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 universities of British Columbia.  Over 250 companies have called a Discovery Parks’ building home.  In addition, $21 million of our profits have been distributed back into British Columbia’s Innovation Community including post-secondary institutions (UBC, SFU, BCIT and UVic), the former Science Council of BC, and Discovery Foundation, all to promote further research, development and, most importantly, commercialization of technology.

Discovery Parks was founded nearly 40 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 was the economic engine that allowed Discovery Parks to pursue its Mission independent of government.

Discovery Parks’ buildings were also developed to high environmental standards.  For example, Discovery Green 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, developed by former CEO Mark Betteridge and 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.

Discovery Parks is now entering a new chapter of supporting the technology industry with Nimbus Synergies Inc. Nimbus is an investment program specifically for Health Tech companies in British Columbia.

“After nearly 40 years of success in the property development business for the tech sector in greater Vancouver, the Board of Directors has decided on a major pivot and will now be investing our capital in early stage companies in the Health Tech Sector. We are honored to have Paul Geyer, with his vast amount of knowledge and success in the Health Tech industry, to lead us in this new direction.” – Morgan Sturdy, Chair of Discovery Parks.