Blind Spot: Research on Researchers – What makes a successful R&D campus?

R&D campuses are usually built in stages, evolving over time in response to the present – or more often than not, past – requirements of institutes and companies seeking to develop their future ideas, services and products.

Financial constraints, short-term demands and delays in planning and construction make it difficult to integrate and thus take full advantage of the “golden triangle” of people, organization and space. But is this really the case? Planners of R&D environments and campuses may find it astonishing how little information there is available to support R&D facilities design from laboratories and buildings as such to larger environments like campuses. For example there seems to be very little or almost no existing research into researchers’ needs and R&D processes within a larger spatial context – information that could support the tailored gathering of user requirements for campus design projects. The closest thing to it is the work done by Thomas Allen and others to analyze communication behavior and the spatial correlation between communication and architecture – but while this information is certainly important, it only partially applies to R&D work spaces and even less so to campus design. To date, no literature or comparative studies have been published on R&D campus design.

So what makes a successful R&D campus? Our starting point was to look at how the R&D campuses of world-class universities and successful companies are designed, so we recently drew up a list of prime examples based on certain criteria. We collected examples from both the industrial and academic research communities, basing our selection on rankings such as the Forbes Global 2000 and Fortune 500 (industry) as well as ARWU and SIR World Report (academia). We filtered these rankings according to certain criteria that defined the kind of campus we were interested in. For example, academic campuses had to be polythematic, with at least 5 different scientific disciplines. Among the top scorers of those we filtered out were the campuses of companies such as Microsoft, Novartis and Gazprom, and academic institutions including the University of Cambridge, MIT, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Common design factors shared by the campuses listed above include:

  • two circulation systems that separate logistics from pedestrian traffic
  • centralization of services such as libraries, main cafeterias and administration departments
  • R&D buildings within walking distance (under 500 m) of central services
  • R&D buildings have on average four floors (incl. ground floor)
  • between 21 and 30 percent of the campus area is green and recreational space

Overall, these factors indicate that effective interaction and good access to amenities were design priorities. Of course, designing or re-designing campuses with the factors above in mind does not guarantee higher IP revenues or the awarding of a Nobel Prize, but it does demonstrate a somehow approved approach to campus design. It is also worth mentioning certain differences that exist between the campus designs, as these might be areas in which industry and academia can learn from one another. For example, whereas the average proportion of admin:research staff on academic campuses is 1:4, it is 1:20 on industrial R&D campuses. By contrast, the academic campuses provide more areas for sports with roughly 11 percent space compared to only 5 percent on industrial campuses.
The following link shows the development stages of a campus master plan that Fraunhofer IAO was involved in developing for an R&D institute in Riyadh, KSA. The design scheme follows the above-mentioned principles and includes a high degree of interaction and networking between different centers and functions on campus:


Jörg Castor (re-posted from

Bridging the cultural gap in global R&D projects

How is R&D management performed in Asia? What are the specifics of China’s innovation systems? How can Australian SMEs assess their innovation capability? How do Taiwanese universities manage their patent activities? Answers to these questions will be presented at the upcoming R&D Management Conference in Stuttgart, Germany in a special session entitled “R&D Management across Cultures”.

This session will focus on the (inter-) cultural aspects of innovation management with, within and across Asia-Pacific countries. The Fraunhofer Competence Center R&D Management is giving a presentation based on experience it gained while working on a consulting project with a local partner in South Australia. In the project, which was funded by the South Australian government, the Australian-German team developed a framework to measure the innovation capability and sustainability of SMEs. This framework meets the current state-of-the-art in Europe and leverages existing diagnosis tools.

The Fraunhofer researchers worked together with their local partner and several South Australian SMEs to design a new tool based on an existing business diagnostic tool. Project challenges included understanding the differences between Australian and German SMEs, identifying which are the most important items of European innovation audits for inclusion in the new tool, and developing a concept that fits the local conditions in Australia. Given the cultural differences between the nations, adapting the European frameworks to the Australian market was no easy feat for the team.

  • Australian SMEs are usually much smaller than German ones, i.e. closer in size to micro-enterprises (10-15 people).
  • In Germany, almost all SMEs are certified according to DIN/ISO 9001 or 16949 and therefore comprehensively document their organizational structure and core processes. This is not the case in Australia. As a result, Australian SMEs often develop their products and manage their business in a more spontaneous and sometimes unconventional way (from a German perspective).
  • Succession planning is another aspect that differs in both countries. In Australian family businesses, the junior boss usually collects his or her experiences within the senior’s company before taking over, whereas German companies expect their juniors to start their careers without parental control and support.

Besides the cultural challenges, there are also differences in regulations, laws and funding schemes to be considered when designing an assessment tool for foreign markets. The German-Australian project, for example, had to respect the fact that pricing policies and cost control mechanisms are not given the same importance in both economies.

The project’s success is not only due to the excellent combination of personal strengths and cultural backgrounds in the team, but also to its members’ respect for and interest in the culture of their overseas colleagues. Their willingness to learn from each other and the open exchange of knowledge and experiences within the team and with the local SMEs was crucial in helping them achieve their objectives.

We’d love to discuss any questions you have on cultural challenges in R&D projects and to hear about lessons you have learned. What are the challenges you’ve faced? What has proven essential for coping with them? And what are the issues you’re still struggling with?


Stephan Schüle (re-posted from

The R&D Management Conference 2014, Stuttgart, 3.-6. Juni

Management of applied R&D:
Connecting high value solutions with future markets

Forschung und Entwicklung enger mit zukünftigen Märkten verknüpfen, das ist das Thema der internationalen R&D Management Conference 2014 die vom 3.-6. Juni 2014 durch das Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart organisiert wird. Die Konferenz bietet eine Plattform um in attraktiver Umgebung neueste Themen im Bereich F&E Management mit Repräsentanten aus Wissenschaft und Industrie zu diskutieren und weiter zu entwickeln. Für Vertreter der Industrie wird die Möglichkeit angeboten am Konferenzprogramm des 5. Juni teilzunehmen. Dies beinhaltet die Keynote Vorträge, Verleihung der Best Paper Awards der Konferenz, Diskussionen zu ausgewählten Themen sowie die Teilnahme am Konferenz-Dinner in der alten Reithalle Stuttgart. Unter den bestätigten Keynotes sind Beiträge aus dem F&E und Innovationsmanagement von Siemens, Bosch und Festo, sowie einem der Väter des MP3-Codes aus der Fraunhofer Gesellschaft.

Weitere Informationen:

Sven Schimpf