Knowledge Parks: offspring of the knowledge economy?
When we think of a “park” the images that cross our minds are of flowers and gardens, of birds and animals, of amusements and sporting extravaganzas. However, the concept of the park has evolved and extended to include more serious and possibly, more significant themes in life and work. Parks now include Animation Parks, Business Parks, Biotech Parks, IT Parks, Techno Parks. In short, science, technology and, indeed, knowledge itself, have emerged as major themes for parks. How did this happen?
Perhaps the first signs of this evolution emerged when the world of knowledge (academia) and the world of work (industry and commerce) began to interact and converge. These two worlds had for centuries existed at opposite ends of a spectrum: academia was the world of lofty ideals and noble pursuits that barely concealed its ontempt for the world of commerce with its preoccupation with material wealth. How would the twain meet, and where? Where was the meeting point?
In the 19th century, as the industrial revolution gathered pace in Britain, some of the individuals making fortunes in businesses such as cotton and steel helped to fund the creation of ‘civic’ universities in cities like Manchester and Sheffield. Whilst these institutions did give attention to research and teaching in support of the local industrial base they remained the exceptions. It was not until a century later, in the latter half of the 20th century, that university-industry partnerships began to dominate the discourse on tertiary education. The crux of the discourse lay in bridging the gap between theory and practice. Theories evolved from practice and applications added value to theories. But there often remained an implicit assumption that those engaged in the world of theories were intellectually superior to the practitioners.