We believe that to drive the economy forward, investment in innovation must take place nationally, building on the heritage and knowledge bases of cities all over the UK. By adding capital solely to existing innovation hubs, we limit the breadth of knowledge and reduce collaboration. But by using the full UK knowledge pool we can boost productivity and see innovation thrive, all the while giving the economy a much-needed boost.
It’s for this reason that two years ago, in a joint venture with Bruntwood, we created Bruntwood SciTech – the UK’s leading property provider dedicated to growing the science and technology sector, and commissioner of a recent report into the importance of place in innovation . “We believe that rather than having a nationwide network of innovation assets and infrastructure, which all try to do the same thing, we should be leveraging the unique sectoral focus areas of universities and cities,” explains Phil Kemp, Bruntwood SciTech CEO.
Here is a snapshot of the cities and regions at the heart of Bruntwood SciTech’s efforts.
Bruntwood SciTech’s Alderley Park campus is a perfect example of building on a place’s existing knowledge base and infrastructure. The Park used to be the global headquarters for AstraZeneca. “Our goal was to create an ecosystem that supported smaller biotechs and life science organisations,” explains Kemp, who adds that the campus already had a lot of specialist equipment that smaller biotech start-ups simply cannot afford or don’t need to use every day.
“We’ve created a cluster of over 200 companies that work together, leveraging the heritage of the Park and its infrastructure.” This strong biotech focus and collaborative community has seen success already, with the Park being selected by the Government as the location for one of its ‘Lighthouse Labs’ for Covid-19 testing. And, most recently, Alderley Park has launched a breakthrough Oncology Development Programme with some of the biggest names in UK cancer research. Funded by Cancer Research UK and Innovate UK, its goal is to bring forward commercially viable ideas much more quickly, increasing the likelihood of commercial success and therefore of quickly meeting patients’ needs.
Manchester is already home to three Bruntwood SciTech locations. Its Citylabs campus focuses on medtech, health innovation and genomics, which complements the strengths of Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which is co-located on the campus. Manchester Science Park, meanwhile, has a broader science and technology focus, while the third, Circle Square, is home to a mixture of large, corporate digital and tech organisations, and an incubator which supports a number of artificial intelligence and fintech organisations. “Across the three campuses we’ve got a mix of very small start-up organisations all the way through to larger, global corporates, alongside a mix of digital technology through to life sciences,” says Kemp. “What we try and do is have that sectoral focus, because it attracts other companies in the same sector. In a traditional science park, where you have a mixture of businesses that are not related, there’s no drive for collaboration and you don’t get that same ecosystem growing – you don’t get the talent moving between organisations.”
A new £1.5bn development has also been announced. The 15-year project, called ID (Innovation District) Manchester, will create a science and technology hub that covers four million square feet, including the city’s largest public space and 1,300 homes, as well as creating 10,000 full-time jobs.
Bruntwood SciTech has been appointed the development partner for Birmingham Health Innovation Campus (formerly Birmingham Life Sciences Park). The 10-year, £210 million project will provide up to 700,000 sq ft of state-of-the-art lab, office and incubation space, and up to 10,000 new jobs. In the next decade, Birmingham Health Innovation campus is set to have contributed £400 million GVA to the regional economy. Kemp says this development will “leverage the expertise of the existing Birmingham Health Partners ecosystem, to drive innovation and economic growth”.
Birmingham’s first Bruntwood SciTech campus, Innovation Birmingham, is centred on digital technology, and construction has now begun on its Enterprise Wharf project, Birmingham's first smart-enabled building which uses smart technology to optimise performance. This complements its Serendip programme, where start-ups and scale-ups are brought in to support large corporates and crack innovation challenges – something that’s recently launched in partnership with HS2. “HS2 has got a number of business challenges,” explains Kemp. “We put a call out around a particular challenge to a large group of SMEs, and in the first instance we had between 100 and 150 SMEs respond, all with a potential tech solution that we believe can address HS2’s challenges.” The campus is also part of the West Midlands 5G testbed.
In Leeds, Platform is host to another digital cluster of over 80 of the region’s most innovative and disruptive tech start-ups and scale-ups. But with so many companies describing themselves as start-ups or scale-ups these days, it’s crucial that these businesses have sectoral relevance, as Kemp explains: “We vet and curate the community. We have ‘gateway criteria’ to make sure we have the right mix of companies to fuel collaboration and generate potential new opportunities,” says Kemp.
During Lockdown, Bruntwood SciTech secured a 25% stake in Sciontec Liverpool, alongside the city council and the city’s two universities – the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University. The universities are some of the main customers taking space at Liverpool Science Park, operated by Sciontec Liverpool, to support their research expertise.
The sheer speed at which the Bruntwood SciTech network has grown shows that this model of collaboration between sector-specialist businesses to improve productivity works. Bruntwood SciTech is already looking for its next project and its focus is on Edinburgh. In June, Edinburgh’s BioQuarter, a partnership between the University of Edinburgh, NHS Lothian and the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise, issued a Prior Information Notice signalling its intention to find a partner to accelerate its delivery of a world-leading Health Innovation District.
“We’ve got growth plans for the existing places that we’re already in,” explains Kemp, “but we noticed that as soon as we set up the joint venture, there was a lot of interest from many cities across the UK.”
Legal & General has invested more than £30bn in levelling up regional economies throughout the UK, including notable regeneration schemes in Cardiff, Salford and Newcastle.
Legal & General Capital’s specialist commercial real estate team has a clear aim to transform our cities, drive innovation and grow the UK knowledge economy, by backing new investment in infrastructure and the built environment, and investing in start-up businesses across the country. To read more about our investments, click here.