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Our next 'Science Cities' with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Above: Paddington Square development adjacent to St Mary's Hospital and Paddington Station

Future Cities Forum will be holding its March 'Science Cities' event in Paddington with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. The forum will be discussing the expansion of life sciences, collaboration and development opportunities in West London and across the UK.

Questions will be asked around transport connectivity, the design of life science hubs, digital innovation, place-making and community engagement. Dr Suki Balendra, Head of Strategy at Paddington Life Sciences and Matthew Tulley, Redevelopment Director, at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, will be speaking.

The question of connectivity between Oxford, Reading and London was highlighted by Dr Balendra, at our St John's College, Oxford 'Science Cities' event last September, who commented that there is strong evidence of an appetite for companies from Reading wanting to move onto the Paddington campus:

'At Paddington of course we are connected to Oxford with the transport lines in and out of the two cities. We are working in the context of the north west London population which numbers some two and a half million people and where there are diverse communities and a huge level of deprivation. From one end of the area to another for instance, a boy's life expectancy changes by 18 years. The hospital, St Mary's is crumbling and at the mercy of national government and as you may know this project for Imperial has been kicked down the track now beyond 2030.

'However we do have approval to build upwards and that will give us a surplus of land to give over to life sciences and mixed use. We realised that we already had a story to tell in Paddington, that we were sitting in a life sciences ecosystem with companies like Vertex, Takeda and IQVIA and also a lot of data companies like Oracle and Microsoft. We wanted to convene those companies now and we launched Paddington Life Sciences in June this year. Of course we also have the White City campus with a focus on tech. All this has been convened through the NHS and we are interested in health equity. We want to draw more of our residents into research and they are a huge asset in terms of health data, in fact we have one of the largest data sets in Europe. We want to focus on our strengths and grow what we are doing, but like everyone else we have a challenge around lab space and are competing with The Crick and SC1, Canada Water and Canary Wharf. One strength is our connectivity to the west with the Heathrow Express, the Elizabeth Line and Old Oak Common.

'I have worked here for 15 years and really seen big changes in the area. British Land owns land around Paddington and coming out of the station and the way there is an exit straight onto the canal, along with the renovation of Sheldon Square, the days of seeing Paddington as 'grotty' are over. The perceptions have really changed and there is strong interest for instance from companies moving from Reading to Paddington.'

'Historically Imperial has been very academic but we are interested now in moving into commercial partnerships and really interested in social purpose. The interest in the latter can be seen in Boston where staff are getting involved in community projects. There is interest in diversity in communities and trials, so the US is now visiting us to see how we are doing community engagement. So our project started as a development but has widened out into social purpose and research.'

At our Lambeth Palace 'Science Cities' event last May, Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust's Head of Redevelopment, Matthew Tulley, was asked whether it is beneficial to become porous in developing a new life sciences hub? Matthew replied:

'It's a careful balance. I was at Great Ormond Street Hospital before where we built a research centre, which had lab space in a semi-basement with double height windows so it was very visible to people outside walking along the pavement. It's very open. There was an interesting debate among the scientists there, some of whom saw the opportunity for public engagement. It's been very successful.

'I think the conversation about The Crick and Somers Town is very interesting because often with these construction site disruptions the local people aren't the ones to benefit and I would imagine the scientists who work there aren't local - so how do you create value for the community - perhaps with local jobs associated with it?

'Going back to Paddington and St Mary's Hospital, which does serve the local community, one of the important things as we go through the development process is engaging with that community. It's going to be their hospital. We do still see people in the original 1850's buildings but we have about nine acres of prime real estate and the opportunity for a new hospital on half of that site with the other half devoted to commercial use. What should that commercial hub look like, what should it be? We need to create a great place and one where people want to work next to a brand new teaching hospital. Of course it will benefit from the best transport links and the Elizabeth Line is a huge benefit.'


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