Stevenage Borough Council to talk at Future Cities Forum about R&D campuses and place


Above: aerial view of the GSK bioscience campus at Gunnels Wood, on the outskirts of Stevenage


Future Cities Forum is delighted that Tom Pike, Deputy Chief Executive of Stevenage Borough Council, is joining our 'Science Cities' forum discussions this September, to talk about the growth of its science sector.


Stevenage is home to the UK’s largest Cell and Gene Therapy cluster and the third largest globally, placing it in the international arena, as a key innovation partner and a leading destination for future investment. Stevenage supports the UK’s position as the third global hub for life sciences, alongside Boston and San Francisco. The Stevenage Advanced Therapeutics Campus and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Centre are at the core of the development activities for Cell and Gene therapies and highlight the importance of the global significance of Stevenage’s world-leading science park and capabilities, which are at the centre of Europe’s largest cluster of cell and gene therapy companies.


GSK, one of the world's largest healthcare companies, announced last year that it had formally started the process of seeking a development partner to transform land within the company’s existing 92-acre Research & Development site in Stevenage into one of Europe’s largest ‘clusters’ for biotechnology and other early-stage life science companies.


The vision for the new campus has been developed in partnership with Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC), the UK Government, Stevenage Borough Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and would build on the existing presence of GSK, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and the SBC on the site.


The new campus, which will be one of the largest of its kind in the UK and Europe, will be built alongside SBC and its 40+ occupier companies, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and GSK’s existing Global R&D centre. UBS Asset Management and Reef are expected to deliver up to £900m of new investment alongside an estimated 1.4 million square feet of laboratory and office facilities, providing space for up to 5,000 new jobs.


UBS Asset Management and Reef are experienced life science investors and developers already delivering major life science development projects across the world with a Gross Development Value in excess of £5 billion. They will begin construction of the new campus in 2023 and – subject to planning permission – intend to open some elements of the site for business by 2025. The vision for the new section of the campus was developed in partnership with GSK, SBC, the UK Government, Stevenage Borough Council and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.


Place is very important when maintaining an edge to attract talent to science cities and districts. Stevenage Borough Council has worked with partners to develop a vision for regeneration that enhances the look and feel of the town centre whilst bringing forward long term change. This includes SG1, a programme covering 14.5 acres of the town centre with Mace Developments, and the recent successful bid through the Towns Fund that secured £37.6m of funding, creating culture, leisure and commercial opportunities and highlighting the scale of the town’s ambition and achievement.


Stevenage Town Centre was largely built in the years following 1946, when it was named the UK’s first New Town. Stevenage Borough Council commented in its Local Plan 2011 - 2031 (adopted in May 2019). It states:


'Like many other New Towns, there are real assets that benefit local people: over 40 km of cycleways, outstanding parks and open space, family homes and local facilities and space for local businesses. But, as time has passed, there are significant challenges too. Many of the buildings in the town centre have aged at the same time and at the same rate, leaving a tired environment in need of investment, and struggling to secure new, aspirational investors.

'In addition, due to a number of factors including the decline of physical retail and the simultaneous growth in online shopping, the town centre needed a major intervention. The Council has drawn upon a number of high-level studies to develop the regeneration of the town centre. The vision is to transform it from a solely retail-led area, to a mixed and thriving space where retail, commercial, residential, cultural, leisure and other facilities are based in the same central spaces, increasing the demand for services based here now and in the future and bringing life back to the area. Like other towns, sectors like commercial space, leisure and retail have been deeply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a strong local partnership approach is needed to draw in funding to kickstart regeneration and bring vibrancy.'


The Council added:

'The Council's aim is to capture the opportunities presented by the regeneration of the town and some of the thriving STEM businesses – including a world-class life sciences cluster – to help create jobs and skills opportunities for local people, as well as to help create a thriving local economy.


'In order to drive the programme in the early stages the Council has utilized public sector land ownership and funding to leverage private investment. This included assembling land previously in 3rd party ownership and building a strong local partnership across public and private sector.'


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