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The role of world class campuses and science properties in supporting the UK government’s R&D spending

kath on panel at ukreiif event

Our Director of Life Sciences Dr Kath Mackay joined a panel discussion with George Freeman, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation on ‘Developing Science & Innovation Places to Prepare UK PLC for Global Investment’ at last week’s UKREiiF event.

The themes ‘Build Back Better’ and ‘Levelling Up’ took centre stage at the recent UKREiiF forum, specifically focusing on how real estate and property are primed to accelerate growth in these areas, whilst also taking into account the drive to reach Net Zero within the industry.

Our Director of Life Sciences Dr Kath Mackay joined a panel of developers, occupiers, and policy makers to discuss how the development of world class campuses and science properties are underpinning the government’s commitment to increase R&D spending by £20bn per year by 2024/25 and a manifesto specifically targeting improvements to transform/drive the UK to become a world leading country for R&D.

In this article, we’ve shared some of Kath’s discussion points from the panel, featuring unique insights into how our ambition to create a network of thriving innovation districts is spearheading the growth of the science industry and supporting the government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Levelling up and the support for growth in areas outside of the Golden Triangle

Within Bruntwood SciTech, we have welcomed the government’s pledge to increase investment into the sector by £22bn per year by 2024/25 and see this as a real major opportunity presented by the new Levelling Up strategy to drive growth across the regions; specifically within science and tech.

Kath acknowledged the essential role the Golden Triangle plays as part of the UK’s science and technology infrastructure and that strategic investment is needed in this geography to grow the UK cluster. She also discussed how targeted R&D funding across the regions in emerging clusters has the power to unlock wider economic growth.

As a business for example, we have identified the West Midlands as a region demonstrating pioneering R&D work within an existing cluster of health excellence. Our upcoming developments in the city - Birmingham Health Innovation Campus and Enterprise Wharf - are representative of this opportunity for growth and will provide purpose-built office and lab space to support the success of the city’s growing cluster of science and tech startups, scaleups and global corporates.

With the eyes of the world on Birmingham as we lead up to the Commonwealth Games, all signs point to us entering a very exciting period of acceleration for the Midlands capital.

However, for Levelling Up to become a reality, more investment is needed within the sector outside the Golden Triangle. Kath highlighted how investors are seeking to see examples of the private and public sector working together in unison, with a shared goal and defined purpose. She shared key examples of where this is being done well, such as Innovation Greater Manchester, where we have promoted the idea of place-based innovation deals that will make a transformational impact on our towns and cities.

We’ve formed close relationships with well-established, authority institutions in the city; such as our partnership with the University of Manchester to build ID Manchester and our Citylabs partnership with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.

This is a formula that we are repeating elsewhere, with the likes of our JV with the University of Birmingham to develop Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC). Businesses located at BHIC will benefit from our unrivalled partner network, such as the University of Birmingham, Birmingham Health Partners, Birmingham City Council and the NHS, to gain the necessary support to form, grow and scale their innovations via access to funding, talent and clinical expertise.

Oxford Road Corridor aerial

How collaboration is essential in building successful science campuses and properties

Collaboration between buildings, science parks and organisations plays an integral role in developing the thriving ecosystems in which science and tech businesses can develop and grow, and this has become even more important in recent years.

Kath highlighted how the collaborative approach taken by the UK science park landscape in particular benefits the sector. UKSPA (The United Kingdom Science Park Association) for example, is a UK based membership network of managers, developers, investors and owners that is dedicated to supporting the continued growth of science parks, technology incubators and innovation centres, of which Bruntwood SciTech is a member. Similarly CaSE (Campaign for Science and Engineering), which represents over 115 scientific organisations such as businesses, universities and professional bodies, works to ensure that the UK has the skills, funding and policies to enable science and engineering to thrive.

In Bruntwood SciTech, we connect the young, energetic companies that are fresh out of university with resources from larger organisations, thereby enabling those well-established businesses to tap into that talent in return. This unrivalled approach to collaboration offers businesses the opportunity to share skill sets, learnings and provides an established ecosystem primed to enable them to licence and co-develop new technologies.

You join a network within your immediate surroundings and can also tap into larger integrated networks which deliver mutual benefits for all within it.

At Manchester Science Park and Citylabs for example, we’ve used our skills in redevelopment and our vision and ambition alongside other key stakeholders including the universities and NHS trusts, to transform the campus into something really special.

Manchester is now one of the most established science and tech clusters in the UK, with a mixture of life science and tech companies, including those working in medtech, digital health, diagnostics and precision medicine who, through our partnership with the NHS, are able to gain direct access for trialling and adopting their products or services at an accelerated rate, supporting faster growth of these businesses.

Is the sector’s growth expected to continue on the same trajectory?

The need for high quality, adaptable lab space for the industry has been a hot topic in the sector for some time. Now, as the Government continues to promise to increase R&D spending, this requirement has become even more paramount; and we aren’t expecting any sudden changes for this need.

But, when we talk about shortages in any area of property, there is a tendency to speak in terms of headline numbers alone. However, the companies and the offices and 'labs’ that house them are a broad church - nor are they created equal.

For example, the businesses using our spaces are at the very forefront of innovation, focused on researching and developing pioneering treatments and therapies for rare or intractable diseases. As a result, their requirements are niche; and demand a significant level of building and development expertise in order to build facilities that meet their bespoke needs, such as heavy chemistry or GMP manufacturing. As the number of businesses establishing themselves in these technical sectors rises, so does the race to create the newest and most technologically equipped, future-proofed facilities - all while taking into account the UK’s Net Zero carbon target by 2050. This has created competition amongst property businesses to obtain them, but has also helped to maintain a buoyancy market across the board.

At our Alderley Park campus in Cheshire, which is the UK’s largest single-site life science campus, we’re delivering 112,000 sq ft of newly refurbished laboratories and accelerating plans to deliver another 200,000 sq ft of labs and workspace to the market in the near future.

For now, the demand for all types of laboratory space, particularly when it comes to the need for specialist chemistry labs and medicines manufacturing facilities, is not going anywhere fast.

Are you looking for high quality office or lab space for your business, with the added benefit of dedicated business support to accelerate your growth?

We offer more than just office or lab space. Each of our 11 different locations across the UK come with direct access to our dedicated innovation services team. Whether you’re exploring a new venture, looking to scale up your business or you own an established company and seeking another regional base, joining the Bruntwood SciTech network will provide you with the support you need to reach your business goals. Get in touch today.

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