Whilst London is not without its challenges, it is still an obvious choice for investment in and development of real estate to service the life sciences sector. Building on Amy Shuttleworth’s comments on the wealth of opportunity, we take a look at three sites showcasing London’s rapidly increasing capability and desirability as a destination for life sciences. Capacity for the sector is strained and now at a premium in Oxford and Cambridge and the fact that London is now being utilised to its full potential will be welcomed by those in the industry searching for the perfect space to grow and maintain their business.
The Knowledge Quarter, Kings Cross
The Knowledge Quarter is based around the transport hub of Kings Cross and St Pancras International, making the most of both national and international transport links and the extensive redevelopment of the Kings Cross area. The combination of both these factors means it sits in a sweet spot for a highly skilled workforce who either live in the local area (which has been subject to significant investment in residential, retail and leisure offerings) or commute in via a plethora of transport links. As such, the Knowledge Quarter is now home to a world-class cluster of scientific and knowledge-based institutions and companies that specialise in, amongst other things, life sciences and data and technology.
Such is the success of the Knowledge Quarter that earlier this year Life Science REIT, a UK real estate investment trust focused on the life-science real estate market, bought 7-11 Herbrand Street for £85m. Currently let to a fintech outfit, the REIT have said it represents “an ideal opportunity for development as a major life science asset”.
Royal Street, Waterloo
Development of 5.5-acre site is already underway near Waterloo to facilitate ambitious plans to rebrand the South Bank a ‘MedTech cluster’ - an innovation centre for life sciences. It will be formed around the Waterloo Health and Innovation Hub which will be complimented by commercial buildings for both large and small businesses, including incubator space for start-ups.
Royal Street is located next to the renowned research facilities of St Thomas’ Hospital, which is closely linked to Kings College London. Development partner, Stanhope say this is the hubs’ unique selling point because “a strong academic anchor is required for other knowledge economy business to cluster around for collaboration, access to talent, resource and insight”. This combined with the excellent transport links of Waterloo and the culture and leisure offerings of the surrounding area build on London’s reputation for providing solid infrastructure to facilitate its rise in the life sciences sector.
Snowfields Quarter, London Bridge
Complimenting the Royal Street hub is the proposed development of the Snowfields Quarter at London Bridge. Subject to planning being granted, it will involve the sale of a long lease to Oxford Properties. Approximately £350m will be invested to create “a 300,000 sq ft life sciences hub with lab facilities across three new buildings in a prime health innovation cluster”. It too will be linked to Guys and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust and will also build on the transport links and existing infrastructure to produce world-class lab space that attracts both high-quality life science firms and talent.
Oxford Properties commented that the “plans will help strengthen this already significant ecosystem and, by delivering high-quality commercially available lab space, and ensuring that the London Bridge cluster can retain and grow the successful ventures that emanate from these institutions which have previously had to relocate to other parts of London or out of the city altogether”. Highlighting that developers and investors are seeing opportunities in London which go further than just incubator space in the city and there is a demand for space which means institutions do not eventually need to upgrade to larger spaces in Oxford or Cambridge.
It seems clear that London offers a plethora of opportunities to those looking to invest in the life sciences sector, and it is just waiting for investors to take the leap away from Oxford and Cambridge and into the bright lights of the city.