About 1328 employees already work at the park in 62 enterprises involved in aerospace, biotechnology, electronics and engineering. In nearby Leuven in Flanders, work is under way on the construction of the University of Leuven’s Arenberg science park; the first phase is scheduled for completion this year. The park will offer 120,000m2 of business space spread across four building clusters.

Swedish downturn

The real estate market in Stockholm, Sweden, has been soft due to a decrease in rent levels and an increase in vacancy rates. The city has been especially challenged by the downturn in the information and communications technology industry (ICT). In the past decade, ICT has developed into one of Sweden’s major industries with almost 10% of the workforce engaged in ICT-related work.

Advertisement

One area especially hit hard by the downturn is Stockholm’s suburb of Kista, known as the “Silicon Valley of Sweden”. Mattias Backman of Kista Entré, the group that now has full ownership of the Kista Science City, reports that vacancy rates there are 50%. “These have been hard times for business in Kista and the ICT industry,” he says. “But our current tenants are satisfied with the product and we are working with new prospects. The ICT industry is looking up.”

Despite ICT’s tough times, Kista Science City has continued to increase its employment base and about 26,000 people work there today. The explanation is that many new companies are moving in, compensating for the established enterprises that have been forced to cut back.

Kista cluster

There are now about 400 IT companies in Kista Science City with more projected for the near future. Many inquiries come from US, Chinese, French and German firms, says, Mr Backman. According to him, the reason is: “Kista Science City offers the most unique cluster in the world for information and telecommunications technology firms, especially those in wireless, broadband and mobile systems.”

Ericsson is the driving force with its headquarters there. IBM is also expanding due to new business resulting from outsourcing. With Swedish and Stockholm city authorities determined to make Kista first among all the other IT zones in the world, Kista Science City is undergoing great changes. The Kista Galleria shopping centre is being redeveloped and new developments include the construction of Kista Science Tower, the building of more than 700 student flats, a new motorway slip-road, new bus services, improved capacity on underground trains, plus cultural activities, services and recreational facilities.

Kista officials felt that the city lacked a project profile or “face”: a landmark to make it memorable. The Kista Science Tower, which will soon be the tallest building in Sweden with 2500 new offices, is designed to fill this void.

“The tower is a great undertaking both architecturally and technologically,” says Mr Backman. He says the tower will be a triangular glass building, capped with a white glass dome. “When complete it will look like a big prism, which will be fantastic to see when the sun is rising and setting,” he says.

The hope is that this architectural landmark will give rise to economic growth and further development.