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The outlook for life sciences infrastructure at our November forum - report part two

Life sciences infrastructure panel Future Cities Forum at DLA Piper in the City of London with (facing from right) Andrew Hudson of JLL, Peter Ward of King's College London, Zachary Gauge of UBS Asset Management, Heather Fearfield of Future Cities Forum, Ed Hayden of Scott Brownrigg, and Dan Ringelstein of Arup.

Our second panel discussion at 'The making of the Modern City' looked at the future for investment in science and R&D infrastructure with King's College London/Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital NHS Trust, UBS Asset Management, Arup, Scott Brownrigg and JLL.

Cost management of new science facilities was an important topic, as was creating space for urban labs in London, and the ability of the Stevenage biosciences cluster in Hertfordshire and the Oxford Science Park at Cowley to relieve pressure on the over-heating science city of Cambridge.

King's College London/Guy's & St Thomas' NHS Trust, Director of Real Estate Development, Peter Ward, described the scale of opportunity for development of innovation districts in the London Bridge and Waterloo urban areas. This is where the Trust has world famous teaching hospitals and medical school campuses, and is now looking to develop new workspaces for young start-up and scale-up life sciences companies:

'We are one of eight national academic health science centres designated by the UK government, which is branded as King's Health Partners, working with the London Boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark to establish an innovation district called SC1. This is where we will take into our campuses a sub-set of three R&D areas: biomedical engineering and healthcare, biotech, and a further area called 'mind and bodies'. This is an area of enormous diversity and great opportunity, both with the size of the student body that we have here, the collaboration that takes place between institutions and the size of these institutions.

Above: entrance to Guy's Campus (left) - home to King's College London's Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine - and Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences, on St Thomas Street, Southwark opposite entrance to The Shard, by London Bridge Station, looking west to Borough High Street, Borough Market and Bankside beyond, with tower of St Thomas Church (which houses the oldest surviving operating theatre in England).

Peter stated that the time is right now for development, and it will determine how the London Bridge area will look in the future:

'We need to leverage the fact that we are in cental London to build this innovation district, otherwise you will see just offices everywhere. There is a culture in the NHS of designing bespoke buildings, but as we cannot predict the future of healthcare, we need to design our buildings with base needs to start with.'

Peter was asked how these young start-up companies could afford to live and work in this area and why they would be attracted to it:

'Drug discovery is no longer focused within big pharma companies, and they are looking for young start-ups to carry out the research. For the start-ups themselves, they want to be close to a university and a place with access to patients and academics, plus close to all the amenities and cultural attractions of central London. If we do not encourage these scientists to stay in the capital, they won't go to places such as Barnsley, we will lose them to Boston or Singapore.'

King's Health Partners has described the SC1 ambitions:

'Over two years ago, work began by founders King’s Health Partners, Lambeth and Southwark local authorities and the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation to develop a new life sciences innovation district for London. SC1 is a place-based initiative which will aim to support inclusive growth of the life sciences economy.

'The founders established SC1 to harness the opportunities offered in our existing life sciences ecosystem, which contains rich expertise in biopharmaceuticals, medical technology, genomics, diagnostics, digital health and mind and body care. The breadth of our collaboration across partners in south London, coupled with our strength in mental and physical health mean we are uniquely placed to lead innovation in clinical practice and improve health outcomes.'

Peter has been working on the vision for these estates for the future, to serve patient needs and to bring in investment. Dan Ringelstein, Director - Cities, Planning & Design at Arup, was asked to to help. Dan explained:

'I have really been helping Peter and the Trust to work out a direction of travel. There are four estates and a partnership with King's College London and there has been an impact from Covid. How does the Trust afford the next 15 to 20 years? How does it move forward? Yes, there is heritage on the estates to consider but there are also horrible 60's and 70's buildings which are not fit for purpose. In order to set a vision, I got everyone to come together - the clinicians, the estates and admin teams etc, to discuss how to move forward.

'Most hospital sites are jammed packed but what Covid did teach us was that we could get our vaccinations locally, so that was the start, to begin thinking how to work out which services needed to stay central, and which could be disaggregated out to local areas. That was the real strategy to agree - what has to stay in the core campus, what can be done nearby and through satellites and communities, which can be consolidated? What can be moved out to make way for the next thing and how can we make better use of current buildings were also considerations. We do not know what we are going to have to deliver in terms of healthcare needs over the next 10 to 15 years, so we need to create an adaptable estate, with flexible buildings, but first we need to decant.'

Could the heritage buildings be restored and made to work harder for the good of the hospital estate? Dan commented:

'Well, the hospital buildings looking out across the river Thames where Florence Nightingale worked, are no longer really fit for patient use. Maybe for outpatients for planned procedures, but if they were restored for international patients to use where they could pay their way for healthcare delivered from world leading institutions - that might work. But hospitals are generally designed from inside out and the edges are forgotten. The ground floors often neglected, and you need to renovate these to pull people in.'

Dan was asked what he had noticed about the management of healthcare services through working in the US:

'In the US there is a different way of funding and a lot of this is private funding, but there are still struggles. I introduced some specialists from the US into the dialogue with Guy's & St Thomas' and that made the discussions very interesting. There were some examples in hospitals in the US of being able close of wards in a flexible and resilient way that proved insightful. It takes money of course but offering services through satellite networks is a big trend and of course made easy through insurance. There are also conversations about how patients can access technology more easily and enable a better experience.'

Above: CGI from Scott Brownrigg showing shared space around proposed new office / lab buildings at the Oxford Science Park, near Cowley, East Oxford

Where science cities and R&D clusters develop in the UK, what are the design principles that can be applied for long-term resilience? Ed Hayden, Director at Scott Brownrigg joined the discussion to describe what is needed:

'Sometimes it is helpful to go beyond talking about individual buildings because now what we are seeing is the concept - particularly across the OxCam Arc of developing walkable science cities, those that are embracing technological change. Also, a very important accent is the focus on people. We are turning around the idea of a focus on buildings housing machines to talking about research and collaboration. This goes for London as well as Oxford and Cambridge. We have to compete for talent (globally) and this means thinking about the lifestyle of those working in these cities and their health and wellbeing.

'I agree flexibility is important as scientists expand their research. You might start off just with a desk, then move into an incubator space and then expand further. There is a shortage of space available, so we have tended to look at the re-purposing of office buildings, but that's not what we need. There is a long waiting list for the right kind of space.'

Scott Brownrigg has recently been appointed to design three buildings on The Oxford Science Park, totalling over 400,000 square feet. Each building will provide headquarters – office and laboratory facilities – for leading science and technology companies. The Oxford Science Park is majority owned by Magdalen College, Oxford, and is at the heart of its strategy to support discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. Plots 23-26 on The Oxford Science Park are part of long-term, ambitious development plans to create exemplary additional office and laboratory space over the next three years. This additional capacity will support the growth of existing occupiers, providing flexibility with their space requirements, and enabling new companies to join the Park’s unique community.

In reinforcing Oxford’s position as a world-leading centre for scientific discovery and invention, the buildings are designed to the highest quality with wellbeing, biodiversity and sustainability at the heart of the design process. Walkable pedestrian areas are key to the design. The four-storey buildings are expected to have active frontages with cafés and co-working space at ground level and external working and amenity spaces that create a variety of destinations between the buildings. The below podium parking is screened from the pedestrian realm by active frontages and massing.

The surge in investment in space at science parks - and in the case of UBS Asset Management within towns and urban areas too - is now being well documented. Zachary Gauge, Director of Research EMEA at UBS Asset Management commented during the discussion that this wasn't the case two years ago:

'In Europe investors have been looking at science R&D since 2020. Since the pandemic, there has been a focus on science skills in UK but there just wasn't the right real estate available. There has now been an absolute surge of interest.

'Stevenage is better known now as a science centre and the opportunity came to us to invest. What was interesting to us was the infrastructure connections though rail and the big GSK campus. Additionally, there was a very supportive council. There was a focus on selling gene therapy and that needed expansionary space. There was also an opportunity in the town centre where the council wanted to make more of the shopping centre. This seemed a very different situation from other cities where most of the focus is on wet labs.

Above: aerial view of the Biosciences Catapult and GSK biosciences campus at Gunnels Wood, Stevenage, Hertfordshire (from Stevenage Borough Council)

'In Stevenage, it was a case of looking more at manufacturing space because new treatments coming along needed to be manufactured quickly. In the past big pharma could have manufactured anywhere but that is not the case anymore. We have been working with Autolus, which modifies T-cells in cancer patients - that treatment cannot be made anywhere. It requires specific teams and you simply cannot relocate them that easily. There are very few areas in the Golden Triangle where you can set up manufacturing like this because of land costs.'

This October UBS Asset Management’s Real Estate & Private Markets business announced the launch of its first UK life sciences property strategy, in partnership with Reef Group, with commitments of £400 million from first close investors and a gross development value in excess of £2.5 billion. The strategy seeks development opportunities in the life sciences sector, with a specific focus on good manufacturing practice (GMP) facilities.

Andrew Hudson, Director and Head of Cost Management (UK) at JLL agreed there is a real speed to market challenge (for life sciences infrastructure and real estate) but that does not necessarily result in the best product:

'Some (R&D facilities) products are ready, but some are beginning to struggle a bit. There needs to be consensus through preparations with project teams as to what exactly you want your product to be. Carbon is discussed every time with clients and also the question - how can I afford to build anything?

'We have a remarkably resilient supply chain across the UK, but it has been a difficult last two years. Contractors are now being picky about what they will work on and there are more projects out there than contractors. We always ask - is your project fully designed, otherwise you will have cost issues? Contractors are not charities and if there are issues on the design, it is not easy.

'I would agree there are issues around attracting investment into UK universities and an awful lot of it goes to the US. There are queues of people trying to get into development, but they just can't get there.'

JLL’s multi-disciplinary Project & Development Services team is 1300 strong across Europe, Middle East and Africa, integrating a range of diverse skills and professional backgrounds – including Cost Managers, Building Surveyors and Project Managers – delivering real estate solutions and developments both large and small across all sectors and use types.

Stephen Dance, Head of the Commercial Advisory Team at the Infrastructure & Projects Authority, asked how can we solve the issue of lack of capital funding in hospital building programmes and the commercial opportunities that could be developed alongside these - with private investment?

Peter Ward of King's College London replied:

'If you asked me a few years ago, design was all about being ready to do things, but now the question is: what you can do with half the money and that leads to designing a building to within an inch of its life, so it is useable for only one thing. We have been guilty of designed buildings that are too bespoke. Out-patient meetings for instance could be in another building and leave the other more intensive procedures for specialist buildings. The (UK) hospital building programme is to my mind a bit of a question mark, when we should be thinking much more about efficiency and productivity.'

Thank you to everyone who took part in this interesting panel discussion and watch out for details on our next science cities discussion in Cambridge in February next year.


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