Levelling up the life sciences sector with real estate
The need for physical collaboration, clusters and wellbeing spaces has never been more crucial for the life sciences sector. Whilst this is not a new concept for the office market - it is something that needs to be central to levelling up the UK’s life science sector.
Jamie Bottomley, Bruntwood SciTech’s Head of Commercial at Alderley Park explored this topic in more detail as part of a recent Urban Land Institute (ULI) webinar: ‘Levelling up the UK Life Sciences ecosystem: Life beyond the Golden Triangle’.
“In March 2021, the ULI reported that European life science sector remains an immature segment of the real estate market, but that immediate and compelling opportunities for investment are ready for future economic growth in this area.
For life sciences real estate, it’s more than just providing life sciences businesses with high spec ready-to-go labs, it’s equally about helping companies in the sector to attract and retain talent by providing the right amenities, access to additional services, partner networks and like-minded neighbours to create a cluster where collaboration is natural.
Across Bruntwood SciTech, we’ve seen more and more companies choosing regional locations where these factors are present; especially those in fast growing, emerging sectors such as precision medicine, digital health and CROs/CDMOs to which large pharma are increasingly outsourcing.
But it’s not just about location and having everything physically present in one place. It comes as no surprise that the ULI report highlights that one of the key challenges in life science real estate is real estate players spotting an opportunity but lacking the operational expertise and understanding of the customer base and their needs to really support these businesses long-term.
It is now widely recognized that the triple helix of academia, local government, and private companies represent a new approach to innovation and are key for attracting industry investment. From fostering innovative start-ups to attracting established international companies, interactions between multiple different stakeholders is vital.
At Bruntwood SciTech we know that the more accessible the surrounding network is, the better our customers can perform. We put a lot of emphasis on providing collaborative spaces and clusters so that a multitude of different businesses can interact, share ideas and even come together and form partnerships. Combined with access to our partner network, life science businesses can accelerate innovation at pace when they locate at one of our campuses.
But these clusters aren’t created by chance or overnight. It’s the result of a very deliberate and patient approach to investment, bringing together expertise in real estate and property investment in order to grow the sector as a whole.
Life sciences businesses need a springboard for growth with the ability to access the right talent, skills, facilities, networks and funding in safe hands and in creating these successful clusters, many become enablers for the growth of others. NorthWest eHealth, for example, located at Manchester Science Park, leverage electronic health records to undertake clinical trials quicker and more cost effectively so other businesses co-located at the Park can also easily access these services and tools. CROs (Contract Research Organisations) such as Aptus Clinical and proteomic-data science and diagnostics company Kinomica at Alderley Park are other great examples.
By providing access to shared facilities, state of the art equipment and services such as NMRs, coworking and open access labs, companies like Kinomica can access scientific equipment that would typically be cost prohibitive. Having these facilities available for companies to access on a pay-as-you-go basis removes huge financial barriers for small life sciences businesses and lets them concentrate on research and development.
The other key ingredient is finance and the role that supportive ecosystems need to play in facilitating access to the right funding, angel investors, legal advice, grants and supporting professional services. A shift to a more virtual world has created new opportunities. Kinomica’s series A funding for example was awarded through a webinar with Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) in which a South East-based investor admitted they would never have normally looked past Birmingham in terms of investment opportunities if it wasn’t for the virtual event.
We’re at a unique moment in time where the pandemic has boosted opportunity for life sciences and where real estate can engage in this growing sector which has government, private sector, and wider societal recognition and support.
Growing the UK life sciences sector requires financial investment and an investment in understanding. It’s about knowing the needs of life science businesses and where the opportunities lie, and getting this recognized on a global platform.’’