John H. Marburger
White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
Registering his appreciation at having been invited to address the symposium, Dr. Marburger said that its agenda struck him as strongly similar in theme to that of a conference he had addressed a month before: “Innovation as a Competitive Advantage: Role of the Research Park,” sponsored by the Association of University Research Parks (AURP). He decided, therefore, to present substantially the same remarks as on that previous occasion.
Research parks became a global phenomenon and, in the future, are likely to be significant focal points for all countries with knowledge-based economies. In 2002, the AURP identified and sought data from about 200 research parks associated with universities in the United States. Those that responded, about half of the 200, had a total of more than 2,900 tenants employing over 235,000 individuals; the dominant or leading technology was, in most cases, biomedical or medical technology. Not-for-profits made up 83 percent of those responding, while 62 percent had a business-incubator component and about one-third had a yearly operating budget exceeding $1 million. Seventy percent had been established using public funds, mostly during the 1980s and 1990s. Dr. Marburger acknowledged that these data were a few years old, but opined that they were not of a sort susceptible to rapid change. The statistical portrait emerging from them matched the characteristics of the technology park and incubator programs that he started at Stony Brook in the 1980s and early 1990s, when he was the institution’s president. His remarks, therefore, would be based on direct experience with the development of such parks.
Throughout his career, Dr. Marburger said, he had asked himself: What is the best strategic path to successful technology-based economic development? Although he did not give so much thought to this question while he was busy solving problems of quantum electrodynamics as a graduate student in the early 1960s, it was nonetheless in the air. Everyone at Stanford in those days was aware of the Stanford Research Institute, soon to become SRI and SRI International; of the rise of nearby Silicon Valley, which was just coming together; and of how the university had planned to foster high-tech industry even before World War II, an idea finally being carried through. “For those of us who worked in the Stanford environment, even if only briefly,” he recalled, “the power of linkages between a major research university and regional business was immediately obvious.” Another university-based coalition had emerged in North Carolina just a few years earlier to take advantage of the intellectual assets of Duke University, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It had an institute, RTI, which was similar to SRI. Also like Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle initiative had originated in academia and quickly engaged regional business leaders.