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The booming life sciences sector needs dynamic real estate support

Bruntwood SciTech is the UK’s leading property provider dedicated to driving the growth of the science and technology sector.

UK life sciences are buoyant with the success of the COVID-19 vaccine programme and a stream of innovation and investment marking it out for a starring role in the UK’s economic future.

The government has pledged £1 billion of funding for promising initiatives that tackle the biggest healthcare challenges of our generation and private investment is running at record levels.

The growth is accelerating across the spectrum with start-ups and established businesses both prospering, generating a huge demand for high-quality laboratory and office space. Companies are seeking environments where collective dynamics can energise the sector even further.

Life sciences have a collaborative element with open scientific innovation providing a springboard for discovery and development across drugs, diagnostics and digital. The spirit of co-operation that shone through the pandemic is the essence of healthcare’s day-to-day and will drive future prosperity and patient benefit.

Bruntwood SciTech, which is at the spearhead of progressive life sciences real estate, is in tune with the ethos and has developed a major, national strategy to fulfil the needs of an industry central to the government’s recovery plan and levelling-up agenda.

A pipeline of 40,000 high value jobs

The company’s ambitious strategy, built on 40 years’ experience, will invest £2 billion and create 40,000 high value jobs in science and technology over the next decade with its portfolio of 500 companies is expected to expand to 1,500 over the next five years.

Exciting developments are on track across the UK, in Manchester, Cheshire, Liverpool, Birmingham, Cambridge and Oxford to develop and enhance clusters of expertise.

“The events of the last 18 months have put the life sciences industry in the spotlight and it is clear how strong the sector has become,” says Dr Kath Mackay, director of Life Sciences at Bruntwood SciTech. “It is reaping the rewards of investment in the development of advanced therapies, vaccines and associated supply chains while we are traditionally strong in drug discovery and clinical trials.

“Through the expansion of our SciTech portfolio and development of our campuses, we are aiming to create 40,000 jobs and these are high value science and technology roles – ranging from laboratory assistants to senior leaders – that will be of huge benefit to the UK.”

The BioIndustry Association, which represents more than 300 start-ups, emerging and established bioscience companies, academic and research and organisations, reported a £3 billion raised by UK biotech in the first three quarters of 2021, with £576 million raised between June and the end of August.

The fast pace of growth needs to be matched with the swift expansion of laboratory and office space and the campus and cluster opportunities. Identifying the right space for the right place and designing it to evolving needs is critical to the national drive for life sciences success.

Life Sciences Real Estate Comes of Age

Bruntwood SciTech is a joint venture between established commercial property specialists Bruntwood and Legal & General to create the UK’s largest property company dedicated to life science and technology.

It is building on a strong heritage to create life sciences and technology based innovation districts that have the perfect features for companies to form, scale and grow.

“Life sciences real estate is becoming more widely recognised as an asset class,” says Dr Mackay. “Bruntwood SciTech is the most networked property company working in the science and technology space through our joint ventures with universities and hospital trusts, and a number of large corporates.

“It is a dynamic and exciting sector to be a part of as there’s a huge need for laboratory space across the UK.

“There is a race to develop laboratory space in the UK but it is important to recognise that this is a very technical area; while there is a lot of discussion at the moment about repurposing office space – it isn’t always possible.”

Bruntwood SciTech closely monitors evolving needs driven by advances in technological processes, automation and robotics that require bespoke responses.

“Bruntwood SciTech is home to expert developers with great experience at meeting demanding technical criteria and understanding the needs of clients,” she adds. “This expertise is vital to the growth of our clusters around the country and the success of companies that choose us.”

Sector knowledge is critical to growth

The Urban Land Institute identifies the life science property market as a top three emerging trend and predicted that ageing populations and technical advances would combine to increase healthcare economies and that science parks and clusters would need first class facilities and amenities to attract talent in a highly competitive market.

But it also pinpoints challenges around lack of knowledge and operational expertise.

“This is where Bruntwood SciTech’s experience is so important,” adds Dr Mackay. “We have the sector knowledge and expertise that is critical to establishing and growing a life sciences business in the right ecosystem with the right support.

“For instance, you need an experienced developer who really understands what a drug discovery company needs to make its drugs, to comprehend the heavy chemistry requirements and the need for specialised space. It is very difficult to operate in this field without true life sciences real estate expertise.

“One of our key USPs is that we support our businesses with deep knowledge around the technical areas they operate in.”

The ULI Report, Understanding the Life Sciences Sector: The Case for Real Estate Investment, published earlier this year, predicts continued growth across life sciences property to meet the needs of a healthcare industry innovating to treat an ageing demographic living with multiple co-morbidities and tackle major health challenges.

A National Vision

The UK’s life sciences sector is crucial to the economy and the government’s Life Sciences Vision – a programme devised to make the UK a Science Superpower – calls for a connected national response to make it happen.

Its Foreword states: “The human Life Sciences sector is among the most valuable and strategically important in the UK economy, and critical to the country’s health, wealth and resilience. In recent decades, advances in the Life Sciences have fundamentally improved the length and quality of life in the UK and globally, and we stand on the cusp of an era of cures, in which new technologies make previously terminal disease treatable or curable.”

The triple power of academia, local government and private companies have been identified as a spur for innovation and industry investment.

The Life Sciences Vision report highlights a need to unite talent and opportunity by supporting clusters of excellence.

“International evidence suggests the development of clusters is important for sustaining and attracting manufacturing investments in particular geographies,” it states.

“Government will therefore work with UK-based manufacturers and local partners to support cluster formation around existing sites, as well as interventions, such as Freeports and access to shared technical facilities and advice, that will support cluster formation in new areas of the country.”

Bruntwood SciTech’s strategy synchronises perfectly with the vision by operating on a national scale and working as a facilitator and accelerator of regional clusters that generate growth and collaboration locally and nationally.

Stronger Together

When global molecular testing company QIAGEN chose to locate its new HQ at the £25 million Citylabs 2.0 development in Manchester, it was a clear indication of the value of being at the heart of the action.

“They decided to put their Global Centre for Precision Medicine at our Citylabs campus because it is one of the leading innovation campuses in the country, if not the world, with direct access to the world-leading research and talent availability at the University of Manchester and immediately surrounded by the hospitals they want to work with. They saw the benefit in being in that rapidly expanding clinical and precision medicine campus.”

The Citylabs campus is a hive of innovation, located within the UK’s largest Foundation Trust, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, where it is surrounded by five of the country’s major hospitals including the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. Opened in 2014, the campus now includes Citylabs 1.0 & 2.0 which are fully let with Citylabs 4.0 imminently due to being construction given the overwhelming demand from precision medicine, diagnostics, genomics and digital health companies – all wanting to be located on the campus where they can access joint clinical trials, sample supply, diagnostic collaborations, medtech adoption and research.

Its evolution, located within Manchester’s Innovation District, the Oxford Road Corridor, is part of an ambition by Bruntwood SciTech to grow the Citylabs Campus and neighbouring Manchester Science Park to 1 million sq ft of space for life sciences and tech businesses which is need to accommodate the flood of investment and companies attracted by the proximity of world-class institutions such as the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, the National Graphene Institute, the Biomedical Research Centre, Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine and The University of Manchester’s Health Technology Research Hub – the Pankhurst Institute.

Citylabs has attracted the Stoller Biomarker Discovery Centre, Yourgene Health, MAC Clinical Research, Apis Assay Technologies, Nuffield Health and Takagi, to name a few while it is also home to the city’s unique singular umbrella health science and innovation system – Health Innovation Manchester – which enables products and services to be accelerated into the health system at pace and scale.

“There are many benefits from being in a cluster; whether you’re a small company or a large company. You can tap into a specialised talent pool and collaboration is much easier. We see businesses on our campuses working together at all levels on existing projects and innovation programmes,” says Dr Mackay.

“We recognise the value of collaboration and design our campuses with key breakout, meeting and event spaces to get people out of their laboratories and workspaces and talking to each other. We also provide a community events programme alongside bespoke business support to help our customers thrive, network and, ultimately, grow.”

Bruntwood SciTech aims to be an extension of a company’s team with deep understanding of their needs for specific lab and office space and quick access to talent and expertise.

It also re-invests surplus operating profit and revaluation surpluses arising from increased occupancy back into Manchester Science Park, which has enabled the site to expand and become self-sustaining. It has a rolling programme of campus masterplans and building developments along with the creation of enhanced collaborations space, meeting and conference rooms, amenities and the flexibility for companies to grow organically.

Cluster benefits promote scientific discovery

The connectivity includes easy exchanges and collaboration with companies at Alderley Park, which is now a world leading science and innovation campus. Offering 1m sq ft of labs and office space, it is home to national institutions such as Medicines Discovery Catapult, the CRUK Manchester Institute, alongside global leaders such as Sai Life Sciences and Evotec.

“I don’t believe you get that benefit of collaboration if you’re not physically in a cluster. Being co-located and connected with institutes, academic groups, hospitals and university infrastructures brings a wealth of advantages,” adds Dr Mackay. “Alderley Park is now thriving. It’s home to over 3500 people working in many areas of drug discovery and development, with particular expertise in oncology and infectious diseases, but also with a growing tech cluster and it is only 30 minutes from Manchester which has Europe’s largest clinical academic campus.

The government’s Life Sciences Vision picks up the mantra of driving economic growth and self-sustaining clusters of excellence across the UK, with its intention of supporting Manchester as a world leading centre for genomics and data, developing Liverpool’s reputation for infection and immunology and enhancing med-tech heritage in Yorkshire and Humber.

Bruntwood SciTech is underpinning that with a strong presence at the Liverpool Science Park where its five-year masterplan is attracting science and digital tech campus companies. It follows the cluster template, bringing innovative enterprises close to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the University of Liverpool’s Institute for Infection and the Manufacturing Technology Centre’s northern base and other NHS centres.

“We’re already working closely across the regions to advance discoveries – at Alderley Park we’re working in collaboration with the Medicines Discovery Catapult to build a Translational Research Facility in Infectious Disease which actively seeks to build collaborations with SMEs and academics in infectious disease research.”

The new facility will provide critical infrastructure for future infection readiness, including a new UK-leading category 3 biosafety (BSL3) facility to grow the capacity and capability of organisations working to validate diagnostics and treatments in infectious diseases.

Bruntwood SciTech’s national reach extends to Begbroke Science Park, in Oxford, and Melbourn Science Park, just outside Cambridge. Acquired in 2020, Melbourn Science Park offers office, lab and engineering space as well as meeting and events space and further underscores the national reach.

Networks of opportunity

Bruntwood SciTech’s ambition is to grow and energise existing campuses and create new centres which provide a nationwide network of opportunity.

It has used its 20 years’ experience of the Birmingham property landscape to acquire and develop the Innovation Birmingham Campus which is occupied with more than 150 digital start-ups that enjoy 113,000 sq ft of co-working, serviced and leased offices and a community hub.

The campus, which is expected to expand to 800,000 sq ft over the next decade, is close to the University of Birmingham, Aston University and Birmingham City University in the city’s Knowledge Quarter. The first phase of this expansion will be Enterprise Wharf, a 120,000 sq ft smart-enabled building which is due to complete in 2022.

Bruntwood SciTech has big ambitions for Birmingham which extend beyond the Innovation Birmingham Campus. The company has recently unveiled plans to develop Birmingham Health Innovation Campus, in partnership with the University of Birmingham. The development, in Selly Oak, in the south of the city, will link closely with the Innovation Birmingham Campus and galvanise the life science sector in the region.

“It is the first development of its kind in the region and Birmingham has this huge, untapped potential where we can really build upon the clinical and academic strengths in health and life sciences in the area to create a focal point for life sciences,” says Dr Mackay.

“We’re looking to deliver a 10-year master plan. Phase one of that we’ll complete in 2023 and offer about 68,000 sq ft of commercial laboratory space, alongside the University’s Precision Health Technology Accelerator. This ambition is possible because we have unparalleled experience in the sector and there is a real understanding of the businesses in our portfolio.

“Our innovation services team, the heads of innovation, venture managers and business growth managers are in tune with the businesses they serve and help. Regular on-on-one advice sessions are available, particularly for emerging businesses, helping them write grant applications, raise funds and a whole network of support we put round them to ensure they are successful.

“We also run specialist accelerator programs and workshops and boot camps and access to longer-term, structured programmes.”

Amazing Space and more

Bruntwood SciTech offers a full range of products including coworking, serviced office, managed office, conventional leased space and laboratory space. It comes with the traditional benefits of facilities and property and project management but its life sciences heritage elevates the offering to a transformative level. Alongside the property offering, the company also provides a range of highly specialised scientific services such as partnerships with Cytiva and Waters which allow customers to access high quality equipment without having to invest capital when they are starting out.

“We do create amazing space and working environments but it is much more than that,” adds Dr Mackay. “Being in partnership with institutions such as hospital trusts brings huge opportunities for the businesses in our network. They get access to clinicians. They are able to have discussions around getting their products adopted, initiating clinical trials and getting some real-world evidence as they develop their products and their services.”

“We understand the impact of co-location. Our accelerator programmes provide unique opportunities to co-locate and collaborate with established businesses in a challenge-led environment. This means they can access everything from expert advice, to help with pitching to investors, PR and profile opportunities, HR and recruitment support and a range of networking events.”

Bruntwood SciTech was selected as the chosen partner earlier this year by the University of Manchester to create the final, albeit extremely large, piece of the puzzle for a world-leading Innovation District in Manchester called ID Manchester. The £1.5 bn ID Manchester will be home to the most exciting new ideas and ventures, addressing some of humanity’s greatest challenges and opportunities with many opportunities for life science companies to make it their home.

“Our JV partnership with The University of Manchester has got huge ambition for ID Manchester and we’re extremely excited to have been selected to work with them to deliver its vision and masterplan, which will be on of inclusive innovation shaped by creativity and invention, and working to deliver a healthier, happier, greener future for all,” adds Dr Mackay. “We haven’t just been selected as a developer. What they really value from us is the specialist support we offer to our customers and our in depth understanding of what life sciences and tech businesses need.”

Deep understanding

“They’ve seen that as incredibly attractive when they were looking for a partner to develop the site. Taking Citylabs in Manchester, which we are developing jointly with the University of Manchester NHS Foundation Trust, as a further example it brings a wealth of experience and innovation within touching distance of each other.

“The hospital and the clinicians within those groups are very keen and hungry to work with industry. Being in a joint venture, creating a campus with a hospital trust is very powerful in facilitating that. It’s an incredible opportunity for organizations looking to join us.

“We help facilitate that too through introductions and through that deep understanding of the businesses that we have in our networks.

“Our UK expansion marks a significant advance for life sciences.”

“Our UK expansion marks a significant advance for life sciences.”

About the interviewee


Dr Kath Mackay is director of Life Sciences for Bruntwood SciTech. She has a keen interest in growing the life science industry, and businesses and infrastructure within the sector, ensuring the UK is the best place to establish and scale a life science organisation.
Kath oversees Alderley Park – the UK’s largest single site life science campus – the new Birmingham Health Innovation Campus and Citylabs. Kath is also non-executive director of the Northern Health Science Alliance, the North of England’s health partnership, Infex Therapeutics, a clinical development company which acquires, develops and licenses innovative drugs to treat pandemic infections, UKRI’s National Biofilms Innovation Centre, and Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.

About Bruntwood SciTech

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Bruntwood SciTech (a 50:50 joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General) is creating a network of innovation districts, connecting the UK’s leading regional cities and science and technology communities through opportunities for collaboration and an extensive partner network.

Bruntwood SciTech owns and operates the UK’s largest portfolio of science and technology assets. Creating the environments and ecosystems needed for companies in the science and technology sector to form, collaborate, scale and grow. In addition to high quality office and laboratory space, scientific services and tailored business support, Bruntwood SciTech provides unrivalled access to finance, talent, markets and mentorship.

Our locations provide inspirational, innovative communities in which start-ups, scale-ups and global headquarters thrive.

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