Breakthrough Issue 13

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The United Kingdom Science Park Association magazine | Issue 13











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Grant Bourhill, CEO, Surrey Research Park; Katie Critchlow, CEO, NatureMetrics; Angela Richardson, MP for Guildford

Guildford MP welcomes NatureMetrics to Surrey Research Park as economy bounces back


atureMetrics, a leading nature data business, was recently welcomed by Angela Richardson MP as the first major new business relocation to Surrey Research Park this year. After a year of the economy stalling, Surrey Research Park is experiencing strong activity having recently reported the highest level of occupancy ever. One of the cluster areas at Surrey Research Park that is growing significantly is the K AT I E environmental sector and NatureMetrics is set to grow fast after receiving £6.5 million investment to scale-up. NatureMetrics is a world-leading provider of biodiversity monitoring data, using environmental DNA surveys. It delivers biodiversity data to businesses, NGOs and governments using tiny traces of DNA left behind in the environment by all species from bacteria to blue whales.

The preservation of our environment and biodiversity has to be top of the agenda and the growth of this sector in Guildford is especially pleasing given the UK’s role in hosting COP26 later in the year.”

community of like-minded businesses and access to the university’s world-class research in sustainability, as well as a convenient location for a wide range of talent in London and the south east as we scale up.”


Angela Richardson, MP for Guildford, comments: “The economy has been paused for the last year, but it is so promising to see Surrey Research Park is witnessing a strong rebound. NatureMetrics is set to bring high value jobs to Guildford and is another valuable addition to a growing community of environmental firms located on the Park. 1 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

Grant Bourhill, CEO of Surrey Research Park, comments: “The ecosystem within Surrey is special. We have a range of clusters of excellence including space, human C R I T C H LO W, N AT U R E M E T R I C S and animal health, digital and sustainability. It is both the growth of these individual NatureMetrics is run by three sectors in addition to how these sectors women, Dr Kat Bruce, founder and will collaborate and cross-fertilise, that CTO, Katie Critchlow, CEO and Dr will become the economic engine in a Juliet Jones, COO who also gained her post-covid world. We know that many of PhD at University of Surrey. The our tenants are anticipating growth this company currently employs 50 people year and are already recruiting to but expects to grow to over 70 by the increase their headcount. I am delighted end of the year. NatureMetrics is that as covid restrictions are beginning currently recruiting in business to lift, we are seeing the green shoots of development, communications and economic expansion, with NatureMetrics laboratory and data science. being the first company to relocate and join our community here at the Surrey Katie Critchlow, CEO of Research Park.” ■ NatureMetrics, comments: “The world is waking up to the need to reverse the current decline in nature and we are experiencing rapid growth in a sector For more info, that is at the forefront of the political please contact agenda. Surrey Research Park offers the 01483 579693 or ideal collaborative environment with a visit:

What’s on the horizon? We care about the future and collaboration is at the heart of our approach Our unique combination of laboratory, workshop & office space, provides companies in the life sciences, aerospace, automotive and construction technology sectors the ideal location to grow their business in a Covid-Secure environment This exciting facility is designed specifically to support and encourage the growth of innovative and knowledge based companies, transforming how we live and work

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Changing times at UKSPA


Dr Glenn Crocker MBE reflects on the positives for life sciences of the past 18 months as he steps down as UKSPA Chair…

n my first “Breakthrough” magazine introduction in 2019, shortly after I became chair of the Association, I wrote about the changing landscape that the science and innovation sector – and UKSPA was facing. This was several months before coronavirus, COVID-19 and lockdown became a part of our daily vocabulary. I said then that: “UKSPA will need to respond to this rapidly changing landscape: the ownership of science parks will change, with increasing private sector and fewer public sector owners: there will be more complex relations and … consolidation in the sector.” And this has most certainly been the case. We have all seen the significant level of interest in science parks and life science investment over the last eighteen months or so. This is tremendously positive and as, I say later in this issue, the enthusiasm for investment at all levels in life sciences is tangible. I also reflected on the fact that the


T: 01799 532050 E: W: l Executive Director Jim Duvall l Communications Manager Adrian Sell l Membership Administrator Louise Tilbrook

“BioCity model of combining company creation, investment and property used to be quite unusual but I am seeing a growing number of organisations looking to combine provision of space with incubation and investment.” That has proven to be a personal and professional understatement.

meeting so this is my final column as UKSPA Chair. But I am very pleased to say that our Vice-Chair Patrick Bonnett has agreed to take on the role until the end of 2021 so that we have continuity and this will allow the Board to take a view on future arrangements before the next AGM.



In March, BioCity Group and Trinity Investment Management, which owns a significant portfolio of science parks, formed We Are Pioneer Group. The new firm will operate across 10 science parks across England, Scotland and Wales, hosting 650 high growth businesses – 10 percent of the country’s life sciences ecosystem. This has however meant that my work with WAPG alongside my other roles, means that I no longer feel I can contribute as fully as I would wish to UKSPA activities as Chair. I am continuing on the UKSPA Board as a Director but will relinquish the Chair at the next UKSPA board


Director Director Sam Skiller - Production Manager Production Advertising Sales Editor Ian Halstead -

We are committed to sustainable forest management and this publication is printed by Buxton Press who are certified to ISO14001:2015 Standards (Environmental Management System). Buxton prints only with 100% vegetable based inks and uses alcohol free printing solutions, eliminating volatile organic compounds as well as ozone damaging emissions.

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The Association is in an exceptionally robust position, and we have emerged out of the challenges of the last fourteen months with both membership and finances intact despite the enormous impact that COVID-19 has had on all of us. Our total membership is at the highest level in our history and there is much to look forward to for the Science and Innovation sector. It’s been a pleasure working with the UKSPA Board and with Jim Duvall and the executive team, and I look forward to continuing to work on your behalf, but in a seat that is slightly further back from the table. ■

Breakthrough is published on behalf of UKSPA by Open Box Media & Communications, Premier House, 13 St Paul’s Square, Birmingham B3 1RB. T: 0121 200 7820. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the consent of UKSPA.

Open Box Media & Communications are proud to be corporate sponsors of Heart Research UK (Midlands).

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14 TALENT MOBILITY Co-founder and CEO of bio-tech start-up Imophoron, Frederic Garzoni, on why he left his native France to come to Bristol 16 AN AUTHENTIC MINDSET Professor Gary Clark, leader of HOK’s UK-based science and technology practice, discusses the evolution of his design philosophy



CREATIVE FORCE Entrepreneur Harry Destecroix explains his ambitious vision for Bristol’s ‘Science Creates’ community, and his personal philosophy





THE DYNAMIC DUO The Birmingham Health Innovation Campus story as told by its director of strategy and operations, Steve Taylor, and the MD of Bruntwood Sci-Tech Birmingham, David Hardman


LIFE IN THE GLASSHOUSE The MD of Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park, Dr Kath Mackay, gave a virtual tour of the life science and tech campus from its spectacular Glasshouse

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32 CHARLES RIVER LABS TAKES PUNT ON COBRA Cobra Biologics’ corporate vice-president, Mike Austin, explains how it took the long road from start-up status to become the newest arm of a global corporation

49 GAME-CHANGER Anna Maxwell, the founder and CEO of Maxwellia, tells Breakthrough how her pioneering business will widen access to medicine 50 EXPLORING THE ROLE OF THE UK’S NATIONAL LABORATORIES Airto looks at how they deliver the science and innovation that underpins the UK’s economic growth


COMMUNITY OF SCI-TECH SOULS Sci-Tech Daresbury’s business development manager, John Leake, outlines the historic origins and growth ambitions of the Cheshire campus




38 MEMBER PROFILES Including The Innovation Gateway at the London Cancer Hub, Make Architects and The Heath Business and Technical Park

ENABLING INTERACTION Chief executive of the Babraham Research Campus, Derek Jones, offers an overview of the history, evolution and achievements of the life sciences’ community which he leads

IT’S TIME TO TURBO-CHARGE Dr Glenn Crocker, head of JLL’s UK Life Sciences team, takes a strategic look at the sector’s prospects and its challenges

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56 SENSE OF HISTORY Willmott Dixon’s development manager, Martin Field, discusses the key findings of the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) report on the life sciences’ sector





20 CRUCIAL TO COMMUNICATE Dr Nick Gostick, director of the Smart Innovation hub at Keele Science & Innovation Park, explains why communication is at the heart of its business model

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UKSPA in numbers

UKSPA Membership

(April 2020 - March 2021) Total Membership

(As at 31 March 2020)



arch 2020 saw 150 UKSPA members and stakeholders meet at NEXUS Innovation Centre, Leeds to network, share ideas, learn and discuss. Just three weeks later, all were in lockdown. The plans that were emerging from a very well supported Membership Survey, which provided an insight from members on the future direction of the Association at a time of change, were joined by this new challenge. Our immediate focus turned to supporting members and briefing HM Treasury, BEIS and the devolved administrations on the impact of Covid-19 on members and the companies they support. The move to virtual contact with members saw increased engagement and the building of new relationships with other organisations. This was only possible through the support, encouragement, contribution, and enthusiastic participation of UKSPA members across the UK. Having recorded our highest ever level of membership in March 2020, despite the challenge and turbulence of the last fourteen months, overall membership has been sustained. While a small number of members did leave the Association, some have already returned to UKSPA, and we were also delighted to welcome several new members throughout the year. The next twelve months will see further challenge but also some unprecedented opportunities that build upon the many member success stories that emerged which demonstrates the agility, achievements and ambitions of the science and technology sector. UKSPA will continue to focus on supporting and promoting our members as we look forward to a postCovid world in which science parks and other innovation locations have such a vital role to play. A wide range of initiatives are underway at UKSPA and will be delivered to members over the remainder of 2021 including a fully revised third edition of our ‘Planning, Development and Operation of Science Parks’ publication supplemented by a new series of UKSPA case studies, the publication of a new ‘UKSPA Business Directory’ to promote and add value to our business membership, as well as improvements to our digital communications with members and other stakeholders. There is much to look forward to in the year ahead. ■



(As at 1 March 2021)

Key Stats

Activity across our digital platforms

Webinars: May 2020 to March 2021

31 1,617

99 508

Presentations made

Webinars held Total registrations

People attended one or more webinar

Webinar Themes


Policy focused themes including Comprehensive Spending Review and R&D Roadmap


COVID-19 focused support, advice and good practice


Sector focused themes examining the future for science parks and other innovation locations

Website: April 2020 to March 2021

114,475 1,920


Page views


News stories published

Unique visitors

Member & guest blog articles

Website growth into 2021 Relaunched in April 2020, has seen a steady rise in use.



Page Views

December 2020




January 2021




February 2021




Social Media



Twitter followers

Tweet impressions

(As of 7th March 2021)

(1 April 2020 to 6 March 2021)

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LinkedIn connections

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The world according to UKSPA and its members

Creative force Entrepreneur Harry Destecroix explains his ambitious vision for Bristol’s ‘Science Creates’ community, and his personal philosophy, to Ian Halstead.


t’s become a flamboyant rite of passage for entrepreneurs to acquire Caribbean hideaways, yachts the size of skyscrapers and football clubs to flaunt their wealth. Destecroix isn’t yet a member of that affluent elite, but having sold Ziylo in a staged acquisition that could be worth up to £600m to Denmark’s Novo Nordisk, he’s certainly on nodding terms. However, he won’t be using his new-found wealth to attend art auctions or browse through yacht catalogues. Instead, he’s using the knowledge he acquired during Ziylo’s challenging formative years, and the wider awareness he gained about the crucial need for a supportive and collaborative eco-system, to create Science Creates which will support start-ups through every stage of their journey to commercialisation. “Once you’ve got enough money to live comfortably, there are inevitably personal decisions to be made, but I want to help create new jobs, new things, and new technologies,” says Destecroix. “There’s never been a time when there’s been so much awareness of what science, technology and innovation can do for society, but none of it happens by magic.”


Formerly a co-founder of Ziylo, scientist and entrepreneur Harry Destecroix unveiled Science Creates in December 2020 - a Bristol-based deep tech ecosystem that helps scientists and engineers accelerate their ideas and build disruptive businesses from scientific discoveries, in partnership with the University of Bristol

Photographed by Peter Schiazza

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Destecroix’s start-up was established whilst he worked on his PhD at the University of Bristol, to translate the innovative technology - underpinned by 20 years of research into diabetes by his tutor Professor Anthony Davis - into a commercial venture. Novo Nordisk believes Ziylo’s platform can unlock the development of glucose-responsive insulins; a crucial stage in delivering the next generation of treatments for diabetics. However, it was only translated from lab tests and research data into a viable business because he established an incubator in Bristol’s urban heart, with 15,000 sq ft of space for his fledgling enterprise and other earlystage ventures.


The new and larger Science Creates Incubator in the city’s Old Market will soon provide 30,000 sq ft of purpose-built lab and flexible office space for deep-tech start-ups, backed by the University of Bristol and Research England. The new arrivals, and tenants in the original incubator, will have easy access to a flourishing eco-system of tailored support, academic mentors, business and legal advice and a £13.5m VC fund. Destecroix has also used a chunk of his new-found wealth to become an angel investor, backing 14 early-stage technologies which he, and their creators, believe will make society a better and a healthier place. His philosophy feels so natural and so compelling that it’s easy to see why like-minded scientists and would-be entrepreneurs were drawn to Science Creates. The latter concept took time to come forward, and is still evolving, but as so often with science-based entrepreneurs, its origins lay in the founder’s childhood. “I have always been fascinated in how things work, and how things were put together, which then led me to study chemistry, physics and biology,” he recalls. “Our society often appears so reliant on technology being invented in the

“ I WA N T T O H E L P C R E AT E N E W J O B S , N E W T H I N G S A N D N E W T E C H N O L O G I E S .” nick of time - as we’ve seen particularly during the pandemic - but new science takes years of dedication and effort and money to create, although it is a very fulfilling career path. “Historically, there has often been a different mindset between scientists in the US and here. We have a tremendous track record for academicled science, and our output is as strong and as original as anywhere in the world, but we haven’t been as good as at translating the science into commercial success. “I think there was probably too much focus on publishing research, having it peer-reviewed and winning academic plaudits, rather than using it to underpin a new enterprise or company.” However, it wasn’t until Destecroix spun-out Ziylo in 2014, and became interested in the translation of his research, that he fully understood the importance of geographical location. “The eco-system is Bristol was undeveloped, so we were the first spin-out in seven years from the chemistry department and I encountered so much resistance from colleagues, to even the concept of translating science into commercial ventures, that I began giving impromptu lectures on the subject,” he recalls. “I soon met other like-minded people on the campus, and after raising just a small amount of money and winning a grant for Ziylo, I started to think about what came next. “First, we needed a different mindset, people had to want to do it, and then we needed somewhere to

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grow, but there was so little incubator space and it was such a barrier, that if I didn’t create a building for Ziylo it would have failed.


“We needed research space to progress, but there was nothing available so we had to build incubator space which was how DX came about, to serve the needs of my start-up, but also to help the other frustrated academics I’d met here and unlock the potential of their research.” Given his perceptions about the different mindsets traditionally noted between British and US academics, it’s no surprise that Destecroix did once consider relocating. “As a PhD student, I got to visit the States on a number of conferences, and was tempted to start a company out there, not least as there are so many employment opportunities in my sector. Here, we have a lot of talented academics and researchers, but not many jobs in the South West.” Even though he soon returned, and his career has since progressed on a powerful upward trajectory, the successful sale of Ziylo and his subsequent decisions, did reawaken thoughts about the contrasting approaches to earned wealth in the two countries. “There are cultural issues here about the commercialisation of science and innovation. Most Brits don’t like even talking about money, to the point where they seem to pretend it’s not there and that’s not just academics of course,” suggests Destecroix.

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“To me, having gone from the position of not being able to pay my rent just a few years ago to now, I see it as fuel that helps to drive technology forwards. We over-complicate it, but I see it as a form of energy which drives change. “The ideas, the people and the vision are what matters. To improve society, to create jobs and wealth, to create new technologies and employment, we need entrepreneurs to create technologies and reinvest the money which in turn creates more jobs and opportunities. “Americans tend to put money back into the system, to create new companies and more wealth and more jobs, they don’t retire to islands. I don’t need to work again, but I work harder than ever, and will continue to. There’s a certain responsibility which comes to you, and it’s about propelling society forward. “Equally, it’s crucial for scientists to understand finance and it’s great to see a new generation of venture capitalists who are investing to drive change and who believe in sustainability and healthcare.” Destecroix believes the last decade has finally seen a welcome shift in emphasis among British academics and isn’t suggesting that the demands of their research lead to inertia. “You need a huge amount of infrastructure to translate findings and data into commercial products or services, and it’s that external ecosystem which has largely been lacking in this country for so long. “If you look around the world at the cities and locations where so many ideas have been commercialised, the area around Boston and Cambridge in the US is an excellent example, you have space, finance and expertise which all sit very

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Osama Kamal of Science Creates-based Folium Science, who have developed unique and patented technology that will selectively remove undesirable or pathogenic bacteria

close to the universities and that all helps lower the barriers. “Where you don’t have access to all these elements, it’s very hard to spin-out research-intensive companies, and when you do have them present, success becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because there’s a cultural change. More academics need to realise that publishing research is just the start of a journey. “I was watching a lecture at MIT recently, and an academic was telling students that their findings were just the beginning, and now they needed to raise $100m and go out and build a fusion reactor. You need aspirations which go way beyond the lecture hall and the research lab. “The biggest difference is around patents. They patent a hell of a lot more ideas than anywhere else, we’re in general too passive. However, I think it is changing at pace now, and expect to see Europe entering a new era for science and biotech in particular.”


Destecroix also believes the retro-fitting strategy he used for both his incubators and the wider Science Creates community will become increasingly popular, as scientists and entrepreneurs scramble for suitable space in their desired locations. “No-one should think delivering incubator space is easy. It takes a lot of work, the margins are thin and essentially, you’re building space for companies which don’t exist,” he says. “Retro-fitting is quicker and more sustainable. I think the drop in High Street retail space, coupled with uncertainty about future requirements

for offices in urban areas, will lead to more conversions of buildings for science uses, whether that is in Bristol, London, or any major city. “We’ve learned from the past that the collapse of certain industries is generally good for new innovations and start-ups and this is the latest example.” There’s also a healthy streak of productive pragmatism running through Destecroix’s views on the provision of incubator and office space. “Decision-making tends to be quicker in the private sector rather than the public sector, and because you’re using existing buildings, there’s no need to acquire land, the planning process is simpler which means you need to raise less capital. “The other advantage of this is that it’s quicker – the process from start to finish can be done in as little as 18 months. We took a simple approach. Fewer people. Less money. Less process. “We still need to scale the amount of space in the city centre, but scientists and researchers are footloose, so the delivery timetable always needs to be as short as reasonably possible.” The next phase of Science Creates’ evolution will see the launch of a charity to formalise the outreach work which has taken place for the last three years. “We’ve already brought around 1,000 youngsters through, giving them a taste of how science can transform their lives and their society, and it’s time to create a formal structure,” says Destecroix. “Local companies are now offering placements, and the council will be helping us get more schools and their pupils involved.” Hopefully, for the sake of Bristol, its economy and the life sciences’ sector, there are more than a few budding entrepreneurs among them. ■

To find out more about Science Creates, please visit:

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Talent mobility The co-founder and CEO of bio-tech start-up Imophoron, Frederic Garzoni, tells Breakthrough why he left his native France to come to Bristol.


t the time of the Chikungunya outbreak in 2006, I was at the Institute de Biologie Structurale in Grenoble, and became convinced that at some point the world would be hit by a different and more deadly virus. This was already the second warning after the SARS outbreak in 2003. We weren’t prepared for these viruses, but because their impacts were limited, not enough commitment and resources were put into addressing the possibility of future pandemics on much greater scale. In 2015, the Zika outbreak should have been another warning. I trained as a biochemist, making proteins for both academic and industrial projects, but then we created a platform which could be adapted for multiple uses, the ADDomer, with potential to deliver vaccines against future infectious diseases. I had been a pure scientist until that moment, not an entrepreneur, but I decided academia was too small a world for such a project, and in December 2017, I co-founded Imophoron with Imre Berger.

Harry Destecroix (left) with Frederic Garzoni

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“I LISTENED TO HARRY’S LECTURE AND IT W A S F A N TA S T I C E VERY THING I HAD B E E N L O O K I N G F O R .” We thought the platform could deliver vaccines which were stable, would not require refrigeration and could be manufactured quickly at scale. We wanted to base ourselves in France, but after 18 months of being unemployed and embroiled in the bureaucratic and procedural nightmares for which my country is infamous, I took the decision to consider working elsewhere because I could see no other way to progress.


Fortunately, Imre worked at the University of Bristol, and had met Harry Destecroix who had just founded Science Creates based on the need for an science ecosystem, with incubators, labs and office space, and also access to research talent and business finance. I listened to Harry’s lecture and it was fantastic, it was everything I had been looking for and such structures do not exist in France in that form. The Brexit vote had happened a year earlier, so it wasn’t clear what the future would be. However, we won a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council through its ‘Flexible Talent Mobility Account’ programme and two weeks later I set off for Bristol.

I moved away from my girlfriend and two children, but was so excited about what the company could achieve. I raised funds from angel investors, took space at Science Creates’ first incubator and began work. I was convinced there would be another virus and that we were not ready to challenge this threat. During 2019, we published proof of concept - so we knew our technology worked, and several months later, Covid came ... My family joined me in Bristol, and our children were totally brilliant even when they saw me working seven days a week during the first lockdown. They knew I was working on vaccines and helping the community by producing reagents for hospitals. My daughter even used to tell me to go back to work because she realised it was important. We now need to get our platform to the next stage where we can demonstrate efficiency against several viruses and establish scale up protocols for manufacturing. We will then look for partners, or access more finance so we can unlock its potential by ourselves. If we need room to grow, there is now a second and larger Science Creates’ incubator close by in the Old Market. ■

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An authentic mindset Professor Gary Clark, who leads HOK’s UK-based science and technology practice, discusses the evolution of his design philosophy and much more with Ian Halstead.


he influential Swiss architect Peter Zumthor believes buildings can ‘speak’ to people by reflecting their purpose, location and context, and that such considerations should always trump a designer’s personal preferences about style. It’s a philosophy often mistaken for minimalism, but it’s simply a perception that form must follow function, a mantra conceived as the 19th century drew to a close by the famed US architect, Louis H Sulllivan. His thoughts are always uppermost in Clark’s mind, whether he’s working for HOK in the UK, Europe and Middle East, chairing RIBA’s Sustainable Futures Group, or lecturing via an array of academic roles, presently as Honorary Professor of Sustainable Architecture at Queen’s University, Belfast. “There will always be a place for buildings simply designed to catch the

eye, but for me, whilst a building should look beautiful, its most important purpose is to work for the people in it,” he says. “Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of ‘function before form’ has gradually been eroded and now so often buildings are created which consciously refer to the designs of other architects. “If there’s one core message from the Sustainable Outcomes guide I worked on for RIBA, it is that when you’re designing space you must always have the outcome in mind. “I tell all my students to leave their aesthetic baggage at the door, and never to simply focus on the form and forget the function. “Many people think buildings are just cold and impersonal locations in which to work, but I’ve always seen them as places which have their own life. If you want to get the very best out of your employees, you have to first understand the metabolism of your building.

Clark’s current project is the University of Glasgow Research Hub by HOK

“At its simplest, my philosophy is that vernacular architecture should always be an expression of place, culture and climate … and I realised exactly how important climate was when working on a wonderful lab project in Northern Arizona.”


FLW’s spectacular design was created in the mid-1930s, as a weekend retreat for clients who owned Pittsburgh’s largest department store – but perching it atop a waterfall was very much his idea. The Kaufmanns later admitted they’d expected their home to be sited opposite the tumbling cascades, but quickly embraced the concept and happily holidayed at Fallingwater for almost three decades, until gifting it to a conservation organisation to preserve it for future generations. No architect would seek to play so fast and loose with a commission in this era, but Clark does admits always trying to persuade clients about the need to design buildings which interact with their occupiers. “I’ve been interested in science and technology since my school-days and am very hands-on, which probably comes from my dad’s engineering background,” he admits. “When I was growing up, he was a senior engineering manager working for hospitals in Aberdeen and so I’ve always appreciated buildings from the inside and out. “I’m always interested in how a building works, which I think is missing from much current teaching about architecture. I like working with engineers and think I can speak their language – although my dad might well dispute that aspect. “I enjoy blue-sky thinking, as long as it’s underpinned by knowledge and experiences gleaned from the past, and particularly love the idea of creating a ‘neural net’ within a building.”

Clark’s views fall on receptive ears in his science and technology leadership role with HOK, and nowhere more spectacularly than his current project, the giant research hub being fitted out for the University of Glasgow. HOK is the architect and lead consultant on the eye-catching 180,000 sq ft complex at the institution’s sprawling Gilmoerhill campus, and the £113m building will house researchers studying such pressing global challenges as energy demand and waste management.


The five-storey structure has been designed to act as the catalyst for cross-sector collaboration between individuals and teams from separate disciplines, and to promote interaction and lateral thinking, and Clark is already eagerly anticipating the hub’s projected completion in October. “No-one can operate at their best when they’re confined in silos, particularly when the whole purpose of a building is about delivering innovative ideas and processes to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the world,” he says. “You need to know the roles of everyone who will work there, and understand what everyone else is trying to do, so you can create an environment in which they can get the most from themselves. “The Glasgow hub will have up to 20 different research departments within a single open-plan environment, write-up zone and connected labs and it’s going to be fantastic, for the university, for society and for everyone who works there.

Clark worked on the Applied Research & Development Building for Northern Arizona University

The word ‘authentic’ is so exhaustingly over-used that it should be struck from the contemporary lexicon, but it comes to mind in its truest sense as Clark muses happily about the myriad influences which have influenced his development. Given that Sullivan’s apprentice was Frank Lloyd Wright – who pioneered the far-sighted concept of ‘organic architecture’ during his remarkable seven-decade career – it’s no surprise to discover that his Fallingwater masterpiece in Pennsylvania is Clark’s favourite building.

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“Serendipity is a concept I’ve always liked, so the hub has been designed to stimulate random meetings and chance conversations. If someone has a sudden creative thought whilst away from their official work-space, they can write on the walls or write on the glass, it’s like a giant flip-chart.” Whilst designing such an imposing research-focused centre has clearly satisfied Clark’s professional principles, it has also dovetails neatly with his personal mindset. “I’ve worked across multiple business sectors, at different companies and architectural practices, and for different academic institutions, but sustainability has been an ever-present theme,” he says. Two projects in particular stand out amongst his 30-plus years in the profession, and though the clients, schemes and locations were very different, the underlying intent was identical, to create an environment which would act as a catalyst for creativity and collaboration. “I was asked to design an applied, research and development (ARD) building for Northern Arizona University and the crucial issue was how to pull together academic staff, researchers and students from multiple different departments,” he says. “Equally, as the building would be a showcase as well as a functioning workplace, it was important to both translate the vision of the professor leading the work and understand the university’s wider strategic ambitions. “The solution was to create what was essentially a three-storey street, where all the ‘retail units’ were a different department. Doctoral students were in open-plan zones facing the street, whilst principal investigators were located towards the north, and for climatic reasons, it was oriented towards the south-west.” The ARD design remains one of Clark’s proudest achievements, not least for the integration of multiple sustainability features, including low embodied energy materials, passive design optimisation, ultra-efficient ME systems and water-saving strategies, which saw it awarded the world’s highest LEED platinum rating at the time.

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Clark’s favourite building is ‘Fallingwater’ designed in 1935 by Frank Lloyd Wright

In 2021, such elements have become commonplace, but more than a decade ago, they were rightly regarded as farsighted innovations.


Clark’s second stand-out project was a £40m expansion to the Dyson Industries Campus at Malmesbury, which included a hi-tech R&D hub, labs, office space, a sports’ pavilion and restaurants. “I was lucky enough to collaborate closely with James Dyson, and Chris Wilkinson, who works on all his buildings wherever they might be and whatever they’re for, and it was an amazing experience,” he recalls. “The underlying aim was to create an environment which would attract, inspire and then retain the best engineers and researchers the UK has to offer. “Dyson’s operating model is unusual, there’s a huge focus on team-working and collaboration, but he also likes to have a number of teams competing on the same project, so the buildings had to be created to facilitate both approaches. “A central element of the brief was to design a lab as high as a two-storey house – because creating a new Dyson product might take thousands of experiments – which was also stylish and a landmark, so people working there felt proud and it was also a great symbol of British engineering talent.” The elegant solution which met every requirement was to create a mirrored glass box, with an off-site manufactured steel and pre-cast concrete structure which used reflective blinds at night. “It was impressive during the day, when it reflects nature back on itself, and equally so at night when it had a beautiful depth of layering,” says Clark. “Dyson also wanted to remind everyone how many great engineering icons had been created in Britain, so technical drawings and brief bios were everywhere alongside full-size displays.

“There was Frank Whittle’s jet engine, a Mini cut in half and even an English Electric Lightning fighter hanging from the roof of the main restaurant – minus its engines of course.” “Inevitably, everyone worked for long stretches at a time and it was very intense, so the employees needed easy access to space where they could wind down and relax. The campus had a biocorridor, and you could walk (or run) right along it. It was, I have to say, a very impressive location.” However, although the projects Clark cites were all shiny and brand-new, he shares the enthusiasm of Harry Destecroix, who founded Bristol’s Science Creates’ community, for retro-fitting. “We can not hope to resolve the sustainability challenges by simply churning out new space, and I would love to be given any building of any age and be asked to breathe new life back into it,” he says. “Everyone has to be careful, whatever their roles in architecture, property development and the wider economy, that we don’t just focus on net-zero targets for 2030 and beyond. “My aim is to create science and technology buildings which are safe, functional, health and productive, and it’s just as possible to stimulate interaction and collaboration in a retro-fitted 19th century warehouse as a gleaming new research lab.” ■

For more information about HOK, please visit:

New innovation boost for Harlow businesses Arise will provide a unique foundation for highly innovative companies.


new innovation hub, funded by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Essex County Council, will support innovative companies and entrepreneurs in Harlow to grow their business. Located within strong scientific communities on the new Harlow Innovation Park in Essex, at the heart of the Harlow Enterprise Zone and the UK Innovation corridor, Arise will provide office space, research and development facilities, meeting rooms, easy access to services on the innovation park, plus access to expertise and use of worldleading facilities at ARU’s campuses in neighbouring Chelmsford and Cambridge. The £6million building is an ideal space for innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs looking for a base to grow their company. There is capacity for up to 30 businesses on site, and a virtual office package is also offered for firms that are not looking for accommodation but would benefit from the networking opportunities offered by Arise. The innovation hub will support opportunities for growth and innovation in the life science and medical technology sector, which already provides around 11% of UK employment. Dr Beverley Vaughan recently joined Arise as Innovation Hub Director, having previously worked as a senior lecturer in Biomedical Science.

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With experience across the pharmaceutical and SME biotech community setting up complex networks (Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres, iUK), programme management through challenging projects at the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and business development at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Beverley’s recent appointment will underpin ARU’s proactive approach to building relationships with business and collaborative working between Arise Hub occupants and ARU staff and students in support of the development of graduate talent and collaborative research, innovation and impact. Beverley will focus on linking academic capabilities in the health, performance and wellbeing arena with regional partners from the life science and medtech sectors to deliver a dynamic researcher-innovator and entrepreneur environment for the East of England. Dr Vaughan said: “I am thrilled to be joining Arise at this exciting stage of the incubator development in Harlow. Having worked across the UK incubation and innovation sectors for the last 10 years I really believe that now more than ever continued investment and support to UK research and development, talent, entrepreneurship and innovation programmes can help us to bolster and grow as a nation.

“I look forward to working with the team to develop the Arise sites and connect and strengthen our innovation zones in healthcare, medtech and wellbeing sectors.” Professor Yvonne Barnett, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at ARU, said: “Harlow is an ideal place to grow a business, and easy access to London, Cambridge and Stansted Airport increase its appeal still further. We’re delighted to be able to provide a hub for innovative businesses and entrepreneurs in the area. “By providing an innovation hub, Arise will place us at the heart of our community creating links between our academic expertise and student talent and helping to deliver an innovation eco-system alongside other occupiers of the Harlow Science Park and other major investors in the region.” The Harlow building follows the extremely successful Arise building on ARU’s Chelmsford campus, which is home to around 30 companies from a wide range of sectors. ■

Arise is a partnership between ARU, Essex County Council, and Harlow Council. For further information on the Arise Innovation Hubs, please visit:


On and off-site services for your business

Crucial to communicate Dr Nick Gostick, director of the Smart Innovation hub at Keele Science & Innovation Park, explains why communication is at the heart of its business model.


here’s always a danger that successful locations in any sector become distracted by the commercial imperatives to provide new space, and upgrade their old stock, at the expense of sustaining their community. It’s reassuring therefore to hear that Gostick’s opening thoughts, about the reasons underpinning Keele’s long-term success, are very much focused on the need to bring people together. “It is absolutely critical to encourage communication and interaction between occupiers, even if they work in the same sector, because these locations are of such a size and scale,” he says. “Keele was established as a science and innovation park in the late-80s, and it was quite unusual in that it was designed as an integral element of the university, partly to encourage interaction between students, tenants and academics so that everyone benefits. “Equally, that is a model which requires time, effort and significant investment. We strengthened the existing links here by co-locating our latest

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incubator units and the university’s business school, and now have around 150,000 sq ft of office and lab space across six centres.” Gostick accepts that commercial pressures will always be present, but says Keele is determined to avoid the mistakes of others. “I must admit, when you put your landlord’s hat on, it can be tempting to think of communal space as ‘empty’, and to start thinking of ways to fill it,” he admits. “However, we’ve all seen science parks which are dominated by a desire to maximise commercial revenue, and although they might have very high occupation levels, they inevitably lose the interaction and sense of community. “One of the benefits of being such an established location is that with experience, you come to realise that even high-growth companies need support. “It’s the collaborations and interaction which might be hard to monetise that are so important. You need to see value in systems and processes and programmes which support clients and their employees, it can’t just be a

commercial definition of ‘value’.” Gostick is equally well aware that whilst some occupiers need significant TLC, others will prefer a light touch approach, so there’s a considered blend of formal and informal support. “At the hub, we have two key programmes which focus on delivering growth via leadership and creativity, and we’re always looking to support companies facing barriers to innovation, which are typically around skills or resources. “Tenants can access a student consultant for up to 50 hours, supported by an innovation adviser from my team and also an academic, and it’s an approach which has proved very successful over several years now. “We open the programme to companies based elsewhere in the region, because we’re very aware that just as we pride ourselves on the strength of our community, the park is also an integral element of the local economy. “It’s equally important for us to support and interact with the regional business community, so we have close ties to the local councils, the Chambers

of Commerce, the local NHS and other organisations, and the benefits of those relationships are tangible. “Most of our tenants and spin-outs come from the local region, and the majority of start-ups will come out of the Stoke-Newcastle conurbation, and perhaps a little further afield. “There have been some exceptions, a couple of firms moved out of London, not because of pandemic-related issues, but they are small companies which wanted to relocate from an expensive environment in which to work and live, and a couple of others came here for the quality of life in Staffordshire. “New tenants and visitors often remark on the rural feel of the park. We are just 10 minutes from the M6, with Derby and Nottingham to the east, Manchester to the north and Birmingham to the south, but we also have one of Europe’s largest university campuses, so there’s so much space in which to walk and relax.” Keele’s main incubator is the Denise Coates Foundation Building, where the focus is on creating opportunities for peer-to-peer relationships, through the provision of drop-in clinics, networking workshops and other events to build and sustain a dynamic community of entrepreneurs.

Keele’s latest building will house a veterinary school in a joint venture with Harper Adams University

“IT IS CRITICAL TO ENCOUR AGE C O M M U N I C AT I O N A N D I N T E R A C T I O N B E T W E E N O C C U P I E R S .” Pleasingly, like the programme established to help companies overcome obstacles to their growth strategies, all those activities are also open to SMEs from nearby locations. “It’s an important distinction for us that we never look to simply supply serviced office space. We’re always looking to develop and then curate that community, by delivering a strong programme of business-related events and social activities,” says Gostick. “As with any relationship, if you don’t commit time and effort, it will wither, so it’s very much a core element of our model. The provision of communal

The Denise Coates Innovation Building is home to Keele University’s Smart Innovation Hub

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space will be even more important going forward, as new post-lockdown operational models come into place. “Fortunately though, we are well blessed with such space in our hub, lecture and meeting rooms, break-out space, cafes, and elsewhere in the campus.” Looking ahead, there are ambitious plans for both new projects and new space. The latest building will house a vets’ school, established with the famed agricultural institution of Harper Adams University, and Gostick is confident that local companies will provide placements for its students. “Again, it’s a great benefit from our excellent relationships with the area’s business community because learning through practical work experience is so important in giving youngsters a springboard for their careers.” Keele is also preparing to start work on its seventh innovation centre, which will focus on digital technologies, data, artificial intelligence and other highgrowth niches, and again be a co-location with academics from related subjects. However, even with a management team devoted to innovation in all its forms, one element of the park’s model remains resolutely unchanged. The seventh chunk of new innovation space will follow the branding of the previous six and be christened … IC7. ■

For more, please visit:

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Community of sci-tech souls Sci-Tech Daresbury’s business development manager, John Leake, outlines the historic origins and growth ambitions of the Cheshire campus to Ian Halstead.


aresbury acquired literary fame as the birthplace of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who under the rather more accessible pen-name of Lewis Carroll was a prolific creator of fiction intended for children, but enjoyed equally by adults. He was also fascinated by mathematics and given that his more obscure works included ‘The Alphabet Cipher’, ‘A Syllabus of Plane Algebraic Geometry’ and ‘The Game of Logic’, Dodgson would have doubtless been entranced by the area’s later evolution as a hotbed of scientific innovation. “Sci-Tech Daresbury originated in the 1960s, when the government wanted to build a particle accelerator and needed a location which offered space with high levels of vibrational stability, but also had easy access to industrial expertise,” says Leake. “Being close to both Liverpool and Manchester, and on a site with sandstone bedrock close to the surface, made this campus ideal.” It was no surprise that Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who told his party to embrace the ‘white heat of technology’, later journeyed to Cheshire to officially open the site’s nuclear physics laboratory. The pathway which led to the creation of the world’s largest scientific instrument, the Large Hadron Collider, had its roots at Daresbury, and its 50 years of accumulated expertise in

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“A R O U N D 8 0 % O F T E N A N T S A R E C O L L A B O R AT I N G W I T H AT L E A S T O N E O T H E R C O M P A N Y H E R E .” particle accelerators is currently helping deliver next-gen cancer treatments via proton therapy. The talented researchers at its laboratory later made another notable breakthrough by creating the world’s first synchrotron radiation source to produce X-rays. “For 40 years, it worked on government research projects around the world, but in the early 21st century, the decision was made to base the next-gen synchrotron radiation source facility at the sister Harwell campus, rather than Daresbury, and its future as a location for scientific innovation was in jeopardy,” says Leake. Fortunately, the North-West Regional Development Authority was the catalyst for its renaissance, funding both on-site infrastructure and new

access networks, and then promoting Sci-Tech Daresbury’s merits for academics, researchers and corporates of all sizes. “The turning point was the setting up of a public-private JV in 2010, involving Halton Borough Council, the property developer Langtree and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), supported by the local LEPs, Cheshire & Warrington, Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region,” says Leake. “We then achieved Enterprise Zone status in 2012 and the strategic vision was to grow employment numbers here to around 10,000, deliver another 1m sq ft of new office, lab and technical space, and generate more than £250m pa for the local economy by leveraging £150m of private sector investment.”


It’s an ambition of impressive scale and size, and the numbers have certainly been stacking up year-on-year and right through the pandemic. Almost 30 new tenants arrived in the last twelve months, and the campus is now home to around 150 companies from start-ups and SMEs to such corporate blue-chips as IBM, Hitachi, Croda International and Atos employing almost 1,600 people. Some 250,000 sq ft of new space has already been constructed, and two current proposals underline the determination of the management team to continue their success. Project Violet, which will deliver a trio of three-storey buildings amid a landscaped environment, is due to complete by the end of 2021 and will add another 42,000 sq ft of Grade A space at a cost of almost £18m. Outline plans for Project Ultraviolet were submitted to the local authority in March, which would see another 180,000 sq ft of office space and labs delivered in five buildings. “We started the Violet phase during Covid and have been extremely pleased by the high level of interest from both existing companies on campus and potential “new to campus” occupiers,” says Leake. “Around half the space we deliver is usually taken by existing tenants, but we’re also talking to some really exciting new businesses to locate onto the campus. A key element of what makes this campus work is the ongoing presence of the STFC Daresbury Laboratory. “They have their own incubation space, and they partner with the likes of the European Space Agency and CERN, so they bring not only specialist expertise, but also specialist facilities which companies can come and access. It’s an important element in differentiating ourselves from other locations.” It’s undeniably impressive to hear Leake make the case for Sci-Tech Daresbury with conviction solidly underpinned by data. “Our fundamental philosophy has two elements. Firstly, we want to help start-ups through every stage of their journey. They can start by hot-desking and end up occupying their own building with hundreds of staff,” he says.


“We’re a software developer specialising in ticketpurchasing systems for venues, visitor attractions and event organisers. We were based in a rural location a few miles from Daresbury. It was isolated and it was difficult to attract new staff because it could only realistically be reached by car. We’d been having conversations with John and his team for a good six years, he kept us engaged, we enjoyed reading the tenant newsletter and hearing about their events, and finally in 2021, we decided to take space here. I only wish we’d done it sooner, to be honest. It’s not just a hotbed of science and technology, but it’s such a pleasant and affordable working environment. In terms of recruitment, we now have access to

“Secondly, from the moment we started in 2005, we were determined to build this campus on ‘open innovation’, to create a collaborative environment and to make sure all the systems, processes and events were in place which were needed to catalyse a community.


“Our belief was that individual companies would reduce the risks around themselves if they genuinely collaborated and that their growth would be accelerated. We focused on collaboration, so we attracted companies who believed in collaboration, and also ones looking to collaborate. “Around 80% of our tenants are collaborating with at least one other company here. Over a year they typically generate £10m of value, in terms of increased revenue or reduced costs, which is a tangible bottom-line benefit, and over half also collaborate with at least one university in the UK or overseas.” Whilst the pressures of lockdown

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a fantastic pool of talent and the team really appreciate the strong sense of community. We have investors from the Far East, who thought our previous offices were fine, but equally, they shared our aspirations for growth. They flew into Manchester, came down to Daresbury, and their eyes just widened as soon as they saw the campus. John gave them a very vivid insight into what was happening here, and what was happening across the North-West, and they were very impressed by the superb location and focus on digital technology. Now that lockdown is finally behind us, and the hospitality and entertainment sectors are benefiting from the pent-up demand. our customers are back in person, and they’re equally impressed, which is great for us as an ambitious company.”

have persuaded many science parks to implement formal assessments of their tenants, Leake and his colleagues introduced such reviews back in 2008. “We sit down with each tenant once a year to see how they’re doing. Effectively it’s a strategic review with the management team, so we get a detailed understanding of where they’re heading and what opportunities they see, but also what challenges they face, so we can decide how best to support and advise them. “Often, we can help via direct introductions to other companies on the campus, or to ones within our wider network, and we also get very valuable feedback because the meetings allow us to evaluate our impact upon every tenant. “They’re our customers, so we need to do absolutely everything we can to understand them, from the quality of the food and the coffee to

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how our introduction system for new tenants works. “Right across the campus, the average annual sales growth is 25%, and that’s been sustained for a long period. Inevitably, during the pandemic some sales figures were negatively impacted, but others grew significantly.” It’s equally reassuring to discover that there’s also an established and formal RADAR strategy in place to help tenants with issues around attraction, development and retention of talent in their business. “Our reviews indicated that the inability to identify and recruit the right people was constraining a significant number of high-growth companies, so we developed a programme three years ago allowing us to partner with them to identify and address all challenges relating to talent,” says Leake. “We work with an array of organisations, from universities and digital apprenticeship providers to the armed forces, and the recruitment consultancy Michael Page also provides tailored support to tenants, to ensure companies have better intelligence, expertise and options to strategically tackle their talent gaps. “We also have the Hartree Centre, a national centre of excellence focused on delivering such key technologies as highperformance computing, big data analytics and artificial intelligence all of which are crucial to enhancing productivity and performance across a range of sectors.

The Hartree Centre, a national centre of excellence, houses high-performance graphics’ processing units installed in the Scafell Pike super-computing platform

alongside intuitive visualisations within an immersive visual computing facility, which is a huge benefit to our companies. “Our core sectors are well established (digital, advanced engineering, life sciences and healthcare), but in the last three years we’ve been developing clusters around them, not in the traditional sense of providing space, but by bringing together companies and organisations who operate in those sectors. “Two years ago, the HealthTec Cluster was established at Sci-Tech Daresbury which has around 50 members from across the North-West and beyond, including Innovate UK, the Catapults, the NHS and others. “It’s led by the STFC and the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network and has generated tremendous benefits for all concerned.

“We’ll launch a digital cluster in the second half of 2021 and are currently looking at the potential for others. You can’t simply pay lip service to the concept of collaboration, you have to implement the policy and processes which make it happen, then analyse the outcomes to identify ways to make it even better.” The only puzzle ahead is the name of Sci-Tech Daresbury’s next development phase. It’ll be intriguing to see what might follow Projects Violet and Ultraviolet, although it is surely a challenge that the inventive mind of Lewis Carroll would have relished. ■

For further information, please visit:


“It’s a collaboration between IBM Research, Atos, Intel and the University of Liverpool, which focuses on the industrial application of technologies, and it attracts companies from SMEs to major corporates, including Unilever, Rolls Royce and Airbus, who want to make significant step-changes in their business model. “The centre also has high-performance graphics’ processing units installed in the Scafell Pike supercomputing platform, allowing users to run AIenabled modelling and simulation workflows

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Project Violet, due to complete in 2021, is a trio of three-storey buildings at Sci-Tech Daresbury, adding another 42,000 sq ft of Grade A space

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Extending the frontiers of UK science and industry

The dynamic duo Ian Halstead hears the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus story from its director of strategy and operations, Steve Taylor, and the MD of Bruntwood Sci-Tech - Birmingham, David Hardman.


he Birmingham Battery and Metal Company was once a powerful and imposing industrial force, churning out tubes, sheets, boilers and much more for customers at home and abroad from its Selly Oak factory. Sadly, the area’s ‘Battery Park’ name is now the sole reminder of the manufacturer which prospered for almost 150 years, until it was among the many casualties of globalisation during the 1980s. However, it won’t be long before the location is again creating employment, wealth and innovative products - and has established a potent presence on both the domestic and international stage. Thanks to a partnership between the University of Birmingham (UoB) and Bruntwood SciTech, almost 10 acres of derelict land are presently being transformed into the £210m Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC). The venture is predicted to create 10,000 jobs and contribute £400m GVA a year to the regional economy by 2030. Even before planning permission was granted in Q1 2121, the government was keenly aware of its potential and it had been identified as the only new Life Sciences Opportunity Zone outside the South-East. Bruntwood SciTech was only chosen as the development partner last October, so the UoB’s Taylor is best placed to set the BHIC in its longer-term context. “The city council has worked with the university over the last ten years or so about a location to focus on life sciences and healthcare innovation. It didn’t just want to see the university

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extend its academic and teaching footprint, so the area has always been earmarked for commercial and innovation uses,” he recalls. “The UoB acquired the site in 2017, and then assembled a team led by myself to see how the project could be taken forward. We had to decide the best solution for us, the city and the region, and of course, in such a competitive sector, how to differentiate ourselves significantly from other UK clusters. “We knew we had particular strengths in genomics, medicine and diagnostics, around the established presence of medical devices, clinical trials, and advanced manufacturing.”


“However, as the strategic vision began to evolve, it was clear that health data and advanced digital technologies had to take a central role, and our focus was increasingly on translational medicine and diagnostics and in bringing commercial devices and products to the market.” The Birmingham office of property consultants Avison Young was then brought in to identify potential development partners, and a team led by managing director, Carl Potter, subsequently delivered a ‘long list’ of candidates.

Dr Steve Taylor DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY AND OPERATIONS, BIRMINGHAM HEALTH INNOVATION CAMPUS Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (BHIC) (previously known as Birmingham Life Sciences Park), will harness world-leading academic and clinical strengths while bringing new commercial power to the region to accelerate life sciences research, taking innovative new healthcare treatments and technologies from early development to real life application

“ D E L I V E R I N G N E W I N C U B AT O R U N I T S F O R L I F E S C I E N C E S I N T H I S R E G I O N I S C R I T I C A L .” S T E V E

Dr David Hardman MBE MANAGING DIRECTOR, BRUNTWOOD SCITECH - BIRMINGHAM David’s career over the last 25 years has been in knowledge transfer; working at the interface between applied research and commercial application and exploitation. His expertise and interests are directed at creating appropriate partnerships and infrastructures to promote the development and success of cross sectorial knowledge-based businesses

“It was an open tender call and we had serious interest by developer-investors from the UK and overseas, but it was about much more than access to financial and physical resources,” admits Taylor. “The university, the council, Birmingham Health Partners and everyone involved were determined to find a partner who shared our philosophy that this was a project for the long-term, and that we were creating something which would be a force for good; for the city, the regional economy and society.” Bruntwood, which had established its presence in Birmingham before the 2008 crash, was identified as the preferred partner, just as it was evolving its JV with Legal & General which became Bruntwood Sci-Tech. Hardman built his reputation by transforming Aston Science Park into the Innovation Birmingham Campus, which was acquired by Bruntwood in 2018, so has particular insight into the developer’s merits. “I think many of the reasons which persuaded Steve and the university to choose Bruntwood were the same as ours. It is a company which always thinks for the long-term, which is crucial for the BHIC as it will take a decade or more to truly realise its potential,” he says. “Bruntwood’s philosophy, which I think says a great deal about them, is that for them to succeed, the cities in which they are based must succeed, so wherever they operate, they look to build dynamic and productive communities.” The BHIC’s first phase will offer 133,000 sq ft of lab and office space in a seven-storey building, and three floors will house the UoB’s Precision Health Technologies Accelerator (PHTA) providing advanced diagnostics and trials to

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bio-pharma, and incubation space for academics, clinicians and businesses. The combined capabilities in clinical trials, data, diagnostics and medical technologies will bring forward start-up ventures to deliver new and commercially viable products and processes, whilst the remaining floors will house larger SMEs whose model is already established and need space to grow. “There are very few incubator units for life sciences in the region, so delivering this space is critical,” says Taylor. “Our existing BioHub has six units, but the accelerator will treble that number and we’ll be able to offer up to 1,200 sq ft to individual tenants.


“However, we also need to provide grow-on space for local start-ups and offer a landing pad for enterprises from elsewhere across the region and further afield, so offering the right mix of space is very important. Equally, having the right space is only one element. “Fortunately, we already have a tremendous health system in place through Birmingham Health Partners (BHP), which brings together the academic strengths at the university, with the clinical leadership of University Hospitals Birmingham and the Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. “Professor David Adams, a pro-vice chancellor, the head of college for medical and dental sciences and BHP director, has led the vision around the health innovation focus for the campus. “Businesses locating at the BHIC will also have the potential to access internationally-renowned clinical academic leaders in their fields, in areas as diverse as haematology, paediatric cancer, genomics, medical devices and regulation, who are working on major projects in this country and overseas. “There’s been talk for years about the huge potential here to integrate data, diagnostics and clinical trials to deliver precision medicines, and the PHTA will allow those opportunities to be translated for the benefit of society and the regional economy.”

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There’s also been much chatter about the extent and nature of the programmes to stimulate post-pandemic economic recovery, but Taylor admits the £10.8m which came from the Getting Building Fund was vital in permitting the project to proceed. “The PHTA would not have come about but for the support from the local authority, the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP and the government. “It’s always very difficult at a commercial level to bring forward and fitout incubator space, so the capital investment we received from the public sector has been crucial.” Hardman is nodding in accord even before Taylor has finished, and it’s clear that he too has been impressed by the innovative clinical and academic leadership in Birmingham reflected in the development of the Institute of Translational Medicine. “The ITM has been been absolutely crucial in defining new ways of working and identifying new opportunities, fusing together the academic and health communities, and then bringing in businesses to help turn their shared knowledge and expertise into developing new approaches to healthcare,” he says. “The UK’s health data research hub for acute care (PIONEER) is also based there, which integrates data and feedback from patients, community health organisations, the ambulance service and hospitals to assist innovative healthcare companies to develop, test and then deliver advances in clinical care.” The masterplan envisages six phases of development between now and 2031, and although the first won’t come on stream until 2023, it’s no surprise there’s already been strong interest from potential occupiers.

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“Ultimately, the pace of progress will be market-led, but even before we formally began our marketing campaign, we had more inquiries than the amount of available space in phase one, which was very pleasing, and from both start-ups and established companies,” says Hardman. An equally positive sign has been the decision of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial and Strategy (BEIS) to designate the BHIC as one of only six new Life Sciences Opportunity Zones in the UK, and the only one outside the South-East. “We’re certainly in esteemed company, which is a recognition of the enormous potential here. It’s not just about the 650,000 sq ft of space which will be delivered at the new campus, but a reflection of all the area’s other assets,” says Hardman. “The current connectivity within Greater Birmingham is very good and will be even stronger when the city’s railway and Metro networks are expanded, and the BEIS decision also takes account of the area’s tremendous manufacturing presence. “Creating innovative and viable products is only the first stage in the process, companies then need to scale-up their production to satisfy regional, national and (hopefully) international demand which will require a manufacturing sector capable of operating at speed and at scale. “Birmingham’s healthcare economy already has depth and talent, and particular skills at bringing commercial products to market, so we can go from research and data to tangible propositions, through the pre-clinical and clinical stages, carry out the economic validation and then

make it here. It’s the complete journey. “Steve mentioned medical devices, which is another established element of the area’s economy, and I am certain that the integration of research, clinical institutions, healthcare innovators and advanced manufacturing will be very attractive to companies, entrepreneurs and investors in life sciences.” Taylor emphasises that although the UoB was the catalyst for the BHIC, the region’s other universities and academic institutions will feed into, and benefit from, its evolution. Hardman joins in to underline his point, and it bodes well for the project’s success that the two have established an easy camaraderie. The former’s mischievous sense of humour will also be a considerable asset when, like all long-term strategic projects, unexpected bumps appear along the way. “Steve is absolutely right there,” says Hardman. “In partnership, we are about delivering against the four Ds; data, diagnostics, devices and digital health. “Once we’ve assembled everything and got our story right for wider audiences, this campus will be a very powerful location for entrepreneurs and corporates, and I think we’ll also have everything required to attract investment from here and overseas, so there’ll be a strong focus on potential FDI.” ■

For further information, please visit: birmingham/birmingham-healthinnovation-campus/

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Charles River Labs takes a punt on Cobra

Cobra Biologics’ corporate vice-president, Mike Austin, explains how it took the long road from start-up status to become the newest arm of a global corporation


t seemed like a ‘sign of the times’ when the giant NYSE-quoted Charles River Laboratories came knocking at the virtual door of Cobra’s parent company, Cognate BioServices, as 2021 began. The Keele Science Park-based enterprise has specialised in gene therapy since it was established more than 25 years earlier, and its accumulated expertise as a contract development and manufacturing organisation (CDMO) earned it a crucial role in scaling up manufacturing of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. “A large proportion of the early clinical trials came from Cobra, it then

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took us just 109 days to make and release a GMP grade vaccine here which was remarkable,” recalls Austin. “At the same time of course, and like many others, we had to work out how to take a science-led manufacturing organisation and readjust our operating model so that a large percentage of our staff could work from home. Naturally, the vaccine took up a large amount of our time and resources, but we also managed to keep various next generation DNA-based vaccine projects running, with companies such as Nottingham based Scancell Ltd and the Karolinska Institute.

“We were also able to carry on working with other advanced therapies’ programmes, which was very satisfying.” It appeared logical, at least from the outside, that the would-be buyer had noted Cobra’s impressive and high-profile work and placed its fellow US-based corporation on its acquisition list. However, as Austin readily admits, the approach was unrelated to its work in the fight against COVID-19, and the catalyst had been conversations between the respective CEOs of Cognate and Charles River. “The acquisition went through due diligence in a matter of weeks, the

negotiations were done almost entirely via virtual discussions and once the deal concluded towards the end of March, we then entered a period of very focused integration,” he says. That a deal valued at some $875m could pass through due diligence and complete in less than three months is remarkable, but the corporate logic was clearly compelling. Charles River, which is headquartered in the small town of Wilmington, some 14 miles north-west of Boston, specialises in pre-clinical and clinical laboratory services for the biotech and pharma sectors. It is also an early-stage drug research partner to more than 100 of the world’s largest biopharma companies and academic institutions, and thousands of emerging and established biotech enterprises, Over the last three years, Charles River has worked on more than 80% of drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration – including all the approved COVID-19 vaccines – but despite the scale of its operations, has only a minimal presence in gene therapy. “Our programmes complement, rather than compete with, the work they do,” says Austin, who now heads the Keele site. “They’re a big organisation and very acquisitive, with a large

“IT TOOK US JUST 10 9 D AY S T O M A K E A VA C C I N E HE R E , W HI C H WA S R E M A R K A B L E .” sales-force, strong enterprise systems and very established processes.” “We can take advantage of their experience and their structure. They’re also good people, with an intense focus on safety testing and I know they’re keen to deliver investment into Cobra.” Charles River’s chairman, president and CEO, James C. Foster, certainly couldn’t have been more bullish about prospects for the newcomers from Cognate and Cobra. “We look forward to working together to … help accelerate their cell and gene therapy programs from discovery, and non-clinical development through commercialisation,” he said. It’s not the first time Cobra has changed hands, and it’s certainly travelled along bumpy roads to reach its current destination. Cognate only bought the business in January 2020 and even as early-stage

The Cobra Biologics offices at Keele Science Park

discussions with Charles River were underway in January 2021 it announced major plans to expand its manufacturing plants in Europe and the US, providing additional capacity to support client programmes. Cobra itself had previously embarked on a multi-million pound advanced therapies’ expansion project for plasmid DNA and viral vectors in 2018. The company was founded in 1992 – as Therexsys Ltd – and generated a record amount of investment for Europe’s gene therapy sector when floating on the Alternative Investment Market three years later. However, its funding streams evaporated during the 2008 crash, and with even one new product then costing around £200m to research, develop and test, its survival was threatened. In 2009, a major pharmaceutical CDMO, Sweden’s Recipharm AB, acquired Cobra – only to then spin the company off in 2011. Throughout its journey though, Cobra has never left the Keele site where it currently employs around 150 people, with another 130 based in Sweden. Charles River’s business has evolved along a slightly different, although still winding, track. Its origins can be traced back to 1947, when Dr. Henry Foster purchased 1,000 rat cages from a Virginia farmer and set up a one-man laboratory in Boston, overlooking the Charles River, to supply local researchers. In the seven decades since, the corporation has been bought - and sold - gone public and expanded its business to include every stage of pre-clinical drug discovery. Today though, Austin says proudly that Cobra, Cognate and Charles River share a single goal: to become their clients’ scientific partner of choice for advanced therapies from discovery to manufacture. ■ For further information about Cobra Biologics, please visit:

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Sharing your success, best practice, and lessons learned

Enabling interaction The chief executive of the Babraham Research Campus, Derek Jones, offers an overview of the history, evolution and achievements of the life sciences’ community which he leads.


he inspiring story of how the post-war Labour government embraced its socialist principles, the belief that healthcare should be free at the point of access and the radical conclusions of the Beveridge Report to create the world’s first National Health Service in 1948 is still oft-told. However, its far-sighted decision in the same year to form the Babraham Institute, devoted to identifying innovative and sustainable agricultural practices for the economy of the future, passes by almost unnoticed – at least outside the senior common rooms in the nearby University of Cambridge. For 45 years, the National Institute of Animal Physiology delivered ground-breaking advances in such critical areas as antibodies, genomic imprinting and animal hormones. In 1993 though, national research priorities changed, the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) was formed and the Babraham Research Campus (BRC) has since focused on a multitude of matters related to life sciences across its imposing 430-acre site.

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Its origins mean that its main source of funding remains the public sector, although as Jones points out, Babraham Bioscience Technologies, who manage and develop BRC on behalf of its shareholders - the BBSRC and the Babraham Institute – is also a for-profit company. The BRC is a co-location of academic research with the Babraham Institute and about 60 life science companies employing around 2,000 people. Our vision is to be one of the best places in the world to discover bioscience, research and innovation,” he says. “The researchers at the institute carry out world-leading research into life sciences, in particularly, in how we age healthily, which had special relevance right from the start of the pandemic when we saw that elderly people reacted differently; to Covid itself, to immunisations and to infections from younger people.

“We want early-stage life science ventures to come here, to grow their business and for them to play a part in our journey, of helping to create employment and wealth and also to have a wider impact. “Our vision is also about how to best make academics think and work more commercially, by basing them close to private companies and then constantly trying to maximise interaction.


“At its most fundamental, our growth strategy is to ensure that we can offer access to laboratories and offices on commercial terms, but that space is not just an empty shell, it’s more about building a like-minded community by enhancing the individual capabilities of everyone here. “Of course, there always has to be a balance between the instinctive desire of academics to focus on pure science, and

the economic and commercial imperative to translate that data and knowledge into wealth and employment. “Saying that, some advances (particularly in life sciences) start as blue-sky thinking, which by its nature has a long gestation period, and may take five, 10 or even 15 years to come forward. “Some of the processes currently being researched here are so fundamental that they don’t appear to have commercial applicability, but I believe that as time passes, pathways will emerge. “Equally, we take care to ensure that people don’t expect to see early and tangible benefits from translational research. Take lasers for example, when they were discovered no-one had any idea as to their future application, and it was many years before they became genuinely useful.” Jones and his team are also keenly aware that even whilst always seeking to maximise the impact of academic research, it’s quite possible that wider benefits could be delivered which are unrelated to the commercialisation of their ideas or findings. “The most obvious example of unexpected outcomes from research came during the early stages of the pandemic,” he recalls. When the early work was being done which led to Covid vaccines at Oxford, there wasn’t a specific end in sight, yet one appeared in such a short space of time. “It’s always going to be true in life sciences that something might suddenly evolve which catches even the most diligent researchers by surprise.”

The Babraham Institute undertakes world-leading research into understanding the biology of how our bodies work

“ W E W A N T E A R LY - S TA G E L I F E S C I E N C E V E N T U R E S T O C O M E H E R E - A N D G R O W.” The BRC business model has also evolved, albeit more slowly. Its original intention was that the campus should attract start-ups and early-stage companies, who would then relocate elsewhere when they needed grow-on space. However, the benefits of being based there, and just a few miles outside Cambridge, have proved so tangible that most growing companies choose to stay, and the greater challenge is delivering the space which they require. “Cambridge has long been a very special place for life sciences and is probably the most successful cluster outside North America, so the area has a tremendous community for science and entrepreneurship which has gradually evolved over decades,” says Jones.

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“As a management team, we work very hard helping early-stage companies realise how they might create a business. We run an accelerator programme, Accelerate@Babraham, put them through a boot camp and give them a bit of money. “They also benefit hugely from being on the campus, which is very dynamic because of the range of people here, so the researchers bump into individuals in different niches, venture capitalists, business advisers and many others who can offer them important guidance. “Social capital is another massive asset. We are blessed with an abundance of people who have created companies, sold them and created new companies.

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They are very generous with their time, and their support for early-stage companies. Raising money attracts talent, and it all goes round and round.” Jones makes both a compelling ambassador for the BRC cause, and an engaging conversationalist, but he’s well aware that in such a fiercely competitive and global sector as life sciences, a growth strategy must be underpinned by solid data. “We knew we were making an impact, confident that the campus had become a catalyst for significant engagement and could see the inherent benefit of Babraham,” he says. “We don’t create science, employment or wealth, but we do create the right environment for other people to do so, and the feedback from tenants and investors was consistently positive. “As we’ve seen in the Cambridge area for so long, and as we see around Boston and the MIT, ambitious entrepreneurs in life sciences will naturally be drawn towards an environment where worldclass research is being delivered, and investors and funds will also be attracted. “However, we realised that we needed an independent view of our business model, not least so that outside eyes could analyse what was happening here without having their views coloured by their day-to-day engagement.” The subsequent impact report provided not only validation of the model, but sufficient analysis and data to satisfy the most inquiring mind about its achievements. Among its findings were that BRC: • Played a central role in facilitating fundraising by its tenant companies, typically accelerating the process by three months and the amount by 10%.

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• Accelerated the pace of scientific discoveries made by companies by three months and increased their employment numbers by an average of 10%. • Helped increase the combined market value of the largest 14 companies based on the campus to £4.1 billion when the report was published in 2020. Jones and his colleagues were understandably delighted, but the conclusions haven’t distracted the team from the challenges which lie ahead. “Our reputation as a place to be in life sciences is solidly established and our profile has never been higher, A biopharma tenant Kymab, who came here when they employed just eight people was sold in early 2021 for $1.1 billion upfront and up to another $350m if certain targets are met.


“Two companies located on the campus, Phoremost and Alchemab, then announced funding during Q2 totalling close to £100m. However, ensuring that we have sufficient lab and office space to manage the requirements of companies looking to scale-up their operations will be critical. “We have facilitated a relationship between our landlord (the BBSRC) and two developers who specialise in the life sciences’ sector, Biomed Realty and a Dutch company, Kadans Science Partner. “Biomed is in Blackstone’s portfolio and Kadans is owned by AXA Investment Managers, so they’re just the type of well-funded partners we require and now we are seeking clarity about our next

development phase. We have space, the desire is there and the need is evident. “Demand for lab space in the Cambridge area is at the highest it’s been for five years, and there’s very little supply which means rents are pretty high. “However, I don’t believe rental levels are a determining factor for potential occupiers. In the way that all the banks want to be in the City to attract the right talent and be close to organisations of a similar ilk, companies and entrepreneurs in life sciences want to be close to others. “If you want to set up a science company, you go where the world-class science is, whether that is Cambridge, Oxford or Manchester. There are potential supply and demand issues, but we’re confident they will start to be addressed in the second half of 2021.” The only challenge even Jones and his dedicated colleagues are unable to overcome though, is the tendency of potential occupiers and other newcomers to struggle with the Babraham name. Its origins lie in Old English and even years later, people still recall the day Chancellor George Osborne informed the nation that: “We’re going to make an investment in … Bar-barham”. ■ For further information, please visit:

County Durham science park plans to add 270,000 sq ft of flexible, high quality space


lans to create an additional 270,000 sq ft of space are well underway at The North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham. Space at NETPark, managed by Business Durham is at a premium with 100% of the available laboratory, office and clean room accommodation currently occupied or reserved by science, engineering and technology companies. Since opening in 2004, NETPark had big ambitions to become one of the UK’s leading science parks, it is well on its way to achieving that goal with over 35 companies and 550 people employed on-site. One of the standout benefits of NETPark is the perfect mix of support, infrastructure and facilities offered to companies at every stage of their development,

helping businesses take their ideas from concept to commercialisation all on one site. The success of NETPark is such that expansion spaced is needed so companies can reach their full potential. In the autumn plans will be submitted to Durham County Council, who own NETPark to add an additional 270,000 sq ft of space to meet the growing needs

tenants who have grown organically on the park as well as companies looking to move or expand their operations to this thriving science community. The plans support Durham County Council’s vision of creating more and better jobs, to build a stronger competitive economy and helping people get into work. NETPark provides an abundance of resources on site including CPI’s three National Innovation Centres, two National Catapult Centres and Durham University, a world top 100 University. ■

To find out more about NETPark’s ambitious expansion plans, please visit:

RadioPharmaceutical engineering design and validation consultancy


he manufacturing and handling of radiopharmaceutical products is potentially hazardous and therefore the effectiveness of the quality assurance system is essential. Scitech has extensive experience in the design, installation and CQV (commissioning, qualification, and validation) of radiopharmaceutical

facilities designed to both cGMP and non GMP and involving the installation of cyclotrons, scanners, high-containment hot cells and glove boxes, and associated QC facilities. We have a strong reputation within this specialist sector assisted through our customer-centric values. Many of our engineers have worked client-side and are specialists in their own field with extensive knowledge of the regulatory framework and international standards. Our in-house multidisciplinary team supports the manufacturing procedures employed by Nuclear Centres/ Institutes, PET Centres, Hospital Imaging centres, and University R&D (Cyclotron) for the Cyclotron at Cardiff University production and quality

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control of diagnostic and therapeutic radio-tracers. Scitech can undertake: • Concept design for budget approval • Specification • Engineering and architectural design • Process Design • System integration, controls and instrumentation • Tendering and construction • Commissioning and validation • Stand-alone consultancy. ■ Scitech can deliver the design and management of the quality process to ensure your project is delivered safely on time and on budget. To find out more, please visit:

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The Innovation Gateway at The London Cancer Hub


he Innovation Gateway is a high-quality incubator space for life-science companies at the heart of The London Cancer Hub in Sutton, south London. It offers companies an exciting opportunity to work closely and side by side with scientists and clinicians at The Institute of Cancer Research, London – including at its new, state-of-the-art Centre for Cancer Drug Discovery next door. The Innovation Gateway will be ready for companies to start to move into in late 2021. It will include high-quality laboratory, office and collaboration space for a range of innovative companies working in areas of the life sciences related to cancer, of which around 3,500 sq ft will be lab space. At the Innovation Gateway, there will be a particular emphasis on accommodating start-ups, spin-outs and small teams from the biotech, medtech, data science and pharmaceutical industries. Companies at the Innovation Gateway will have the chance to share knowledge and develop collaborations with other companies within the Innovation Gateway and across The London Cancer Hub more widely.

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The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) is among the world’s top 10 universities in several measures of collaboration with industry, including the proportion of papers published with industry, and the number of publications cited in patent applications. It has around 100 current collaborations with commercial partners and has discovered 20 drug candidates since 2005, of which 11 have reached clinical trials in collaboration with industry. As well as modern new facilities – including up to seven category-2 laboratories – there will also be the potential for tenant companies at the Innovation Gateway to access existing scientific facilities at the ICR, plus catering services and communal areas. There are opportunities for companies at the Innovation Gateway to work directly with ICR researchers in a range of areas including drug discovery and development, immuno-oncology, Big Data and AI, microscopy, imaging and medical physics. Most importantly, the Innovation Gateway aims to drive forward the development of new treatments and technologies that will benefit cancer patients.


The London Cancer Hub is a life-science district in Sutton, south London. Ambitious in scale and scope, it aims to become the world’s leading centre for cancer research, treatment, education and enterprise and once complete is projected to contribute around £1.2 billion per year to the UK economy and create 7,000 jobs. The London Cancer Hub is also a major regeneration project, with the total cost of investment due to reach £1bn. Led jointly by the London Borough of Sutton and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, with the support of The Royal Marsden and the Mayor of London, the London Cancer Hub represents a UK-leading partnership between the university sector, local government, the private sector and the NHS to deliver local and national economic benefits, new infrastructure and large numbers of new jobs. The Innovation Gateway represents the first opportunity for companies to work directly with scientists and clinicians from a base on site at The London Cancer Hub. ■

Contact Andy Carr, Business Development Manager at the ICR, for more information at or on 07718 490707. For more on the London Cancer Hub, please visit:

Asecos Hazardous materials storage and handling experts


secos Ltd is the market leader in the development and manufacture of hazardous material storage solutions, with particular focus in the pharmaceutical, life science and academia sectors. In 1994, the company developed the world’s first safety storage cabinets, for the storage of hazardous materials and gas cylinders that provided type-tested fire protection of 90 minutes. This was a technical revolution at that time and has become the industry safety-standard. At their headquarters situated in Grundau, Germany, asecos continue to develop products that offer the highest degree of protection and comfort in daily work. Driven by their conviction to create innovative and intelligent product solutions, they have proven themselves as inventors of trend-setting solutions based on this conviction. Their specialist product managers are continually developing new and innovative products,

such as our new waste disposal solutions, to improve the safety and well-being of users and operators. With this conviction towards safety, asecos now lead the way in the internal storage of hazardous materials, extraction and filtration of hazardous materials, service and maintenance of safety-related equipment. Their highly trained UK Team are continually working with architects, project managers, laboratory furniture manufacturers and lab designers. Through these partnerships, they can develop and design modern, functional and sustainable solutions, for integration into any laboratory setting or workplace environment. Using this model, they have been successful at numerous projects including Birmingham University Collaborative Teaching Laboratories, University of Liverpool Materials Innovation Factory,

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University of Manchester Graphene Engineering Institute and Mechanical Engineering Campus development, Astra Zeneca new headquarters, Wuxi Biologics Dundalk, GSK Ware and MSD sites throughout Ireland. In addition to product development and design support, the UK based team can provide an extensive training programme on topics related to hazardous materials storage and handling, delivered either face-to-face or remotely, with the ultimate goal of raising awareness. The company are committed to promoting the highest safety standards and to this end; asecos are active participants on a number of safety committees such as BSI and CEN, working to establish a uniformly high standard throughout the world. ■

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Looking for a professional company that relocates scientific equipment?

partner, stakeholder or supply chain member interested in appearing in Breakthrough, and wishing to discuss potential editorial opportunities for future issues is invited to contact its editor, Ian Halstead.


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Make Architects Innovative building designs that enables science and research to flourish


ounded in 2004 by Ken Shuttleworth, Make is a team of 150 in London, Hong Kong and Sydney providing architecture, interior and urban design services from concept to completion. Recent RIBA Award-winning buildings include the Big Data Institute for the University of Oxford, the Teaching and Learning Building for the University of Nottingham, and London Wall Place for Brookfield Properties.


Make’s aim in designing for science and research institutions is to enable them and the people who work there to flourish. Their experience and research inform relevant, well-used spaces aligned to each science park’s users and culture. With over a decade of experience in the sector, Make understand the kind of world-class facilities and masterplans that today’s scientific research requires. Since 2007 they’ve delivered six laboratory buildings for the University of Oxford and one for the University of Nottingham, and over ten masterplans. Each building unites cutting-edge laboratory spaces with the best of today’s commercial workplace to promote innovation,

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Old Road Campus Building, University of Oxford an innovative research hub from Make Architects

collaboration and user wellbeing – and to deliver groundbreaking research, such as the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and the Recovery trial to find an effective COVID-19 treatment. Though unique in their form, material and function, Make’s buildings share features that create welcoming, dynamic environments which promote wellbeing. These include top-quality lab and write-up spaces, diverse activity-based office spaces, physical and visual connectivity, natural light, healthy materials and a strong social heart. Their masterplans create cohesive, integrated and vibrant places with strong identities and connections to surrounding communities. Whether a masterplan or building, Make design each scheme to respond to its environment, reflect the associated institution’s reputation and goals, and provide an inspiring environment for users, whether they’re researchers, staff, academics, students or visitors. The designs are flexible, sustainable and efficient, built to actively support the research that’s reshaping our world.


In April 2021, Make began a postoccupancy review of our University of Oxford buildings with respected lab design consultant Adrian Gainer, who advised them on their first four buildings there. They’ve begun with the Oxford Molecular Pathology Institute and look forward to publishing the results. In 2018, Make established Exchange, a series dedicated to exploring the future of design across different sectors. They’ve produced issues on education and research, workplace and retail, whose findings have proven relevant beyond their respective sectors, particularly as we’re seeing a greater blurring of boundaries between them. In 2013, Make established the Future Spaces Foundation, a think tank dedicated to generating new thinking on the spaces we inhabit. Past FSF reports have explored urban densification, connectivity and loneliness, while this year’s will consider how the industry can tackle the climate crisis. ■

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Herman Miller Leading office furniture and a pioneer of the modern workplace


ven before the Covid-19 pandemic, leading office furniture manufacturer and pioneer of the modern workplace, Herman Miller was looking at the way work had been changing for a long time, and what this meant for companies and the people who worked there. The change was driven by a shift in the work people were being asked to do, the tools available to complete that work, and the expectations organisations were putting on their workers. Mark Catchlove, Herman Miller’s Director of Insight says: “Research has proven that by changing the office environment to reflect an organisation’s character and purpose, the office worker becomes more engaged; leading to greater prosperity for both the individual and the whole. This was the case prepandemic, and if anything, it’s even more important today.” For many people, the days of going into the office every day and sitting at

the same desk for eight hours are over. But that doesn’t mean the workplace is irrelevant. Distributed ways of working—where people are empowered to work at different times and places— aren’t new, but they’ve been accelerated by the pandemic. People can be productive working elsewhere, but offices still provide great value as ondemand resources for individuals and teams. To remain relevant, offices of the future will need to build culture and community, support individual focus, and facilitate intensive teamwork. The work from home experience is different for everyone. Companies should continuously strive to help people stay healthy and productive, no matter where they are working. Whether you’re just beginning to transform your workplace, or you’ve been doing so for years, Herman Miller has insights, products, and services to help your people stay productive and healthy in the office, at home and

Award winning ultrafast broadband that connects businesses


lide owns and operates it’s very own award-winning 100 Gigabit national network that was born out of a Science Park, connecting businesses through their awardwinning fibre network. Delivering business parks, industrial estates and serviced offices the connectivity they need to reap the true benefits of limitless wi-fi, faster downloads and much more, creating spaces that inspire employees and improve every on-site experience. Glide’s vision for Science Parks and Innovation Centres is a simple one: • Everything Connected • Pervasive Wireless • Top Class Services • Future-Proof Technology • Improved Experience • Reduced Operating Costs • Increased Efficiency

Tenants demand fast, reliable broadband and pervasive wi-fi to meet the everyday challenges their business in a digital-first world. Glide enables businesses to get on quickly and efficiently with their work without delays or interruptions, leaving you to promote and manage your building with confidence that you’re providing cutting-edge connectivity to prospective and current occupants. With Glide’s serviced office solution, your tenants can enjoy speeds up to 10Gbit/s, without the need for third parties to get involved. Installation, upgrades and support are all handled by us and can all be managed remotely for your tenants.

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beyond. They can help you gain insights, achieve your business goals, and outfit your spaces with the right furnishings to best support your workforce. ■

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Glide ensures that the process is seamless, from start to finish, and our experience and expertise in providing managed connectivity solutions means you get the most from your investment. ■

To learn how Glide can provide award winning ultrafast broadband to your tenants and create truly inspiring work spaces, please contact Mark Davison on or call 02476 999 358.

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The Heath Business and Technical Park Bespoke science facilities for today while meeting the challenges of tomorrow


he Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, Cheshire is a unique example of how a successful science and technology park should operate. Many of the businesses located at The Heath are at the very cutting-edge of scientific R&D, with firms conducting cutting edge research from nanotechnology to carbon emissions and from pioneering medical products to water and wastewater treatment. SOG Group, which owns and operates The Heath, offers highly specialised levels of technical support to these innovative organisations. This has enabled the location to become home to a flourishing scientific community of national and international SME and global corporate operations. From startup and emerging businesses to established enterprises, SOG offers impressive facilities and specialist support services to meet every requirement – while providing its residents with affordable and flexible licensing arrangements to meet their space needs. Located in the heart of the north-west between the cities of Liverpool and Manchester, The Heath Business and Technical Park offers a complete range of bespoke serviced office and laboratory

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space. Facilities include a purpose builtconference centre, 120-seat lecture theatre, licensed café , business lounge, shops and gymnasium. There’s also extensive free car parking and superb road, rail and air transport links -- with London less than two hours by train. The specialist support services available to residents include: • Bespoke laboratory design, modification, construction and technical assistance • Precision engineering • Health and safety services The Heath’s flexible licences allow companies the ability to grow or shrink their space requirements in line with their business needs, which can be difficult if they are tied down to a longterm rental agreement. As the 60-acre Heath site approached full capacity, SOG embarked on a new build-programme to allow existing fastgrowing resident businesses to move out of multi-occupancy units into their own exclusive bespoke buildings, designed and built by SOG. Looking to the future, SOG has recently unveiled an exciting vision to see The Heath transformed into ‘Heath Park’ - a sustainable and futuristic ‘Port

Sunlight-style’ environment, where people can live, work and play. Port Sunlight was the early Victorian example of social and environmental community created by Lever Brothers for workers of their soap manufacturing plant in the North West. A global competition, sponsored by SOG and organised by RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, generated fascinating propositions on the vision of the way in which we will live and work in the future and covered trends we are likely to see in employment, housing, leisure, community, energy consumption, sustainable food and much more. SOG has appointed the competition winners EcoResponsive Environments, an emerging design and architectural practice, to carry out a detailed feasibility study into the compelling proposals for Heath Park to determine what is realistic and what is deliverable. The Heath’s unique science facilities are at the heart of the scheme as SOG seeks to create a sustainable location to meet the challenges of climate change and provide a carbon free environment for its resident businesses. ■

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Stainless Steel Laboratory Furniture


Bespoke Stainless Steel fabrication for laboratories and research, including pressure vessels, filters and bespoke furniture.

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Colchester’s Knowledge Gateway drives innovation and business growth in the east


espite launching in the middle of a national lockdown, a new business investment platform has had a phenomenal first year with over £7.7 million pledged to develop innovative business ideas.


Angels@Essex, which matches investors with those needing funding, was launched by the University of Essex in May 2020, and so far 11 businesses have shared £4.9 million. A further £2.8 million has been committed. The platform’s success shows the huge potential of the Knowledge Gateway research and technology park, based at the University’s Colchester Campus, to drive growth in the East of England. Investors are backing Angels@Essex, companies are being supported, Essex researchers are providing their expertise and more and more businesses are moving in. More space comes on stream in 2023. John Stenhouse, who runs Angels@ Essex, said: “New ideas will be key to rebuilding our economy and Angels@ Essex is nurturing those ideas. We aspire to create a more sustainable future, which will create a healthier economy. “Some doubted the wisdom of launching a business investment platform during lockdown, when businesses across the country were struggling to survive. But our

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success has shown even a pandemic cannot stop innovation and there are always people confident to invest in those ideas.”


The biggest beneficiary has been Conigital, whose founder has a vision to create cleaner, greener and safer public transport by developing driverless vehicles, available on demand. Within six months he had raised £1.5 million, with more on the horizon. The University is worth around £584 million to the local economy, and it has been a long-term ambition to become a national centre of excellence for businesses in high-value, knowledgebased sectors linked to the University’s research expertise. Dr Rob Singh, Director of Research and Enterprise, explained: “Benefitting society through our research is part of our DNA and we have been working hard to establish an even wider range of connections to business and the public sector over the past few years.”


The University invested over £60 million in the 43-acre Knowledge Gateway, which includes Parkside Office Village and the Innovation Centre – which together provide 71,000 square feet of office space as well as Essex Business School.

The first two phases of Parkside are complete, are 91% occupied and are home to 21 businesses with 250 employees. Work on the next phase – providing a further 120,00 square feet of offices starts this year. The Innovation Centre provides space, plus hands-on support, to up to 50 startups and businesses looking to grow. Interest in space has been strong as lockdown lifts. The University is involved in nearly 40 Knowledge Transfer Partnership projects, allowing companies to access University expertise to develop innovative new services and products.

UNIVERSITY ENTERPRISE ZONE In 2019 the Knowledge Gateway was designated a University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) with Research England and the UK Government providing £800,000 towards the £1.3 million project to nurture digital and creative businesses. The UEZ has unlocked millions of pounds of investment through Angels@ Essex and the Space to Grow programme has delivered hundreds of one-to-one sessions and webinars providing support to budding entrepreneurs. ■

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Deep green design engineering


lementa Consulting is a multidisciplinary design engineering practice, providing a full range of building system design, sustainability consultancy, energy analysis services and fire consultancy. With offices in London, Oxford and Belgrade, Elementa is the UK & European arm of Integral Group – a 700 strong international practice of leading forwardthinking engineers who share a commitment to changing the face of building services engineering and sustainability. Elementa have a dedicated approach to design, which is centred on operational behaviours in use. Successful designs are determined on whether the buildings can be operated, maintained and monitored effectively. To achieve this, the appropriate level of metering, monitoring and performance testing must be provided. World’s Lowest Energy Labs Elementa have designed many groundbreaking high-efficiency laboratories, demonstrating that even critical facilities can significantly increase their energy efficiency (50-70% or more than standard designs) at no additional cost. Other accolades in ground-breaking design solutions include;

Elememta were appointed to colloborate on the design of University of Sussex’s Life Science building

• First laboratory with chilled beams • First laboratory to use radiant ceiling panel cooling • First Zero Net Energy-designed, zerocarbon designed and LEED Platinum Certified laboratories • Authored Labs21 Best Practice Guides for energy Efficiency IPP Pathology Laboratory Repurpose and refurbishment of an old manufacturing facility to provide a “Hub” Laboratory (including CAT 3) to serve South West’s pathology demands. Redevelopment from shell required new ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, fire alarm, domestic water, conditioned (purified) water and security systems. 172 Brook Drive, Milton Park Bespoke 22,500ft² production facility and 17,000 ft² office accommodation over 2 floors, located in Milton Park, one of Europe’s largest business parks.


ommercial property consultancy Kirkby Diamond, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2020, is headquartered in Milton Keynes, but offers a strong regional presence through satellite offices in Bedford, Borehamwood and Luton and has clients throughout the UK. CBRE Global Investors, Sainsbury’s and the University of Bedfordshire are just some of the high-profile names on its roster. Its managing partner and head of agency, Luke Tillison (right), says other clients include High Street banks and other lending institutions, local and regional authorities, private companies and high-net worth individuals. He is responsible for managing the group’s operations, as well as leading more than 50 employees and consultants.

Tillison, who joined the firm seven years ago, specialises in the logistics sector, with a particular focus on strategic land and development, and works within the firm’s ‘mid-box’ team looking at

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95 Milton Park New build development consisting of office space and laboratories. Sustainability principles included, exposed thermal mass, night-time purging, low energy lighting, solar hot water, rainwater harvesting and SUDS drainage. 142 – 143 Milton Park Elementa have been involved with various developments at Milton Park and drew upon that experience to develop brand new hybrid units, the new buildings are designed to provide flexible/office/hi-tech accommodation for science and technology occupiers. UCL Kathleen Lonsdale Building Redevelopment of a Grade II listed building constructed in 1915 as the first purposebuilt Chemistry building for UCL. ■

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transactions of between 20,000 sq ft and 100,000 sq ft. “We’re a successful and ambitious business, but our aim is always very simple; to provide concise and relevant advice, and to optimise use and value of our clients’ property assets.” Earlier this year, Kirkby Diamond played a major role in proposals to deliver the UK’s first major carbonneutral logistics park on its home patch in South Caldecotte. Andrew Wright, the firm’s senior partner and head of land, planning and development – who identified the location’s development potential back in 2013 – worked with four landowners to assemble the 100-acre site and Hampton Brook was then identified as the strategic land promoter to take the project through planning. ■

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Taking care of your people, places and public perception

Life in the Glasshouse The MD of Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park, Dr Kath Mackay, gave Ian Halstead a virtual tour of the life science and tech campus from its spectacular Glasshouse.


pending ‘time in the glasshouse’ once meant confinement in Britain’s most brutal military prisons, derived from the glazed roof of the notorious Aldershot detention barracks where punishment was meted out without mercy. However, spending time in Alderley Park’s Glasshouse is a positively uplifting experience; particularly in its imposing atrium carefully designed to offer an array of spaces for co-working, networking… and simply hanging out. An inspirational mantra on a cinematic-size digital screen informs the throng of AI, Big Data and digital natives that the area is “a magnet for brilliant minds” – though fortunately visitors are granted exemption. Around the impressive central area, which also includes a restaurant, cafe and the campus pub, is some 150,000 sq ft of contemporary office space, and a new gym and sports complex is close by. “It is wonderful isn’t it?”says Mackay as she glances around the bustling environment. “I was really fortunate that it was just completing when I arrived in October 2019.

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“It used to be 16 separate buildings used for research when Alderley Park was AstraZeneca’s (AZ) global R&D centre, but we’ve turned it into a new hub for digital and tech businesses and this new atrium really brings everything together. “The event space is wonderful, as are the break-out areas, which are especially useful for smaller companies and SMEs who need somewhere to hold meetings, meet advisers and engage with clients. “We have 30 companies here at the moment employing around 400 people in tech and digital fields, such as AI, fintech, e-commerce and software development, so it’s a very broad tech cluster. “However, we also have some companies based here who work directly in life sciences, and in the ever-growing

number of niches which sit between life science and tech. “Given the sector’s direction of travel and the increasing importance of digital health and data, it’s very valuable to have such talent located here and their presence is greatly appreciated by the companies based at the park.” Mackay says Glasshouse has also become a very effective recruitment tool whether for start-ups, UK-based or international companies looking to base themselves at the campus. “Companies were attracted here right through the Covid crisis, and first-time visitors were immediately so impressed that they wanted to work here,” she says. “Manchester’s tech scene is booming, and second only to London, so being just 30 minutes from there is very attractive,


knowledge to think about life sciences and technology as a possible career,” she says. “There are many different routes into the sectors and they’re open to people who come from a variety of diverse backgrounds and have a wide range of skill-sets, qualifications and experience. “Particularly in life sciences, there is still a widespread perception that a career in this sector means being a research scientist and we all need to make people aware that there’s much more to it than working in a lab and wearing a white coat.”


Mackay is also on the board of the Northern Health Science Alliance, which is the Northern Powerhouse for health, and was formed by the region’s ten research-intensive universities, ten NHS Trusts and its four Academic Health Science Networks. “We’re working to become the focal point for investment in life sciences across Northern England, and to showcase the best of what the region has to offer that sector,” she says.

The 400-acre campus, acquired by Bruntwood SciTech in 2014, is of course ideally placed to be a focal point for life sciences by virtue of its geography and history. Equally though, the new cohort of occupiers know little of its links to AZ … and Glasshouse tenants are surprised to discover their Churchill Tree pub was named because the young Winston planted a sweet chestnut on the park, when it was the stately home of the Stanley family. “I think companies and entrepreneurs have a really strong sense of where they want to be. Some come here because we’re a mature life sciences’ location, some want to be near the clinical campus in Manchester and others just want great space and easy access to the right people,” says Mackay. “There were lots of spin-outs from AstraZeneca so to maintain that momentum we established the Alderley Park Accelerator, powered by BioCity and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Even in my time here, we’ve seen tremendous success stories emerging.

not just to individuals, but to company leaders who want to know from where and how they’ll be able to access talent. “Obviously, there are many reasons to relocate, take space in a new area or in a new country, but the messages we hear consistently from companies are around how they scale up their business and how they can identify and recruit people. “We have eight research-led universities within an hour’s drive, so it’s great for access to scientists and researchers and not simply digital talent.” Recruitment and talent are recurring themes in Mackay’s thoughts, so it’s no surprise to discover that she chairs the employment and skills board of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP. “I love being involved in their work because you’re giving young people the

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“Ruth Roberts, for instance, was the former global head of regulatory safety for AstraZeneca, and had never been an entrepreneur, but she came to one of our workshops with an idea literally written down on a napkin. “We were able to offer the advice and guidance she required, she went on to co-found ApconiX, which is an independent contract research organisation now employing more than 30 people at its headquarters here and has also opened another site in Europe. “It’s a fantastic feeling to have played a small part in the success of a business and the achievements of a person and also very rewarding. “At the most basic, our role is delivering the right kind of office and lab space, but the most crucial aspect is providing support to individuals and organisations, underpinning their business growth and also helping them to evolve. “We’re saying to people that if they come here, we’ll help them become successful. It might be providing contacts they need to manufacture their products, or technical assistance with the formulation of those products, but regardless of what they do, we can only succeed if they succeed.”


As Mackay enthuses about the achievements of ApconiX and other companies based at the park, it’s clear that she empathises closely with the

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individual entrepreneurs, rather than merely engaging intellectually with their strategy and business models. After completing her PhD in pharmacology, she held a series of business development roles before becoming a member of Innovate UK’s executive team and leading their life sciences’ portfolio. “We were managing a portfolio of around £700m in grants and loans awarded to start-ups and early-stage enterprises. There were 30 people in the team, each working on a different aspect of life sciences, and we had programmes in each of the sector’s high-growth niches,” she recalls. “We could influence government thinking on life sciences’ strategy, make bets on what the future industry would look like and it was a really fascinating role. We were also in at the start of a process where the UK’s nascent cell and gene therapy sector, which had previously been dominated by academic research, began to translate that know-how into commercial products and services. “To be honest, I was attracted to Bruntwood SciTech and Alderley Park because of the parallels with Innovate UK, we’re looking to support companies, often start-ups and SMEs, to scale themselves and to deliver the benefits of their research and data.” Mackay has worked for companies who’ve interacted with their peers in the Boston-Cambridge-MIT corridor, but has never been tempted to cross the Atlantic for a permanent position.

“It is a fantastic and dynamic environment, the amount of available finance is remarkable and it’s a very attractive location, but equally, the sector is very concentrated in that geography,” she says. “This country has an awful lot going for it in life sciences and we shouldn’t sell ourselves short. Of course, there are challenges around funding, and welldocumented issues around demand for space outstripping supply throughout the UK, but I see no reason to be other than positive. “We’re in a fortunate position because many of the companies here are growing and we also have a significant number of companies who would like to come here. “Yes, we plan to accelerate the supply of new specialist space available, especially for uses such as chemistry. It’s not an easy decision, of course, because such space has to be sustainable and affordable for companies.” The whirlwind tour comes to a close as several people cluster in the background to pose questions, offer coffee and seek advice from the affable Mackay, but it was evident from the start that the park and its eye-catching Glasshouse are well worth a visit. However, for anyone wondering how blockchain architecture actually works, only ask the tall and bearded dude munching a vegemite sourdough in the cafe if you have time. Lots of time … ■

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Game-changer Anna Maxwell, the founder and CEO of Maxwellia, tells Breakthrough how her pioneering business will widen access to medicine.


ritain’s pharmacies became the ‘front door’ of the NHS during the pandemic, and Maxwell’s innovative business model aims to keep them there. “We are building a new line of consumer healthcare brands, by converting medicines currently only available via prescription into ones which can be bought in a pharmacy,” she says. “By bringing innovation into the forefront of consumer healthcare, we will provide people with easy access to medicines and advice which previously required a trip to their GP.” It’s a concept known as ‘switching’ and Nurofen (originally a blockbuster anti-arthritis drug) and Viagra Connect are among multiple high-profile examples. However, although the practice is well understood, it’s the first time a specialist start-up has been created to deliver a pipeline of products rather than the occasional one-off. “It’s a rigorous and well-respected process, but quite challenging in terms of issues around IP and also long and complex,” says Maxwell. “Most companies, regardless of their size, would only look to switch a single product at a time, but we have created a machine to deliver a robust pipeline of products which we will commercialise ourselves. “Most major drugs are protected for their first 20 years, and when that expires, you see generic versions appearing which are typically around 70% cheaper. “In the past, drug companies have usually moved on to their next blockbuster product and haven’t

“IT WILL BE A GROUND -BRE AKING P R O D U C T F O R W O M E N ’ S H E A LT H .” committed a great deal of time and resources to their previous one. As a result, there is a huge back catalogue of drugs which I believe can be converted in consumer medicines for pharmacies. “We are working in partnership with the existing licence-holders of these drugs and all our medicines will be obtained from them.” Maxwell’s skillset certainly suits her model. A pharmacist by trade, she spent 20 years in the sector, before becoming marketing director for several large companies supplying over-the-counter medicines. “I was convinced several years ago that there was a gap in the market which wasn’t being served, and when pharmacies took on such an important role because of Covid, it made us even more certain that our approach would be a game-changer,” she says. “We now have three product applications being assessed by the Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Agency and I’m expecting the final paperwork for the first to be completed before mid-July. I can’t say much more ahead of formal completion, but it will be a ground-breaking product for women’s health.”

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However, even before its market debut, the Alderley Park-based enterprise caught the eye of the venture capital community. Praetura Ventures led a fund-raising round in Q1 2021 by putting £1.7m into Maxwellia and another £1.5m came from Alderley Park Ventures, BioCity (now the We Are Pioneer Group) Catapult Ventures, the Future Fund and several angel investors. Manchester-based Praetura has a strong healthcare focus, had previously invested in a digital health platform and a fertility business, and director Dr Andy Round has since joined Maxwell’s team as a non-exec director. “It was great to welcome Andy on board, and like all of us, he thinks Alderley Park is a wonderful location,” says Maxwell. “The support and mentorship we receive here is a tremendous asset, it’s a genuinely inspiring environment and adds an extra dimension to our company because it’s unlike anywhere else people here have worked.” ■

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Exploring the role of the UK’s National Laboratories How they deliver the science and innovation that underpins the UK’s economic growth


ecent government announcements have confirmed the increased levels of public investment in science and technology, and put innovation at the heart of its plans for recovery and growth. National laboratories play an important role in delivering the science and innovation that underpins the UK’s economic growth. AIRTO – the Association of Innovation, Research & Technology Organisations – is seeking to improve the understanding and awareness of these tremendous assets, which are key to the accomplishment of the UK’s ambition to fulfil its role as a ‘Science and Technology Superpower’.

AIRTO estimates that the UK has over 25 national laboratories, each delivering a public mission and playing an important role in the UK economy. They play a critical role, but they are often forgotten entities until their expertise is demanded in a time of crisis. Their response to the Covid-19 pandemic is no exception. Improved understanding and awareness of the UK’s National laboratories could help create a more ‘joined up’ approach by government to utilising these valuable assets, within the context of its plans for national resilience, and to support the growth of the UK economy. A taxonomy of selected laboratories (mostly AIRTO members) has recently

been produced. AIRTO is seeking to improve the understanding and awareness of the UK’s national laboratories by making this taxonomy publicly available in the form of two documents. • A brief synopsis highlighting the key characteristics of national laboratories • A detailed Taxonomy of UK national laboratories This taxonomy complements the work of others including: • The Royal Society’s recently published ‘explainer’ exploring ‘The role of public and non-profit research organisations in the UK research and innovation landscape’ • HM Treasury’s Knowledge Assets’ blog




AIRTO estimates that the UK has over 25 national laboratories, each delivering a public mission. There are possibly two

A Taxonomy of UK National Laboratories March 2021

National laboratories play an important role in the UK economy. AIRTO – the Association of Innovation, Research & Technology Organisations AIRTO is seeking to improve the understanding and awareness of the UK’s national laboratories by making this taxonomy of selected laboratories (mostly AIRTO members) publicly available.

How are national laboratories defined?

AIRTO estimates that the UK has over 25 national laboratories, each delivering a public mission. There are possibly two distinct reasons for being accorded the status of national laboratory. For some organisations both reasons may apply: A. Being the ‘go-to’ authority/facility for a given discipline, fulfilling a strategic national purpose, independent of, and distanced from, commercial vested interest, with an element of national (government) funding, direction and control. And/or B. Being a facility/service that provides open access to all (i.e., to the public at large, usually corporate organisations rather than private individuals), assisted by public funding for the public good, and not duplicating or competing with specialisations that could be obtained from (private) wholly commercial enterprises. (This reason could apply to Catapults Centres1 for their defined areas of specialisation).

Key roles of national laboratories:

• Governments and businesses turn to them for help in the event of a crisis; • They provide government with expert advice at other times; • They provide access for everyone (including the public) to important information and expertise, particularly for growing small and medium enterprises (sometimes at subsidised cost); • They deliver a public service (e.g., disease surveillance and associated provision of data for research and decision-making support).

Background to AIRTO’s analysis of national laboratories

AIRTO considers that improved understanding and awareness of the UK’s national laboratories could help create a more ‘joined up’ approach by government to utilising these valuable assets, within the context of its plans for national resilience, and to support the growth of the UK economy. National laboratories play an essential and enduring - but often hidden - role, keeping our citizens safe and secure, helping facilitate trade, looking after the environment, and more. Often the role of national laboratories happens ‘out of sight’, and they are not fully represented in consideration of the UK’s science and technology ecosystem. National laboratories have a variety of governance models (some public and some private) and more. Through an inclusive and coordinated arrangement, government could make full use of the national laboratories and their unique capabilities in the UK’s innovation landscape. They are a national asset. Sometimes these organisations are not always ‘factored in’ to the government’s strategic planning for scientific, R&D and innovation or delivery programmes.


Catapult Centres have been included in this taxonomy, but it is recognised that these organisations may not perceive themselves as national laboratories, rather as innovation centres. Catapults are not government owned but do have a national and public service delivery role (with some public funding) that is relevant.

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A Taxonomy of UK National Laboratories March 2021

distinct reasons for being accorded the status of national laboratory. For some organisations both reasons may apply: A. Being the ‘go-to’ authority/facility for a given discipline, fulfilling a strategic national purpose, independent of, and distanced from, commercial vested interest, with an element of national (government) funding, direction and control. And/or: B. Being a facility/service that provides open access to all (i.e., to the public at large, usually corporate organisations rather than private individuals), assisted by public funding for the public good, and not duplicating or competing with specialisations that could be obtained from (private) wholly commercial enterprises. (This reason could apply to Catapults Centres1 for their defined areas of specialisation).


• Governments and businesses turn to them for help in the event of a crisis; • They provide government with expert advice at other times; • They provide access for everyone (including the public) to important information and expertise, particularly for growing small and medium enterprises (sometimes at subsidised cost); • They deliver a public service (e.g., disease surveillance and associated provision of data for research and decision-making support).


AIRTO considers that improved understanding and awareness of the UK’s national laboratories could help create a more ‘joined up’ approach by government to utilising these valuable assets, within the context of its plans for national resilience, and to support the growth of the UK economy. National laboratories play an essential and enduring - but often hidden - role, keeping our citizens safe and secure, helping facilitate trade, looking after the environment, and more. Often the role of national laboratories happens ‘out of sight’, and they are not

fully represented in consideration of the UK’s science and technology ecosystem. National laboratories have a variety of governance models (some public and some private) and more. Through an inclusive and coordinated arrangement, government could make full use of the national laboratories and their unique capabilities in the UK’s innovation landscape. They are a national asset. Sometimes these organisations are not always ‘factored in’ to the government’s strategic planning for scientific, R&D and innovation or delivery programmes.


National laboratories are all unique but share some of the following characteristics (although no individual laboratory will have all of these): Statutory Functions • Underpin UK safety and security; • Being the ‘go-to’ authority/facility for a given discipline, fulfilling a strategic national purpose, independent of, and distanced from, commercial vested interest, with an element of national (government) funding, direction and control (e.g., NPL, PHE); • Where research output or capacity/ capability is so important for national requirement that research activity ca not be permitted to diminish or be determined by the market (e.g., weather forecasting and climate modelling, National Measurement Service). Capability • Clear purpose for national laboratory capability; • Host and operate expert scientific facilities, archives and programmes; • Strategic capabilities including enduring scientific evidence-based capabilities, infrastructure and knowledge; • Unique capabilities: each national laboratory is unique in its focus. Role for Government • Department sponsor; • Ring fenced funding for national laboratory capability; • Government Department customers;

Catapult Centres have been included in AIRTO’s recently published taxonomy, but it is recognised that these organisations may not perceive themselves as national laboratories, rather as innovation centres. Catapults are not government owned but do have a national and public service delivery role (with some public funding) that is relevant. 1

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• Organisational influence on policy; • Departmental influence on organisation for accountability to government. Measuring Progress and Performance • Key Performance Indicators (usually externally monitored); • Government/independent review. Engagement With Business • Facility/service providing open access to all (i.e., to the public at large, but in this sense by public we usually mean corporates rather than individuals); • Assisted by public funding to offer access and services for the public good, without duplicating or competing with specialisations that could be offered by wholly commercial enterprises (this characteristic applies to Catapult Centres1); • Work independently across government, industry and academia. International Role • International standing; • Representational role on international bodies and initiatives; • Facilitate international trade and collaboration. Status • Public Sector Research Establishment (PSRE): • i. Executive agency; ii. Trading fund or ‘Gov Co’; iii. Vote funded government laboratory (a historic model no longer in use); • Charity with commercial subsidiaries; • Membership organisation; • Private sector owned e.g., private equity owned. Location • National laboratories are distributed across the UK giving the opportunity to support local, regional and national growth. ■

AIRTO looks forward to forthcoming opportunities to further consider how to leverage the role of national laboratories in the innovation ecosystem as part of the government’s plans for introducing a fresh innovation strategy in the summer of 2021. Please email to join the debate with us in the months ahead.

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Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the innovation ecosystem

It’s time to turbo-charge Dr Glenn Crocker, who chairs UKSPA and is head of JLL’s UK Life Sciences team, takes a strategic look at the sector’s prospects and its challenges.


ou’d expect the founder and former CEO of the BioCity Group to have a solid take on where the country’s life sciences’ sector is heading, but it’s also pleasing to hear someone who doesn’t shy away from the political dimension which usually makes so many observers become tongue-tied. Crocker believes the government’s ‘levelling-up’ agenda can play a crucial role in underpinning the long-term and sustained growth which is now expected in the wake of the pandemic. Equally, he sees a wall of capital from the private sector from here and overseas looking to identify real estate opportunities throughout the sector, which should deliver significant amounts of new lab and office space for occupiers. “Life sciences are at the forefront of everyone’s mind, from the general public and the companies who are looking to invest in the sector, to individual entrepreneurs and the institutional funds,” says Crocker.

Dr Glenn Crocker HEAD OF LIFE SCIENCES, JLL / CHAIRMAN, UKSPA As Head of Life Sciences, Glenn’s wealth of industry knowledge and experience stretching over thirty years brings together the specialist skills of professionals at JLL, to address major strategic and operational opportunities and challenges within the life sciences sector

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“IT’S THE PERFECT MOMENT FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO STEP IN AND T U R B O - C H A R G E L I F E S C I E N C E S .” “The remarkable achievements we saw during Covid were a tribute to the research talent here and around the globe which lies outside Big Pharma. “Pfizer may have brought the vaccine to the population, but it was Biontech, a relatively small biotech company in Germany which made the breakthrough, and it was researchers at the University of Oxford who discovered the other leading vaccine, not AstraZeneca. “For all the funding, manufacturing presence and sheer size and scale of their operations, the global drug companies are increasingly reliant on small and independent research teams, based either within academic institutions or entrepreneurial biotechs. “Size and scale can be seductive in all sectors, but we can never underestimate the contribution and relevance of our SMEs.” Crocker believes the high-profile biotech success stories of the last 18 months have convinced international investors, venture capitalists and developers to give the real estate sector related to life sciences more attention than ever before. “A small number of real estate investors and developers have long seen the potential in delivering new lab and office space on science parks, innovation districts and campus schemes across the UK, but for many, it wasn’t a core sector and they didn’t pay it much attention,” he says. “However, you could feel the mood changing even before the start of Covid, the level of interest and number of serious inquiries really started to ramp up and it hasn’t stopped. “The enthusiasm for investment at all levels in life sciences is tangible, which can only be good for start-ups, growing companies and established

players in the sector, who need capital to develop and then commercialise innovative products and services.”


For many investors, funds and developers, their interest was only piqued during the pandemic, but Crocker says the sector’s huge potential really should have been evident well before Covid surfaced. “Back in 2018 and then throughout 2019, you could see a growing interest in UK life sciences from nontraditional investors and new entrants to the sector, whose analysis had revealed the innovations being delivered from the sector and its potential for significant and long-term growth,” he says. “At the time, our research identified several key drivers of this growth; revolutionary new treatments starting to deliver on their promise, structural changes within the industry, digital technologies and an unprecedented level of investment. “The UK BioIndustry Association calculated that 2020 was a record year for investment in the UK’s life sciences’ companies, and it already looks like 2021 will exceed that,” says Crocker. “In parallel with record levels of investing in start-ups and growing companies, there is now a wall of capital targeting the sector from a purely property perspective because UK life sciences is now starting to be accepted as a stand-alone asset class. “In February 2021, JLL’s investment analysts calculated that around £15 billion of capital had been allocated to UK life sciences real estate, of which less than 10% had been deployed. As we’re now into July, that percentage will be appreciably higher, but that still leaves billions of pounds looking to invest.

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“Even dyed-in-the-wool real estate investors finally began to realise during the pandemic that it’s about more than just bricks and mortar, it’s about what goes on in the buildings. “Investment in the ecosystem makes sense, not in a fluffy and abstract way. but because of simple self-interest. If you get the environment right, then the companies based there become more successful which in turn attracts both attention and more money, leading to growth and higher occupancy.” Equally though, and as with all strategic business sectors, the level of interest and investment has always been distributed unevenly across the country, with an inevitable focus on the so-called Golden Triangle formed by Oxford, Cambridge and London. Behind those advanced clusters come established ones in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Nottingham, and emerging ones in Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle. “If the government’s commitment to levelling-up is as powerful as the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues suggest, then this is the perfect moment for them to step in and really turbocharge life sciences,” says Crocker. “A key area is how to scale up our manufacturing capacity for life sciences. There’s a fantastic opportunity for the government to come forward alongside other investors, to both increase capacity and provide security of supply, and the most logical location for such sites would be across the Midlands and the North. “The Golden Triangle has been fantastic over a long period at delivering innovative solutions and medicines, but the high-end manufacturing could easily be done further north.” Crocker isn’t expecting the government to consider new locations, but says sufficient potential sites have already evolved. “In Nottingham, for instance, we have one of the highest (if not the highest) concentration of research chemists in the country who carry out small-scale formulations and manufacturing,” he says.

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“There are also successful and significant clusters of pharmaceutical manufacturing in the North-West around Macclesfield, and in the North-East, particularly on Tees-side. David Hardman would also be swiftly on my case if I failed to highlight the advanced manufacturing expertise in Greater Birmingham. “I’d also like to see the government dovetail its levelling-up agenda with its desire to bring forward a new network of free-ports. Can we adopt a free-port model for pharmaceutical manufacturing and are there lessons to be learned from the success which Ireland achieved in that sector? “To me, and other observers, it would also make sound strategic sense for these new manufacturing centres to be based near science parks or innovation districts, close to existing infrastructure and perhaps even alongside the new HS2 network. “The co-location of such assets would be a very powerful mix, and the government’s commitment to such a strategy would also heighten optimism within the life sciences’ sector and build on the current appetite of investors.”


Crocker also points out that established life sciences and bio-tech manufacturing locations outside London have far more physical scope to deliver the required growth. “BioCity’s growth at Nottingham was helped enormously by the

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availability of land on which to bring forward new office and lab space, and to provide all the required infrastructure,” he says. “A great example of what can happen when all the elements are in place is Signature Discovery. They were initially based in the incubator building at BioCity, starting out with four or five people. They then grew into a second building, then a third building, and finally a new grow-on building was built for them. Now, they have around 400 people. “BioCity Group was of course acquired by Harrison Street Real Estate Capital and Trinity Investment Management and is now in the We Are Pioneer Group (WAPG), the largest innovation ecosystem for the science and technology industries. “They’ve got 600 companies in their portfolio, they operate twelve science parks, with 2.6m sq ft of lab space and plan to deliver 2m sq ft of new space, so that deal was tremendous news for both the Greater Nottingham economy and the UK’s life sciences’ community. “As I always enjoy telling people new to the sector, the Boots campus is the size of Monaco and of course it also has a very long and proud history of healthcare manufacturing. “Nottingham Trent University invested something like £22m in its Medical Technologies Innovation centre on its Clifton campus with a sister facility on the Boots campus, and according to data from the local LEP, the Nottingham area now has the sixth largest concentration of life sciences-

related employment in England. “Equally, some places just don’t have flexibility, their existing sites are land-locked so they struggle for expansion space, and there’s no better example than London. “There is a desperate need for more life sciences space there and there are some exciting developments in the pipeline, but most won’t come on stream until later this decade, which is really too late for the many fast-growing companies in the capital. There is always a temptation for politicians to obsess over the capital and to have London-centric policies, but if levellingup is to mean anything, the next wave of public sector support in life sciences has to focus on regional locations. “There may be scope for grant support, the creation of new development zones, and the Treasury needs to consider what tax changes can be made to stimulate enterprise. “Not that the introduction of such policies would be simple or straightforward, but the government’s investment needs to be significant and it needs to be for the long-term. “For the sake of our society and all its citizens, we can not take a piecemeal approach to support for a sector which impacts upon all our lives and we need to see meaningful commitment, and not simply words.” ■

For further information on JLL’s life sciences sector, please visit:

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Sense of history Willmott Dixon’s development manager, Martin Field, discusses the key findings of the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) report on the life sciences’ sector with Ian Halstead.


LI’s founders would have nodded approvingly to see that its latest research focused on the sector attracting more global interest, and more finance, than any other in the wake of the pandemic. They’d have been equally pleased to note that ‘Understanding the Life Sciences Sector: The Case for Real Estate Investment’ identified myriad opportunities for real estate developers and investors – but also detailed the potential barriers to both market entry and growth.

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The foremost aim of ULI’s predecessor, the National Real Estate Foundation for Practical Research and Education, established in Illinois during the Great Depression, was to deliver original and insightful research, and stimulate debate within the property industry. The far-sighted nature of its founders was revealed at its first conference in 1941, when the fledgling organisation, by then renamed as the Urban Land Institute, focused on planning for post-war America. During 1944, the ULI underlined its

fast-growing reputation for identifying future market trends, by setting up a community builders’ council to address the challenges urban areas would likely face during a post-war boom in suburban building. Now with 45,000 members worldwide, it’s become a major force helping to shape the future of the real industry, and the 56-page report is in keeping with the ideals and strategic vision established all those decades ago. Field – a long-term member, and co-chair of ULI Europe’s Life Sciences

Image: Francis Crick Institute

The £650m Francis Crick Institute building, opened in 2016, is a biomedical discovery institute dedicated to understanding the scientific mechanisms of living things

and Healthcare Product Council – was delighted by both its depth and the carefully balanced nature of its conclusions. “I was very pleased to be asked by the ULI to co-chair the council with Ryan (Matenchuk), the founder of Galileo Labs,” he says. “I was first attracted to the organisation because it focuses on global knowledge-transfer and debate, and two years ago, Ryan and I began working establish a Life Sciences Council in Europe.


“We began talking to real estate developers, funders and agents during 2019, and right from the start it was clear that there was a real lack of credible data about the sector itself, and about the real estate opportunities and challenges in the UK. “There were several niche players, Bruntwood SciTech is an obvious one in the UK, and also specialist advisers who really knew what was happening and understood the huge potential. Unfortunately, there were many more who either didn’t show much interest in life sciences (LS), or were interested, but couldn’t identify the data they needed to enter the market and so were understandably loath to do so.

“To myself, Ryan, and others it seemed obvious that the sector had major growth potential, was an important driver of the knowledge economy and a significant creator of wealth and employment. “However, it was equally evident that to help unlock the potential, we needed to deliver credible analysis and data, not least to highlight every location’s area of expertise and the particular skillsets of its academics, researchers and entrepreneurs. “Developers, investors and anyone looking to enter the European LS market needed precision and certainty, because a scattergun approach would inevitably lead to more failures than successes.” The UK-based consultancy Didobi was brought in as research partner for the project, funding was provided by a raft of ULI members and work got underway. “The rationale for identifying the driving forces behind the LS sector’s rapid growth, and potential barriers to market entry, was easy to make before the pandemic, but it immediately became self-evident,” recalls Field. The report’s central findings, that a dearth of data had combined with lack of transparency around real estate transactions (notably rent and price levels, and building specs) to slow the pace of investment and developer interest, chimed with Matenchuk and Field’s original perceptions. “As the research says, the European LS market remains opaque to all but the specialist players, and challenges caused by the relative scarcity of information were clearly highlighted by the responses from ULI members when asked what hindered their decisionmaking on potential investment decisions,” says Field. “Almost two-thirds said a lack of suitable stock, almost one-third said a lack of knowledge and close to 30% said a lack of data. “If you look around the UK, including the so-called Golden Triangle,

there still isn’t anywhere near enough of the right space in the right place, which is why the Ox-Cam Arc corridor will become increasingly important to support UK growth. “It’s great to see the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus progressing, and there are other really exciting clusters forming around Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Nottingham. “Unfortunately though, even if you also factor in the new White City space and the Knowledge Quarter around the Francis Crick Institute, there still isn’t enough space to satisfy demand.”


Field particularly highlights a statistic revealing the total amount of fundraising by life sciences’ companies based in the UK during 2020. “The £1.2 billion total looks impressive, until you see that such companies based in Massachusetts alone raised $5.6bn,” he says. “Given the maturity of the US market, you would expect more transactions to be completed and more opportunities to be identified, but the relative difference in performance is still very telling.” The ULI report also contained a blunt comment by a global LS investor, who spoke to the Didobi researchers under condition of anonymity. “Europe is currently seen as very attractive because good-quality assets can be sourced 40% cheaper compared to equivalent US assets, and the cost of running a bio-tech business in Europe is 50% lower compared to the US.” “It does emphasise the hard-nosed approach of some investors, but equally there are entrepreneurs, science parks, innovation districts and other locations which are desperate for new revenue streams and investment, and I don’t think they’ll be overly concerned by such a comment,” says Field. “The most important elements of the report are those which identify the

“ T H E P L E A F O R M O R E T R A N S PA R E N C Y A N D G R E AT E R L E V E L S O F D ATA H A S B E E N U N D E R S T O O D .”

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Granta Park, near Cambridge, lies within one of the largest life science clusters in Europe

demographic influences, lifestyle choices, an ageing population and public sector spending decisions which are driving the LS sector’s structural growth. “The pandemic emphasised what many of us have been saying for a considerable time, that we as a country need to spend much more on healthcare, and to support those individuals and organisations who devise innovative solutions, products and processes. “You could certainly argue that the sector wasn’t high on the government’s priorities before Covid, but that changed very rapidly, and it is now a significant element of the UK’s critical resilience infrastructure. “Real estate developers and investors, from the US in particular, are now eagerly looking to identify opportunities here. “I think the report also made an important point about the need to better align landlords of science space and their occupiers in this country, which has been a hugely important element of the remarkable expansion of the LS and health economy along the BostonCambridge-MIT corridor. “A related point, and perhaps even more important to real estate newcomers to the sector, is to realise that a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to delivering space will simply not succeed.

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“Start-ups and spin-outs, companies looking for grow-on space and established players in the LS sector have very different requirements, and it’s crucial that providers offer a very flexible model. “The success of ULI has been built on the realisation that developers and investors need to adopt international perspectives, especially when dealing with companies which are effectively footloose, and the talent which leads them is equally mobile.” As intended, the ULI research has been the catalyst for much debate since its March release, and Field is enthused by the response from local authorities, universities, funds, developers and real estate advisers. “The plea for more transparency and greater levels of data was heard and understood, and I am optimistic that the hoped-for evolution will happen,” he says. “As we enter H2 of 2021, there is no sign that the wall of capital heading towards the UK is slowing, and if anything, there is even more interest from US-based VC funds. “One absolute certainty is that there will be significant new players entering the UK’s real estate market, and it will be intriguing to see if their

activity is all focused on the Golden Triangle and the Ox-Cam Arc, or throughout the regions. Life sciences is now very much a space to watch.” ■

Read the ULI’s full report ‘Understanding the Life Sciences Sector: The Case for Investment’ at: life-sciences/

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