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How innovative workspaces can accelerate innovation

Arianna Ramirez

“New Ways of Working” (NWOW), also known as the future of work, modern working, agile working and new work, is a hot topic.

It’s a concept that describes the recent transformations of the workplace. A key aspect of this transformation is the spaces where we work.

In this article, you’ll discover what makes a workspace innovative, learn how certain workspaces accelerate your company’s innovation and get to know Switzerland’s prime example: HORTUS.

How can a workspace be “innovative”?

To innovate is to change what’s already established.

In the context of workspaces, this means creating new, better designs for the spaces we work in.

In spaces like factories, construction sites and restaurants, efficiency is key. Everything has its place, and the space is designed for most efficient movement and optimal input-output balance.

But when it comes to spaces for mental work, i.e. offices, it’s not as clear what and why to optimize.

A century ago, Frank Lloyd Wright first came up with the concept of the open-plan office. Back then, people preferred to work in closed-off spaces, so it didn’t take off for another 50 years until the Germans introduced the Bürolandschaft.

Still, cubicles and closed offices remained the norm for 50 more years, although companies like Vitra introduced revolutionary office concepts back in the early 00s.

Just recently, there was another massive shift. 

Driven by the COVID pandemic, people became more aware of their workspace and work-life balance. Some want to work from home, some want to work while traveling, some prefer working alongside people from other companies in coworking spaces

Some companies have yet to realize that this change is permanent. Others see its benefits, like easier access to an international workforce.

Because working physically together is still important, they often open satellite offices in shared spaces where remote employees can meet.

The ultimate goal of workspace design is to empower employees to do their best work. A workspace that significantly increases employee value creation by doing something different is innovative.

Innovative workplaces take many different factors into account, e.g., the well-being of employees and making them want to spend time in the office, opportunities for collaboration, access to modern technologies or a flexible environment. 

We’ll get into that in a bit.

How an innovative workspace accelerates innovation in your company

Creating value is almost synonymous with innovating for most life sciences and tech companies. 

Beyond that, innovating is a must. If your company fails to make progress, out-of-the-box thinking startups will quickly swoop in and overtake it.

Innovative workspace design enables innovation within a company for one important reason: it fosters collaboration.

It’s rarely one guy in a basement (except for the occasional genius like Steve Jobs or Richard Branson) who creates something entirely new and significant.

Different people from multiple organizations with unique viewpoints need to exchange ideas and work together on common problems for new solutions to emerge.

The best way to make this exchange happen is with spaces that encourage and enable people from different teams, companies, sectors and institutions to meet.

That just doesn’t happen in the isolated offices on closed-off company premises we’ve grown used to over the decades.

The layers of workspaces for innovation (with examples)

Many companies nowadays prefer activity-based workspaces, shared amenities, coworking spaces, satellite offices, dedicated event venues, and strategic placement in a relevant ecosystem.

Ideally, you layer these innovation drivers by offering innovative workspace in a shared environment as part of an ecosystem.

Each individual layer facilitates more collaboration and, therefore, accelerates your company’s innovation more rapidly.

1st layer: The innovative workspace

A collaborative environment starts at the company level. Your internal workspace should be designed to foster collaboration among colleagues from various divisions and roles.

Key features of innovative workspaces

  • Space variety.
    You’ll find a range of spaces, including quiet areas for focused work, collaborative zones for team-based projects, meeting rooms of various sizes and relax zones for informal meetings or breaks. This variety ensures employees have the ideal space for the task at hand, whether it requires deep concentration or dynamic interaction.
  • Strong character.
    Employees increasingly seek out workspaces with a unique character, like office space in beautifully restored historical buildings, converted industrial spaces or modern architectural structures. These environments serve as sources of inspiration and pride.
  • Flexibility and mobility.
    Employees work on so-called flex desks. This encourages movement and interaction to boost creativity and collaboration.
  • Technology integration.
    Innovative workspaces provide state-of-the-art technology. Wifi throughout the entire office, portable laptops or tablets and shared screens or digital whiteboards in collaborative areas simplify working together without restrictions.

Innovative workspace example: Deloitte’s Amsterdam Office

Known as “The Edge,” this office shows how to increase collaboration, productivity and employee satisfaction. Besides innumerable different zones, it offers a mobile app that helps employees find colleagues, book collaborative rooms and control the light setting at their workplace.


2nd layer: The shared environment

Ideally, an innovative workspace offers a shared environment like a coworking space or shared lab.

Employees of multiple companies and freelance professionals renting space within the same premises will meet in cafeterias, community zones and event venues while enjoying the privacy of closed offices and bookable meeting rooms.

Key features of a shared environment

”Shared workspaces within a diverse community of like-minded professionals foster innovation. Networking over coffee with peers can fuel creativity far beyond the confines of home or traditional office settings.“

—Karin Crisanto, Head of Innovation Space and Infrastructure Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area

  • Community environment.
    These spaces are designed to cultivate a sense of community among its residents. Common areas, shared facilities and collaborative workstations are central to this design, facilitating easy interactions across different organizations and disciplines.
  • Flexibility and scalability.
    Shared offices are easy to scale up or down based on business needs. This flexibility is particularly attractive to emerging businesses and projects with evolving space requirements.
  • Resource sharing.
    By sharing resources such as meeting rooms, labs, office equipment and even administrative services, residents can reduce costs while gaining access to amenities that might otherwise be unaffordable.
  • Enhanced networking opportunities.
    Events, workshops and social gatherings within these spaces provide residents with ample opportunities to network and collaborate. This environment is conducive to exchanging ideas, finding potential partners or simply expanding professional networks.
  • Versatile meeting areas.
    Meeting areas can host everything from formal presentations to casual brainstorming sessions. Modular furniture and configurable layouts allow teams to customize the space to fit their current needs.
  • Social zones.
    Social zones provide a venue for social engagement and informal networking. Ideally, social zones aren’t confined to just one company either but a meeting point for employees from different companies.

Shared environment example: Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area – Main Campus.

The Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area – Main Campus covers 115,000 square meters. Its design encourages community interaction through generously sized common areas, a courtyard as large as a football field and various events for residents and the public.

3rd layer: The innovation ecosystem

Innovation ecosystems, sometimes also called innovation districts, are emerging all over the world.

Well-known ecosystems like Silicon Valley or the Boston/Cambridge area in the US and Barcelona’s El Poblenou in Europe became the gold standard for innovative ecosystems. 

Being part of a relevant innovation ecosystem enables and encourages your employees to engage with a broad community of businesses, research institutions and technology hubs.

Key features of ecosystem-oriented workspaces

  • Strategic location.
    These workspaces are typically located in or near innovation districts, business parks or clusters that are home to a mix of startups, established companies, universities and research organizations. Such an ecosystem usually has an anchor. This can be one or more leading companies in a particular field, a university or a research institute with a particular focus everyone wants to be close to.
  • Community engagement.
    Ecosystem-oriented workspaces encourage active participation in community events, seminars and collaborative projects. This integration helps businesses stay on the cutting edge of industry developments and trends.
  • Shared resources and infrastructure.
    Companies benefit from shared laboratories, advanced manufacturing facilities and business services that might be too costly to invest in as a single entity. This shared infrastructure supports a wide range of activities from R&D to production and scaling operations.
  • Networking and visibility.
    Regular community events, industry meetups and innovation showcases provide companies with opportunities to network, attract investment and increase their visibility among key stakeholders in the ecosystem.
  • Cross-sector collaboration
    An ecosystem brings together diverse sectors from tech and biotech to finance and even arts. This facilitates the sharing of ideas and technologies across different fields and cultivates synergies that would never be discovered in more homogenous environments.

Example of an innovation ecosystem: The Basel Area

Located in the heart of Europe, the Basel Area is renowned for its strong life sciences and healthcare ecosystem. Companies here gain access to state-of-the-art facilities and a thriving network of researchers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. This vibrant environment is conducive to forging partnerships, sparking innovation, and accelerating business growth.

Get to know the impressive neighborhood of HORTUS at the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area – Main Campus from a bird’s eye view in the following video:

Switzerland’s most innovative workspace: HORTUS

HORTUS is a forward-thinking office complex and part of the Switzerland Innovation Park Basel Area – Main Campus. The Main Campus is home to over 1,000 healthtech and biotech trailblazers working for Johnson & Johnson (who just opened a new innovation hub here), University of Basel, T3 Pharmaceuticals, Basilea and many more.

The open office design encourages collaboration among colleagues while the community spaces bring together people from different companies. HORTUS is located at the heart of the innovation ecosystem of the Basel Area in Allschwil.

Here are 8 reasons why the HORTUS is unique:

Uncompromisingly Sustainable

As a resident at HORTUS, you contribute annually to a reduction of 26 tons of CO₂ emissions.

Integrated day school

The SIS Switzerland opens a kindergarten and primary school as part of the Main Campus HQ.

Sports facilities

With offers from basketball and soccer courts to a public pool and on-premise fitness studio, residents enjoy the right balance to the indoor workspaces.

Café and food

With a range of offers like a restaurant and espresso bar, HORTUS residents stay in good health, socialize over a cup of coffee and eat well (vegan) throughout the day.

Shared workspaces

Various community spaces promote networking and collaboration between employees from different companies.

Cost saving

Companies can save up to 25% of space, thanks to common areas and meeting rooms outside of the rented space.

Natural spaces

The community benefits from exclusive events, networking and visibility.

Life sciences ecosystem

HORTUS is at the center of innovation with the campus located in a life sciences ecosystem that fosters collaboration with leading companies and research institutions.

A glimpse into the HORTUS:

Become part of HORTUS

Companies that seek to accelerate innovation through a collaborative environment benefit from setting up their offices at HORTUS.

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