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Global insurtech firm to join Bruntwood SciTech’s West Village innovation cluster

News, Leeds
CGI indicative view of courtyard and entrance
  • QBE selects West Village as Leeds base and home for robotics centre and technological development hub

  • Once complete, West Village will be a city centre cluster of innovation-based businesses who will receive Bruntwood SciTech’s sector specialist growth support, and be connected into a city-wide network of innovation.

  • The innovation-focused development, which is 75% occupied, also recently welcomed PEXA and Advisory Insurance Brokers.

The UK’s largest dedicated property platform serving the growth of the nation’s knowledge economy, Bruntwood SciTech - a joint venture between Bruntwood, Legal & General and Greater Manchester Pension Fund - will welcome one of the world’s largest insurance and insurtech firms, QBE, to its new cutting-edge city centre workspace in Leeds, West Village.

Australian-headquartered QBE with global operations across 27 countries offering commercial, personal and specialty insurance products alongside risk management solutions are set to move into three floors of the transformed workspace, totalling 37,000 sq ft - one of the largest deals in the city this year, bringing them to one of the most prominent locations and like-minded innovation communities in Leeds.

The move will see QBE relocate and expand its 300-strong employee base from its current workspace into the heart of the city centre, along with cementing the new home for its robotics centre and technology development hub where it uses robotic process automation (RPA) to free up employees’ time to focus on delivering greater value for customers – reducing manual tasks, speeding up processes, and boosting customer satisfaction in the process. Deploying such innovation into the insurance market has so far saved QBE 50,000 work hours, and now automates 30,000 customer claims tasks per week.

The firm is now set to carry out fitting out its new workspace at West Village, which is being delivered by contracting specialist Denton, and will create a collaborative space to foster innovation in its own space, as well as having access to the state-of-the-art facilities and spaces Bruntwood SciTech is creating at West Village for similar purposes.

Bruntwood SciTech is currently undergoing a £20m ambitious redevelopment at West Village to transform it into a 230,000 sq ft hub where innovation can thrive and collaborations are stimulated through a variety of coworking, serviced and leased spaces and activities where startups and large, established businesses can come together. The site will form a key location in Bruntwood SciTech’s Leeds city centre cluster of workspaces for innovation-led businesses, alongside Platform and 14 King Street. West Village will support the city’s vibrant culture of knowledge, creativity and innovation and contribute to the economic growth impact from the innovation sector to the city.

West Village promises to be a state-of-the-art workplace for the city with sustainability and wellbeing at its heart. It will feature a premium wellness studio space operated in partnership with premier training brand FORM called RESET Leeds that will host Yoga, Pilates and Barre classes, as well as mindfulness and wellbeing sessions for both businesses at West Village and the general public, for all abilities. The workspace hub has been centred around a main courtyard, where Bruntwood SciTech is creating a landscaped ‘urban oasis’ with expansive, tiered biophilia including two private roof terraces in QBE’s workspace, communal breakout spaces and business lounge, flexible indoor and outdoor event spaces, the largest cycle storage facility in the city, and local independent food and drink pop-ups who are surrounded by West Village’s anchor retailers, whose spaces are also being enhanced as part of the project. It will also create a new usable green space within Leeds’ city centre.

Improvements are being made to the building to reduce CO2 emissions, improve air quality, reuse rainwater, reduce noise and create new habitats for local birds and wildlife, including rare butterfly species. As part of the redevelopment, the building will be fitted with high efficiency air source heat pumps, sensor technology to promote the use of natural ventilation, new windows and additional wall insulation.

Bruntwood SciTech has already pre-let 75% of workspace at West Village, including to Australian fintech firm PEXA and Advisory Insurance Brokers, who will benefit from joining Bruntwood SciTech’s UK-wide like-minded community of 1,100 startups, scaleups and global businesses and specialist growth support, which includes direct access to highly skilled talent, new markets, funding and a large professional services network. In Leeds specifically they will gain access to partners including FinTech North, LegalTech in Leeds, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds Digital, Women in Leeds Digital, Bruntwood SciTech’s Female Founders Incubator, and many more.

Andrew Cooke, Regional Director - Leeds, Bruntwood SciTech said: “QBE is one of the world’s leading insurers, so the business’ decision to choose West Village as its hub for technological development is a key deal for the region. It also reaffirms West Village as a hub for innovative and evolving businesses and it’s exciting to see that we are continuing to succeed in our mission to grow a cluster of high-growth and forward-thinking organisations that will benefit from collaboration and knowledge-sharing with other like-minded firms. We’re looking forward to welcoming QBE to the West Village community and to continue growing our network of innovative, sector leading businesses ahead of its opening later this year.”

Nathan Fuller, Chief Operations Officer, QBE Europe commented: “QBE has had a presence in Leeds for over 20 years and our expansion in recent times has been about leveraging the strong local talent base to support us in our technological development, including the establishment of our robotics centre of excellence almost three years ago. Moving to West Village is the next chapter in our story with the city, and we are excited to be moving our people to such a prestigious location that is in tune with our commitment to sustainability, modernisation ambitions and focus on employee wellbeing.”

The announcement follows Bruntwood SciTech’s commitment of half a billion pounds of additional investment to further support the UK’s science, tech and innovation sectors, welcoming a third shareholder in Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and the transfer of Bruntwood’s city centre portfolio to become city centre innovation hubs. This includes West Village and 14 King Street which now feature alongside its well established ‘home for tech’ Platform - adjoined to the city’s train station - creating a much larger cluster of innovation-led businesses who will contribute to the economic growth impact from the innovation sector to the city.

CBRE’s Occupier Services team in Leeds acted for QBE on the deal. Charles Parkinson, Associate Director, CBRE’s Occupier Services team said: “It has been great working on this move with QBE over the past 12 months and sees another occupier relocate to a best-in-class building in the city centre, highlighting the business’ goals of finding more sustainable, amenity-rich buildings. The central location and good transport links, combined with its green credentials, were a real draw for QBE.”