Delivering healthcare excellence: it’s all about location

By Andrew Blevins, Head of Life Sciences at Prologis UKThe UK’s life sciences sector is booming, as more venture capitalists seek out opportunities to invest in early-stage and growing businesses, and demand for lab space is soaring. But where will these innovation-led businesses find the space they need to grow?

Cambridge Biomedical Campus

The life sciences sector in England employs 256,100 people, with a turnover of £80.7bn1 – it is already a major contributor to the country’s economy, but there is more to come. In part driven by increased awareness of the important role played by drug discovery businesses during the pandemic, the sector is attracting more investment capital and is set to grow strongly in the next few years.

Whereas once innovation in the sector was led by big pharma companies, which could afford to invest in costly R&D programmes, in the hope of discovering the next blockbuster drug, today the sector is much more diverse. Biotech companies are springing up across the UK, often as spin-outs from university research departments, having secured the backing needed to fund their own research activity. These are typically smaller, entrepreneurial businesses, and finding the right lab space to meet their needs is critical to their success.

At Cambridge Biomedical Campus (CBC), plans are well advanced to further expand the site, adding 100,000 sq. ft. of new multi-let lab and office space to serve the  thriving life sciences sector in this hottest-of-hot location. Construction is due to start this spring and the new space will be available to lease in summer 2023.

Situated at the southern edge of the city , CBC offers an ideal location for life sciences and biotech businesses, with access to academic research departments at the University of Cambridge and its School of Clinical Medicine as well as a number of renowned university teaching hospitals. Cambridge University Hospitals Trust, which incorporates Addenbrooke’s Hospital, is located at the site, as well as Royal Papworth Hospital and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust. This proximity to both academic, translational and clinical excellence gives early-stage businesses a unique opportunity to tap into the local knowledge bank in order to fast-track their R&D activity and prepare their innovations for commercial application. A new dedicated railway station for the campus on the London to Cambridge line is planned to be operational by end 2024, further enhancing CBC’s unparalleled sustainability credentials.

The new building, 1000 Discovery Drive, is just the start of the planned Phase 2 extension of CBC. A total of 400,000 sq. ft. of additional commercial R&D space will be developed at the campus, with additional land also being allocated to the expansion of Cambridge University Hospitals Trust. Significantly, 1000 Discovery Drive will deliver exciting amenity and collaborative space at ground floor, which will be open for use by everyone on the campus.

As the exclusive owner of the commercial rights to develop CBC, Prologis UK believes the time is right to invest in creating smaller spaces, with flexible leasing arrangements, to support fast-growing life sciences and biotech businesses. In the same way that the technology sector diversified in the 1990s, as investors shifted their focus to smaller businesses, the UK’s life sciences and biotech industry is booming, and demand for space is growing rapidly.

These are exciting times for the country’s life sciences and biotech sector and the planned extension of CBC will help to foster growth and support early-stage businesses in translating their innovations into commercially-viable solutions that society as a whole will benefit from.


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1 OLS/BEIS/DHSC 2020: ‘Bioscience and health technology sector statistics 2020’

Andrew Blevins (above) is Head of Life Sciences at Prologis UK, which develops industrial land and property for the logistics and life sciences sectors.