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Future Cities Forum opening panel discussion at 'Science Cities' Cambridge

Above: the opening panel of 'Science Cities' at Newnham College Cambridge with - from left - Georgina Rizik of SC1 London Life Sciences Innovation District, Emma Cariaga of British Land, Nick Kirby of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Heather Fearfield of Future Cities Forum, Jackie Sadek of the UK Innovation Corridor, and Fred Pilbrow of Pilbrow & Partners - with the modular lab building 'Paper Yard' at Canada Water on screen - from British Land

Future Cities Forum discussed the importance of strengthening connections between London and Cambridge and across the 'golden triangle' at its Science Cities forum this week.

London is expanding its science hubs with new districts such as the Whitechapel Road life sciences cluster aiming to serve the rising population's health needs with new research and plans for healthier living standards through the 'green spine' of new public realm. Local authorities such as Waltham Forest are looking to the UK Innovation Corridor to make connections from the Capital through to Cambridge in a bid to attract inward investment.

The highly successful but over-heating city region of Cambridge is now under pressure to expand its science labs and social infrastructure to meet the aspirations of the UK government which wants to builds a' home-grown' replica of the U.S Silicon Valley as Silicon Fen. Amid water shortages and planning delays in the region, Housing Secretary Michael Gove is urging councils in Cambridgeshire not to 'go slow' over building 150,000 new homes to meet the needs of expansion.

Although manufacturing is growing in Stevenage, it is under-developed in other centres such as Harlow, as are the educational and skills training and attainment. Great disparities exist along the UK Innovation Corridor and a recent report from the University of Cambridge's Bennett Institute for Public Policy suggests that the UK's social infrastructure, which underpins economic growth is 'dismal' compared to that of former East Germany.

Contributors taking part in the first panel discussion were Emma Cariaga, Joint Head of Canada Water & Head of Residential at British Land, Georgina Rizik, Executive Director, SC1, Jackie Sadek, Chair, UK Innovation Corridor, Nick Kirby, Managing Director, Cambridge Biomedical Campus and Fred Pilbrow, Founding Partner, Pilbrow & Partners.

The discussion began with Emma Cariaga, Director at British Land describing the investment in flexible science labs at Canada Water in Southwark and at the Euston Tower in London's Regent's Place district, close to University College London Hospital. British Land is focused on delivering best in class space for customers in the high-growth life science and innovation sectors in London and across the Golden Triangle (London, Oxford and Cambridge) where supply is constrained. In addition to the lab-enabled space already delivered at Canada Water and Regent’s Place, it has a significant pipeline of 1.9 million square feet of lab and innovation space within its existing portfolio.

Emma explained how the use of modular design in science lab space creation can speed up delivery. Traditionally, planning has slowed up new science hub space and British Land has been determined to find a solution to this.

Above: aerial view and impression of completed Canada Water development in South London, looking west towards the Shard (courtesy of British Land)

British Land and AustralianSuper announced the first pre-let at Paper Yard, Canary Wharf, London last year. It is an innovative new scheme comprising 33,000 sq ft of modular lab space at Canada Water. Chemastery, a start-up focused on increasing the efficiency of chemical research and manufacturing, has taken c. 2,100 sq ft of office and lab space within the newly opened building which was delivered in just nine months.

Designed by Hawkins\Brown, Paper Yard will accommodate a range of complex scientific requirements including research, work and education within a highly sustainable environment that encourages interaction, maximises daylight and promotes wellbeing. Paper Yard has been built using modular construction methods, which allow for a speedier build resulting in less disruption to the local community and a quicker completion for occupiers. The building utilises a mix of existing components and materials that can be repurposed following deconstruction.

Paper Yard sits alongside TEDI-London, an engineering higher education enterprise co-founded by King’s College London, Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney as part of a GIA 76,000 sq ft innovation campus. The building is intended to attract a diverse and dynamic community of users within the building by virtue of its highly flexible modular design that can be quickly and easily adapted either in advance of, or during occupation.

Above: CGI of re-modelled Euston Tower, Regent's Place, London - image courtesy of British Land / 3XN

Emma was asked a question about British Land retrofitting and re-modelling the Euston Tower, which is part of the Regent's Place campus - for life science companies, with the dimensional challenges of working with a 1970 building and incorporating all the services that modern labs require.

Emma commented:

'It is a challenge to retrofit and repurpose, whatever the age of the buildings...the scientific communities have expectations about spec and fit out, ceiling heights, access to light. We have had to work very cleverly with our achitects 3XN to keep the overall structure but to move things around for those work areas that need light. It is a challenge. We all have a commitment to zero carbon in construction and operation.. You work very carefully to achieve that through design and collaboration.'

In line with British Land’s longstanding commitment to net zero development, the design’s sustainability strategy is based on retaining, re-using and re-cycling existing material, specifying low carbon and recycled materials where new is required and only using certified carbon offsets as an action of last resort. British Land is also actively exploring options for local certified carbon offsets, whereby they would seek to offset embodied carbon associated with materials in the existing building that cannot be reused or recycled by funding equivalent local carbon avoidance measures.

This multi-layered approach to net zero development aims to create a blueprint for the sustainable redevelopment of challenging, inflexible old buildings that can be used in the future. British Land is working with research institutes to test progressive ways of re-using elements of the building’s structure and intends to use its findings to help accelerate the real estate industry’s move towards net zero.

As the owner and operator of Regent’s Place for nearly 40 years, British Land has a long history of partnering with the London Borough of Camden and its communities, delivering new affordable homes and spaces for the local community, including a theatre and arts centre and affordable workspaces. Working collaboratively with its local partners, British Land has sought to make a long-lasting, positive social impact, pioneering new approaches to creating social value, including its innovative Regent’s Place Community Fund which has raised over £200,000 for community projects since its launch in 2016.

Paper Building at Canada Water - image courtesy British Land

Georgina Rizik, Executive Director, joined the panel discussion to talk about the development SC1 London Life Sciences Innovation District, which has a mission is to Reimagine Innovation & Health Equity.

SC1 is a Life Sciences Innovation District in South Central London that brings public sector partners together with start-ups, founders and innovative businesses, creating a dynamic intersection of health, technology and data, centred around one goal – optimising health equity, locally and globally. It enables academic and clinical partners, along with BioPharma, BioTech, Technology companies, investors, and entrepreneurs to co-locate and collaborate to unlock game-changing life sciences innovation. It brings together seven partners with over a century of healthcare innovation history, and a shared purpose of tackling the lack of health equity locally and globally, to put life sciences at the heart of a major global city.

Above Royal Street development at SC1’s MedTech Hub (Westminster Bridge Campus) (left) and Snowfields Quarter at SC1’s BioMedical Hub (London Bridge Campus) (Right, Courtesy SC1 London Life Sciences Innovation District)

Georgina Rzik, Executive Director of SC1 London Life Sciences Innovation district shared with the forum:

'We have a unique partnership model, which focusses on delivering an impact on health equity. The anchor institution is King's College London, then we have three hospital trusts, Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital, and the South London and Maudsley, the phenomenal charity Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation, and importantly two local authorities - Lambeth and Southwark Councils.

'We have three innovation hubs: our London Bridge Biomedical Hub with the leading Comprehensive Cancer Centre at Guy's Hospital; Westminster Bridge campus is our Med-Tech Hub at Guy's and St Thomas', and it includes through the merger with the Royal Brompton and Harefield Hospitals, leadership in cardiovascular and respiratory care; and our Denmark Hill location, which is the Mind and Body Hub with national and global leadership in Mental Health and Neurosciences.  This is all about fostering co-location and co-creation, because we are passionate about public-private partnerships.

'By St Thomas' Hospital we have a development called Royal Street. It will provide two million square feet of affordable lab space, offices and a bit of residential. It is on its way to planning approval and will be ready by approximately 2028. It is very much about how we can capitalise how academics and clinicians can work together with the private sector.

'The Snowfields Quarter development, proposes 350,000 square feet of space at our London Bridge Campus. Planning submissions will be done this year. It will be about community connectivity, so that grand life sciences buildings do not stand alone but are accessible to the community, along with the provision of world-class and sustainable lab and office space.


'At our MedTech Hub at Westminster Bridge Campus, I am really excited by the opening of The London Institute for Healthcare Engineering which we expect to be the gold standard in fostering collaboration with the NHS, academia and the MedTech industry and ultimately be a venture builder in the UK.

Above: CGI of the London Institute of Healthcare Engineering (HLM Architects for King's College London)

'How do we frame all of this? Every Innovation District locally, nationally and globally has to figure out what is special to them. We have health inequalities in our host Boroughs so our value proposition centres around having a positive impact on health equity. The onus is on each district, in London, to make a unique offering. What does London stand for, and then what does the UK stand for? No-one questions the incredible science that is done here, and globally people know about the UK Biobank, Genomics England, and the NHS. The question is how to leverage all this incredible equity.'

Above: the Cambridge Biomedical Campus - with the AstraZeneca Discovery building centre of picture (Courtesy CBC)

The Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC) is located at the heart of the UK’s and Europe’s leading life sciences cluster. It is a vibrant, international healthcare community and a global leader in medical science, research, education and patient care.

By locating world-leading academic and industry scientists on the same site as the teaching hospitals of the University of Cambridge, it believes it is creating the optimum environment for the rapid and effective translation of research into routine clinical practice, succeeding because of the strength of its ecosystem which allows ideas to develop and flourish as well as the physical space to accommodate new and expanding companies and the international connections to be the global hub for content and research.

The principles underpinning the campus are collaboration and sharing. It states that it wants to foster an environment where individual organisations both contribute to, as well as gain from the success of others on site and where like-minded people work in partnership, committed to realising a shared ambition of improving patient care and outcomes – through the discovery, commercialisation and adoption of innovative new products and services into healthcare practice.

This co-location underpins collaboration which in turn supports improving healthcare capabilities, as CBC Managing Director Nick Kirby, who joined the panel, explained:

'The combination of commercial life sciences, healthcare and academia is the USP we have. You see it through the collaborations between the MRC and AstraZeneca, which have funded ninety PhD students working on new medical discoveries, and then there are the new plans for the Cancer Research Hospital approved by government. The proposition behind this is compelling, putting less of a burden on the exchequer, with investment from three new university institutes and from commercial life sciences. That's the proposition we are capable of delivering’.

Nick described his vision for 'holistic, sustainable expansion that encourages growth' for the campus on the south side of the city:

'What do we mean by inclusive growth? How do we secure this for the long term to benefit the community? To start with the campus, we have 22,000 people working on it and this number is planned to grow to 40,000 by 2040. Over that time there will be 500,000 square metres of new life sciences space.

'There is no credible path to that kind of growth without addressing the questions around infrastructure, and we have some agency over that at a campus level, as others do over in the wider city, but it requires a different approach at a national level.'

Nick pointed to the work being led by Peter Freeman on behalf of the Government, noting that whilst this clearly intended to address infrastructure priorities, there was more to do. Reflecting on the importance of inclusive growth, Nick referred to research from the Bennett Institute: ‘Their work addresses the issues concerning the social infrastructure we need if we are to achieve what Cambridge is capable of - and compete on the world stage.

'A further priority in approaching the question of growth is bringing people with us. Failure to engage and involve the public will ultimately be reflected in decisions by the electorate. The government's vision is only achievable with a much more credible pathway to the infrastructure required.

Nick commented on the effective role undertaken by Cambridge Ahead in advocating for a focus on energy, utilities, water, transport. These infrastructure priorities extend to the wider public services infrastructure. ‘One example of this would be the need for investment in acute hospital infrastructure, illustrated by the fact that Addenbrookes Hospital has an A&E department that was designed to handle one third of the patients that it has to cope with today.’

'It is also important that we understand the need for affordable housing; The Campus has commissioned Lichfields, the planning firm, to design a housing strategy which describes the affordable housing need associated with Campus growth, and then what it means to create a place. We don't want to drive the sort of housing to create a place that is not holistic’.

Above: Much of the success of Cambridge in the future relies on sustainable travel, including cycle ways such as Histon Road - image courtesy of Greater Cambridge Partnership

Jackie Sadek, new Chair of the UK Innovation Corridor, joined the panel discussion to continue the debate about the best way to go about locking in growth from London to Cambridge, through connectivity between science campuses. The UK Innovation Corridor describes itself as:

'a dynamic ecosystem of international businesses, maverick academics, ambitious start-ups, City finance and law firms, all cross-pollinating to accelerate their success. It is a symbiotic network of supply chains that reaches out beyond the region, throughout the UK and around the globe, making The Innovation Corridor a highly advanced sci-tech superhighway.

'The secret to the region's success is its connectivity. Location is everything. And the Innovation Corridor resides at a pivotal spot in the world, making it the chosen place for entrepreneurs, intellectuals and investors to congregate. The city axis of London and Cambridge – only 60 miles apart, hot-linked by the M11 motorway, and 1 hour by train – is networked with prized international rail and flight links. Stansted Airport – serving 180 destinations in 38 countries, sits at the heart, with London City Airport and St Pancras International, all connecting the region with the rest of the world.'

Jackie said:

'I chaired my first board meeting yesterday so I am fired up. We are 15 local authorities and 10 universities, two of which have global status (Cambridge and UCL), and lots of innovation companies. In old money terms we were once called the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium but we have a snappier name now. However it is very much a bottom-up organisation, with councils throwing in 10k to 15k each, and we are run tightly which, cheap as chips, compares favourably to government top down initiatives like the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine which are imposed from above. Our GVA is £180 bn now but could get up to £350 bn over 10 years. While it is not Silicon Valley, it compares favourably with Boston and the North Carolina research triangle based around Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. My job is to position us with the incoming government to explain to them what a jewel they have.

'We don't do enough with our incredible assets - these are undersold. The Corridor encompasses the 'bit in-between'. Places like Stevenage, Harlow and Bishop's Stortford could all service the overheating cities and science hubs of Cambridge and London, especially in the area of manufacturing. This is where we need to create more affordable space. Stevenage is the poster child of our organisation, as it has raised over £1.5 billion in investment into innovation in the last 10 years.

'There are skills imbalances between Cambridge and Harlow - for example. However we have all the FE colleges onboard, and hats off to Harlow College which has just moved into Stansted Airport to progress courses and training. While affordable housing is very important, our target has to be the finding of affordable space for start-ups and follow-on businesses.'

North Acton development for Imperial College, London - courtesy Pilbrow & Partners

Fred Pilbrow concluded the panel discussion by highlighting the exciting science and mixed-use schemes that are progressing in North Cambridge and with Imperial in west London:

'Community access to science campuses has been such an important theme for my fellow panellists and this is informing a lot of work we are doing as a practice. North Acton is a new campus and development for Imperial College London which is a determinedly mixed-use, residential, hotel and workspace, with a green heart for the wider quarter and community in what has been a very car-dominated area.'

Imperial College London commissioned Pilbrow & Partners to prepare regeneration proposals for One Portal Way, North Acton. The site is strategic. It is the largest and most central development site in an area that has been subject to significant investment and yet which still lacks a well defined town centre.

Pilbrow & Partners proposals establish this centre through the creation of a major new public park. Three tall buildings at the apexes of the triangular site mark points of new public permeability. The proposals deliver a balance of employment and residential space leveraging Imperial’s knowledge and contacts to draw innovative technology and life science businesses to North Acton.

Fred also talked about the importance of social infrastructure at Hartree in North Cambridge:

'We are working with U + I / Land Securities on the commercial side of a mixed-use scheme. It is an unusual master-plan in that we have both residential and commercial being conceived together and holistically. The social infrastructure for 5,800 homes and two new schools is integral to the planning and this gives the opportunity to think about how future life sciences occupiers and businesses might interact with the community and local schools.

'We did something similar when we were working on the Francis Crick building at St Pancras where there was a teaching lab at the front entrance. Outreach to local residents on the Somers Town estate was important and staff from the Crick were teaching in local schools as it's important to show that life sciences is something that is not done to you but rather there are job opportunities coming out of the developments.

'Let me give you the example of Bicycle Therapeutics. a company we worked with when they took space on the Granta business park outside Cambridge some years back. It was the only suitable lab space they could find in the city region at the time, and while Granta does what it does well, it is the sort of place that closes down at 5 pm and you need to drive to get to work. The biggest challenge for growth Bicycle said to us was finding affordable accommodation for staff.

'I am really hopeful that Hartree and North Cambridge could offer Bicycle something different in locational terms where it will be possible to walk to work from housing nearby. I hope by being in a mixed-use neighbourhood then it would not be dull.

'On the theme of blurring boundaries, joining up and fostering collaboration, I am very aware that at Hartree we have some impressive neighbours in The Crown Estate on the Cambridge Business Park, St. John's Innovation Park and also the Cambridge Science Park, so I very much hope we can be good neighbours and create a coherent piece of urban realm.'

Nick Kirby of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus rounded up the forum:

'Having the insight today from people in different places and with different expertise is very valuable not just for this forum but more widely for getting the answers to some very difficult questions right.  

Nick acknowledged the challenges described by Jackie in relation to top-down government initiatives, stressing the importance of localism and effective national government to the UK life sciences agenda.

Future Cities Forum would like to thank the panel contributors for their insight and experience in the science sector. Our second panel contributions will be published next week.


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