University Research Parks: A Tool for National Competitiveness or Just a Real Estate Transaction?

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Economic and Workforce Development

First Advisor

Kenneth Malone

Advisor Department

Economic and Workforce Development


Nations searching for a competitive edge in the global economy often focus on the promotion of innovation and advanced technology. A common economic intervention towards this end is the formation of university research parks. University research parks are generally intended to accelerate the transfer of technology from academia to industry. Porter's cluster model predicts that the core competencies of the universities should to align with the technical and workforce needs of the companies located in the university research parks. This study finds that this is not the case. The 504 organizations in 19 United States mid-life University Research Parks demonstrated no correlation between the fields that the companies were engaged and the amount of research funding that the associated university received in that field. There was also no correlation between the number of companies in each field with the numbers of graduating students or faculty in each of the fields at the university. There was a small correlation of the total research funding at a university and the number of companies found in their university research park. The findings indicate that current economic interventions using university research parks in the USA do not reflect the Porter cluster model. While this study did not address the economic effectiveness of university research parks, other studies have demonstrated marginal or no value to the economy. Future work should to address if better implementation of the Porter model can result in a more significant impact from university research parks.