome 43 he said, this meeting offered a chance to identify some of the challenges common to all parks, including the need for more accurate assessment techniques. Finally, he expressed his gratitude for the support and participation of the Office of Naval Research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Science Foundation, the University of Maryland, and C Â lemson University, the informal steering group that help plan the event, and the staff of the Academies and AURP for their professionalism and efficiency in organizing the event.