Image: Grimshaw

The model of self-contained research parks and incubators that dominated the last fifty years of technology-based economic development is being challenged by deep shifts in the global economy, science and technology, and models of innovation.

This forecast, develeoped in 2009-2010 for the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina, described fourteen emerging trends that will set the context for technology-based economic development in the coming decades. These trends were used to develop three scenarios for the future of technology- based economic development over the next two decades. In the first scenario, an incremental evolution of the research parks model takes place in a world of rapid, but steady and predictable change. In the second scenario, entirely new networks of R&D space emerge in a “research cloud” that challenges current models to adapt, sometimes dramatically. The third scenario, the research park models is in rapid decline as R&D becomes highly virtualized and parks’ legacy cost structure makes them obsolete for young firms.

The report’s strategic implications of these scenarios for existing and future parks and economic development were widely influential in the international science parks movement and technology-led economic development practitioner community. At Research Triangle Park itself, the report became a vital document informing the vision and goals for the park’s subsequent master planning work in the decade that followed.

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