Following the successful establishment of the Techno Park Special Ratings Area (SRA) in July last year, business owners and other stakeholders in the area can begin to look forward to an exciting new period in the life of the park. At the heart of these new developments lies a vision to transform Techno Park into a world-class, socially integrated hub for innovation and creative business practice, fostering sustained (and sustainable) economic growth.
The new vision for Techno Park derives from the work of Pieter van Heyningen, an urban innovation specialist who recently completed his PhD thesis on the relevance of integrated, collective thinking for the creation of sustainable urban environments. Techno Park forms an important case study in Van Heyningens’s research. Since 2010, Van Heyningen has been working in collaboration with a number of stakeholders in Techno Park, including the former Techno Park Owner’s Assocation (TOA), to establish a strategy for renewal in the area.
Van Heyningen was drawn to Techno Park when he realized that it had the potential to become a hub for innovation similar to urban precincts focused on research in other parts of the world, like Graz in Austria or @22 in Barcelona. An important similarity is the proximity of a world-class university, which affords the possibility for a dynamic exchange of knowledge between industry and academia. Likewise, Techno Park can work in collaboration with Stellenbosch Municipality to ensure that the benefits of innovation extend to local communities, while integrating itself within the socio-economic networks that are the lifeblood of any urban environment.
“The question I asked myself was, how can we reinvent the whole park? It was a long-term project in my head,” says Van Heyningen. And, as is often the case when academic interests meet the dictates of the bottom line, the process was not without a few bumps along the way. Van Heyningen says it took a while for people to begin trusting him. At first his preferred method of involving many stakeholders in the envisioning process was met with some resistance. Eventually, however, it was precisely this conflict and sharing of ideas that produced a new vision and strategy for Techno Park, and that eventually led to the business plan Van Heyningen wrote to secure the municipal approval of the SRA application.
Van Heyningen’s business plan also forms the basis for the five year improvement plan of TechstelSRA, the non-profit organization that has been created to manage the affairs of the SRA (replacing the former Techno Park Owner’s Assocation). The plan involves the identification of a number of areas requiring improvement and sustained maintenance in order for the park to thrive. These include networking and social engagement opportunities for businesses, the cultivation of public areas like parks and dams, upgrades to security and access, marketing, and the overall aesthetic image and future vision of the park.
While some of these areas have already begun to benefit from the dynamic new vision of Techno Park as a world-class hub for innovation and sustainable business practice, stakeholders can look forward to seeing many more exciting developments in coming times. This newsletter is the space where we will keep you informed about them, and bring you interesting stories about people and events in the park. We look forward to sharing the future!