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Research Parks

Innovation Place, University of Saskatchewan, 2004.
Innovation Place

Saskatchewan has two university-related science and technology campuses: Innovation Place at the University of Saskatchewan, and the Regina Research Park at the University of Regina. The province's science parks had their beginning in the mid-1970s at the University of Saskatchewan. The government of Saskatchewan was approached in 1974 by a pharmaceutical company inquiring about the availability of land on the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) campus for an applied research and production facility. University officials and representatives from the federal and provincial governments began discussions in 1975 with the objective of developing university land north of the main campus to house research institutes and industrial science as well as technology activity that could be complementary to university activity. The federal Department of Regional Economic Expansion commissioned a study to investigate the feasibility of a science park to be located in Saskatoon. In 1976 the U of S approached the provincial Crown corporation, Saskatchewan Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO), with the suggestion that if such a park was developed it might assist in the relocation of the National Hydrology Research Institute from Ottawa to Saskatoon. SEDCO undertook further feasibility studies, and later in 1976 entered into discussions with the U of S with the objective of leasing university land for the purpose of such a park.

On June 20, 1977, a lease between the province of Saskatchewan, represented by SEDCO, and the University of Saskatchewan was executed, creating the Saskatoon Research Park. The land lease was for a term of eighty-four years expiring in 2061; the financial terms required SEDCO to pay the University the appraised value of the land in annual payments including interest over the first twenty-one years of the lease. The University retained unrestricted approval rights over all physical development and all tenants of the park. The lease created a body, the Management Advisory Committee, to review and approve tenants. In 1978 the first building project, the SEDCO Centre (presently known as the Galleria), was approved and commenced construction. In 1979 a second building, the Saskatchewan Research Council's Resources Research Centre, was also approved. In 1980 the first tenants of the Saskatoon Research Park took occupancy within the Galleria; a year later the Park changed its name to Innovation Place. Growth was initially slow, with a third building added in 1982 and a fourth in 1984, but the latter half of the decade resulted in rapid growth: six major building projects were initiated, including the National Hydrology Research Centre.

By 1990 the park was home to forty-one tenants employing 750 people. This level of growth was largely a result of a focus on the strengths of the local technology sector rather than on marketing the park to organizations outside of Saskatchewan. A strong effort was undertaken by park management to create a package of service tenants that made occupancy in the park attractive to potential clients. During the early 1990s Innovation Place began to develop an internationally recognized cluster of plant Biotechnology companies, which had its beginnings in the strong industrial collaboration efforts of the National Research Council's Plant Biotechnology Institute. These efforts attracted scientists from international companies; the growth in plant science was aided by the development of a state-of-the-art multi-tenant research greenhouse complex within the park. In 1995 SEDCO ceased operations as a Crown corporation; the assets and staff of Innovation Place were transferred to a new Crown corporation, the Saskatchewan Opportunities Corporation (SOCO). The growth of the biotechnology sector helped stimulate a major period of development in the late 1990s: new laboratory buildings and a major expansion to the greenhouse complex were completed, as was a new building to house clients within the information technology sector.

The same period saw the beginnings of the Regina Research Park. The Saskatchewan government began discussions with a group of Regina community leaders, with the intention of exploring the feasibility of duplicating the success of Innovation Place at the University of Regina (U of R). These discussions resulted in 1998 in a lease between SOCO and the U of R for land on its campus, which already housed two buildings with industrial technology occupants. Another two buildings, one for the petroleum research sector and one for the information services sector, were constructed and completed in 2000. By 2005, Innovation Place had celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary of tenant occupancy and the Regina Research Park its fifth anniversary of operations. The parks were home to 120 organizations in Saskatoon and thirty organizations in Regina; all combined, these tenants employed 2,800 people.

Doug Tastad

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