History of Discovery Parks
Since inception, Discovery Parks has built and leased approximately two million square feet of office and lab space specifically designed to support the biotech and high tech industries in the lower mainland and university campuses of British Columbia. Over 150 companies have called a Discovery Parks’ building home. In addition, $17 million from our leasing and sales profits were distributed to post-secondary institutions (UBC, SFU, BCIT and UVic) and the former Science Council of BC, all to promote further research, development and, most importantly, commercialization of technology.
Discovery Parks was originally founded 35 years ago by the Province of British Columbia which endowed us with 80 acres of land in Burnaby, now known as Discovery Place.
In 1990, the decision was made to make Discovery Parks self-governing and independent of government. With no further investment by the Province, the organization adopted a business plan whereby real estate profits would fund all further work. The Board, in all of its iterations since then, has chosen to retain its Mission of helping technology grow in British Columbia and unlike it peer organizations in most other jurisdictions, does so without any government assistance.
A strategy for the development of Discovery Place was devised and implemented. It required a rezoning of the property to allow a broader definition of technology that also embraced the private sector.
As the lots were developed and sold, Discovery Place began to take the shape you see today. At the same time, the Universities had an interest in the creation of office and lab buildings on the campuses to house technology companies that were created from university research. In collaboration with the architectural firm Chernoff Thompson, a template for a campus-located purpose built lab and office building was developed. Over the years, many buildings were built by Discovery and others, including in the United States, based on this set of design principles.
At each campus, Discovery Parks took the financial risk, raised the debt to complement its equity and developed buildings to complement the individual campus’ technology transfer goals. Discovery also entered into profit sharing deals at each campus whereby the institution received a share of the net operating profits.
The equity for financing the on-campus buildings came from the profitable sale and development of the buildings at Discovery Place. In essence, this has been the economic engine that has allowed Discovery Parks to pursue its Mission independent of government.
Discovery Parks’ buildings were also developed to high environmental standards. For example, one was developed with recycled wood floors, a ground source geo-thermal heating and cooling system and opening windows. Another, named Discovery Green and currently occupied entirely by HSBC, was the first office building in western Canada to achieve a LEED Platinum designation.
Today, Discovery Parks still owns one such building, Technology Place, at the BCIT campus in Burnaby. All of the others have been sold to the host campuses.
This business model, considered unique by its peers, secured the Science Park of the Year Award in 2002 from the Association of University Research Parks. It was the first time the award was presented outside of the United States.