The industrial/science park as the centers of sustainability

Leiden Biosciencepark


Making the world more sustainable is a goal for us all, the all important question is; where do you start? For many governments and organisations it is very difficult to pick a starting point. Many initiatives focus solely on civilian and consumer society. While large companies are often lamented as being unsustainable and working against sustainability. Part of a broader approach to the problem of sustainability means including those companies and for a number of municipalities this means looking at the scale of the business park. With business parks often containing dozens or even hundreds of companies on a small spatial scale it makes sense considering their impact and also the enormous gains possible by working with a smaller number of actors.

As one of their ambitions the municipality of Leiden wants the Leiden Biosciencepark to become the most sustainable Biosciencepark in the Netherlands by 2030. A highly ambitious goal when taking into account that Leiden currently scores relatively low on many of the indications related to sustainability. The first step should be to ask what is already being done. 

The case of the Leiden Biociencepark. 

Sustainable Astellas
The new Astellas building is a sustainable example of new construction in Leiden

Recently we have interviewed a member of the entrepreneurial association of the Leiden Biosciencepark. In this interview it became apparent that there have been a number of actions taken, either for cost saving or sustainability, that go towards the goals set by the municipality of Leiden. Rebuilding of a road to make for a more efficient commute would be one of the specific projects undertaken that combine sustainability and business sense. Some new buildings that have been constructed in the past couple years often have had sustainability in mind. Those new buildings have been certified by BREAAM, an organisation that gives out certificates and scores for buildings based on how sustainable they are. Such buildings are build with heat-cold storage making their heating bill both cheaper and less demanding on the enviroment. Combining business and sustainability without either side losing out. With the recent increase interest of the municipality of Leiden and of the general population many companies are considering and investing hefty sums of money into sustainability. There is a lot being done even before the municipal or other governments have implemented policy. There is another side to the story, as it turns out the entrepreneurial association has done a small assesment of what has and can be done in the field of sustainability. While the assesment has not been officialy published yet it does show that due to the cost or inconvenience a number of possible sustainable projects have been declined. There is one specific case when, in order to help biodiversity, the grass around and between the roads would not be mowed as often to create a habitat for plants, insects, and bees, while many on the biosciencepark were in favor there were other companies that prefered a clean cut look over additional biodiversity. Which shows that while progress is being made, the end is not yet in sight.

Lessons to be extracted.

We can see that companies are starting to become more susceptible to messages about sustainability and are willing to invest more to that end. This change towards sustainability is very slow and we feel that it is here that it might be beneficial for the government, whether local or national, to assist in order for the process to be sped up. Something that must be kept in mind by everyone is that a lot of sustainable projects are expensive investments and not all companies are able or willing to make such investments. Therefor awareness campaigns and government subsidies can bridge the gap. It would be risky to force the projects onto the companies as expecially smaller companies might be scared off, in turn endangering the economic viability of Leiden.




3 thoughts on “The industrial/science park as the centers of sustainability”

  1. To what extend are you willing to promote biodiversity in the city. The argument for tall grass sounds like it has only a minor effect on the biodiversity in the region while having a big impact on the aesthetics of the city. I think most residents would be unwilling to turn their city into unregulated jungle just for the sake of a couple of small animals. I’d argue that in some cases the negatives outweigh the benefits of biodiversity promotion.


    1. Biodiversity has been proven to be of great importance for human mental and physical well-being as well as ecosystems in general. Unmowed grass is a tiny step in the right direction. And we’re not talking about strangling lianas, but some softly waving grasses. The entire sustainability theme in my opinion is much too focused on financial benefit and inorganic structures. If your company makes several billion dollars of profit, why not spend a few grand on biodiversity? In my blog post I’m picking up the topic of biodiversity in the science park. With little afford much can be achieved, if one only is willing to care.


    2. [In response to Jetse] In my opinion this is indeed part of the perception about how the city should look. When more people understand the benefits of simple measures such as leaving the grass to grow some more it will become more acceptable. In the future it will most likely be normal to leave the grass and weird to keep lawns perfectly manicured and everyone will be used to it.


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