In 2017, a research park was established in IIT Gandhinagar. At present, in India, there are research parks functional in four IITs – Bombay, Kharagpur, Madras, and Gandhinagar. The HRD ministry of India has planned to sponsor new and bolster existing parks by providing financial support. Despite being part of the scientific fraternity, many are completely alien to the concept of a research park (including the writers, except very recently). Thus, the writers aim at providing a general overview along with the social, technological, economic and developmental aspects and loopholes in implementation concerning the recent genesis of research parks in India.
Origin and evolution to date:
The world’s first research park was established at Stanford, in 1951. From, originally housing Facebook and Xerox, renowned corporations like Ford, SAP, and HP have become active participants of Stanford Research Park. There are currently 230 parks in EU countries. They manage about 28 million square meters of completed building floor space, hosting circa 40,000 organizations that employ approximately 750,000 people, mostly in high value-added jobs.
What is a research park?
There are multiple terminologies used across the world, and the more accepted term is “Science Park”. Similar common names are Research Parks and Technology Parks, and we shall continue using the former term throughout the article.
A research park is an establishment which is formed as an intersection of a university or a group of universities, and a group of companies – public or private. There are multiple definitions on the internet, but we believe this definition reflects how both of them are the benefactors and the beneficiaries at the same time. The companies become tenants at the establishment where they could avail of the benefits of a university such as experienced faculties, pre-established infrastructure, and human resources. These companies establish their mini-centers (that is what we prefer to call them) at the research park and some employees are also housed at these centers. At the same time, students and faculties can actively participate in the undertakings of a company, thus enabling them to have a direct connection to the industry.
Though appearing as an individual entity, the establishment and successful functioning of research parks have multiple stakeholders:
Benefits to the company:
The benefits to a company are distinct in terms of the size and market establishment of a company. Start-ups and companies with specifically restricted consumer base have a different set of requirements as compared to huge MNCs with a more general expanse. We shall list out a few benefits to the company as follows:
At research-based universities, professors possess both the important factors – knowledge and experience. Professors, before beginning their instructorship, have pursued an education in some of the most prominent universities and have a long industry or research experience. They may have followed some of the good research areas or present technologies that may help a company for their research areas and as a result, may lead to company growth.
For a small company or a start-up, a university can provide some facilities which may be economical for a small company. One example of such a facility could be the research laboratories in an institute, resource centers or libraries.
Nowadays, a vast expanse of fields is available for the students to pursue and it becomes impossible to master technologies that fulfill the current industry requirements. However, with minimal training over a short span of time, the student can be trained by the company and he/she will be able to assist the company in a cost-effective manner at a small yet significant scale.
Benefits to the institute:
The other face of the coin, the institute is as integral a part of a research park, as are the companies and there are a lot of benefits for the institute.
Despite rigorous attempts, even well-designed courses fail to successfully emulate industrial circumstances. Thus, association with the companies will provide the student community with an opportunity to learn current industrial technologies, thus BRIDGING the gap between industrial needs and students’ skills.
The successful execution of a research park will adorn a company with multiple benefits mentioned above. Thus, cordial relations will be established between the institute and the company. This will foster placement prospects among the company concerned as well as its fellow partners, sponsors, investors, parent companies, etc. Moreover, students with better hands-on experience will have more placement prospects than those without them.
As many professors are research-oriented, they require funding, technology, and assistance which a university may not be able to provide as a singular entity. Moreover, the application of the research and scope of its reach to the population is largely restricted. These prove to be hindrances for professors to pursue research and provide solutions to existing problems. As for students, lack of hands-on experience and a wide disparity between industry requirements and university education decreases the risk-taking ability of students to pursue research. Thus, most opt for placements and consider research a scholarly and tough task. However, this establishment of research parks will increase professors’ convenience and students’ fervor toward research.
Market Image and Finances:
An important share of an institute’s earning is constituted of fees paid by the students. Students will opt for a college and will be ready to pay a given fee considering the image of an institute, its placement statistics, its market image, its culture, the long term returns of the given fee, and various other factors. A large number of factors are positively influenced by establishing a research park. Having cordial relations with companies, possessing research-oriented professors and technically dexterous students will improve the market image of an institute drastically. Moreover, better research achievements will garner better funding from the government for government institutions.
Global Connect with universities:
A university with the above-mentioned factors will also attract attention from prominent national institutions and from universities worldwide for collaborative research and student exchange, further establishing strong bonds between universities.
Benefits to the Scientific Fraternity:
As more people actively participate in research, science will grow optimally. As companies catering to the customers meet with the research-oriented entities, solutions to the problems will increase their expanse and become easily accessible. Thus science and technology will experience holistic growth.
Benefits to the Nation:
Nations with skilled human-force and risk-taking tendencies, tend to have a strong start-up culture, which further fosters better business prospects and increases the economic independence of the country. Moreover, it is difficult for public sector companies to acquire skilled talent and the research parks will also bolster cost-effective accessibility of intellectual capital to the companies.
Obstacles in Implementation of Research Parks:
Although the above discussion might look like the penultimate solution to all concerns of an institute, these advantages are the consequences of the successful establishment and functioning of a research park. Thus, this process requires a lot of time, planning and capital. The following proves to be grave hindrances to a research park:
A significant amount of land and infrastructure is required to provide facilities to the company. Many companies also provide housing at the parks to their employees which require complementary housing facilities. Establishment and maintenance of server systems, discussion rooms, high-quality labs and spaces for social enrichment also require a significant financial investment.
Introductory Boost from Companies:
In the beginning phase, companies may not be able to appreciate the benefits of the research park and inviting the first few companies and establishing cordial relations with them stands as a significant challenge.
Introductory Participation from Students:
In the embryonic phases of the establishment, students will be more reluctant than enthusiastic about research. But, seeing the prospective benefits and the opportunities, the appreciation of the research park is a gradual process that requires necessary motivation from the institute and the professors.
Some of the aforementioned benefits might seem a bit far-fetched and even sound like hyperbole. But, the discussion still reduces to the fact that, indeed, research parks are beneficial over a significantly larger picture.