Recent work by SGS has reviewed the thinking behind these precincts and case studies of success. Urban design undeniably plays an important role. The thinking behind employment precincts, albeit under many guises (eg business parks, technology parks, knowledge hubs, vibrant multi-use activity centres) dates back to the writing of Alfred Marshall (1920). His initial theory of agglomeration established the base for many subsequent researchers. This body of work supports the need for good design, hard infrastructure commitments early in the development process, and an array of soft infrastructure initiatives. Without all three, planned employment precincts in the contemporary environment are unlikely to deliver their envisaged benefits.
The best practice principles, drawn from SGS’s research into well functioning employment precincts, highlights the need for the following, if a critical mass of quality jobs are to be hosted:
The precincts are integrated in a broader government program aimed at strengthening target industries through the leveraging of relevant programs onsite and through the use of related government facilities as anchor tenants eg education, health and research institutions.
Precinct management has a clear vision of the desired outcome on site and often play an active role in establishing relationships between on site businesses and with external networks. Active government lobbying is not uncommon, as is the establishment of a calendar of events to activate the precinct, and an array of business support services to nurture fledgling businesses and entrepreneurs.
Branding is linked to the unique selling point of the precinct, and often leverages the established reputation of key anchor tenants. Branding also tends to underline the creation of an integrated community for knowledge workers.
The physical design of the precinct encourages a true mix of uses and a density that engenders a feeling of vibrancy and critical mass – which underpins the urban amenity and diversity of services knowledge workers demand. The physical design also deliberately incorporates spaces that enable knowledge workers to meet and exchange ideas. These can include conference centres, meeting rooms, flexible workspaces and more informal places such as cafes, restaurants, sports and cultural facilities.
In terms of hard infrastructure needs, all the case study centres are highly accessible by major roads and most are accessible by public transport. Fast internet connections are common, as is the provision of some shared infrastructure including laboratories, meeting and education spaces, and business services centres.
Strategic partnerships are obviously crucial to success, as are upfront commitments and ongoing support.