all it what you will — a science park, a research park, a technology park, or a technopole. Over the last half-century, these types of developments have become recognized globally for offering a variety of support services to knowledge-based companies and for making significant contributions to regional economies.
In fact, many have come to view science parks as a type of "silver bullet" with the capability of dramatically improving a region or community's ability to compete in the global technology and innovation economy. The reality, however, is far more complex.
As the president of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP), I have the privilege of leading an organization that is at the forefront of this rapidly evolving movement. Originally founded in 1984, IASP has experienced tremendous growth and today represents almost 400 members in 70 countries. More importantly, IASP member parks contain 128,000 technology oriented and highly innovative companies. Indeed, much of the world's technology commercialization activities are concentrated in or affiliated with IASP member parks.
It is through such growth and development that science parks continue to fulfill their most basic role of catalyzing economic change and progress. Science parks serve to concentrate a region or community's knowledge assets, connect the elements of government, academia and business together, establish the place's unique market differentiator and, importantly, create a variety of space options for innovation.
Over time, we've seen the needs of regions, communities, companies and employees evolve and change. Deep shifts in the global economy, science and technology and models of innovation are challenging the model of self-contained research parks. Macro trends like the emergence of the group economy, ecological economics, biology by design, ubiquitous computing and big data, hybrid sensemaking and amateur science are transforming our academic and scientific institutions. A new global map of science is emerging where a whole new regime of universities are transitioning from "ivory towers" to major economic engines.
IASP member parks contain 128,000 technology oriented and highly innovative companies.
These and other tectonic shifts are changing the way we work, think and live. They're changing the way we organize companies and the way companies connect, compete, collaborate and co-locate or aggregate into economic clusters. In our regional economies we're seeing a shift from thinking of research or science parks as a key driver of innovation to the realization that something larger and more inclusive is what matters. We're beginning to think in terms of regional knowledge ecosystems and the myriad of dynamic interactions and players, including science parks, that combine to create, nurture and launch scientific discovery and innovation.
At IASP, we recognize these new phenomena as the emergence and evolution of "areas of innovation." These new areas are evolving and happening in Thailand at Amata Science City, in Brazil at Porto Digital, in China at Zhongguancun Science Park, in Tunisia at Sfax Technopark, in Spain at 22@Barcelona and in Germany at Berlin Adlershof. They're happening in the U.S.A. in places like Austin, Texas, where the entire city focuses on innovation and creativity, in Michigan where Ann Arbor Spark is reinventing the local economy, and in Orlando, Fla., where a true next-generation innovation ecosystem is being anchored by the Central Florida Research Park, Lake Nona Medical City, Florida Hospital Health Village, Orlando Creative Village and a fully integrated network of a dozen University of Central Florida incubators.
Fifty years ago, we began forming research and science parks as a tool for creating jobs and economic growth. Today these parks and the innovations and related activities that have emerged are folding into emerging knowledge ecosystems and areas of innovation. They are reshaping their communities and regions in ways we could never have predicted.
Rick L. Weddle, president and CEO of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, is the first American to serve as president of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (www.iasp.ws).
IASP and its members are fully embracing this process. That's why the theme for the upcoming 30th IASP World Conference to be held in Recife, Brazil, in October, is "Science Parks Shaping New Cities." The Recife conference will showcase Porto Digital, one of the mainstays of the State of Pernambuco's new economy. With its focus on software, ICT and the creative economy, Porto Digital has become a major center for gaming, multimedia, cinema, video, animation, music, design and photography. More than a thousand innovation thought leaders will gather in Recife to explore the conference theme and see firsthand the science park and area of innovation concept at work.
In Recife, as in Orlando and other cities around the world, the mission of IASP remains the same: To be the global network for science parks and areas of innovation and to drive growth, internationalization and effectiveness for our members. The pursuit of this mission over the last 25 years has led to significant accomplishments for the association and its global network of members. Most importantly, however, it has helped make the world a better and more prosperous place.