Life Sciences - Room to Grow - Cambridge
The first of a series of round tables looking at the learnings and opportunities in the Life Sciences sector, with particular focus on the Golden Triangle.
Room to grow**
**A Morgan Sindall Construction
Intelligent Solutions roundtable**
Cambridge is open
Cambridge must still push to attract life science investment and occupiers. It has a great blend of these businesses, clusters and dedicated parks, as well as access to world leading academia, good transport links and healthcare in the form of major hospitals. Other towns and cities across the Golden Triangle, the UK and globally are raising their game in providing these businesses similar facilities and communities, so Cambridge must continue to stay on the front foot to continue attracting, investing and staying at the forefront of the sector
The purpose of the Life Science community is preserving life, and they will not do that at the detriment of the planet. Alignment of carbon measurement across projects, as well as greater knowledge and application of the metrics they output, will unlock consistent progression in the sector. We must respond to the more socially conscious occupier, and the knowledge already within the built environment sector makes us well placed to drive this within Life Sciences developments. Applying Intelligent Solutions to projects can be a catalyst for carbon success, both in a new build or repurposing setting.
Collaboration breeds innovation – campuses now want to break out of the wire and bring in a more holistic eco-system that includes softer social and collaboration spaces. Affordable housing close by is also vital because many start-ups have low employee numbers, working long hours, so they need to live close to their work. It means that place-making and integration with wider regeneration, over and above just the labs, is absolutely key for sustainable Life Science development and eco-systems.
Ensure that people love where they work, creating a destination that ensures they continue to grow within your location and masterplan. It’s about delivering that wow factor, bringing it back to designing for the science that will be there, and meeting the desire to deliver places people love to be and want to stay. There is a clear need to create value beyond the build for tenant retention and to nurture and retain Life Science skills.
Flexibility and adaptability
Don’t pin all your colours to one mast – build in space adaptability with clear routes for start-ups to grow. Design needs to reflect the life-cycle of the tenants, that often start small but grow quickly, with employment, production and technology scaling at pace. This high-quality space must deliver longevity, agility and leading technology, and an underpinning ability to reinvent itself to meet current and future demands.
Connectivity and community
Any development’s mission plan should be grounded with connectivity wins – location to station, commute times and housing affordability are all factors influencing success. There is a huge shift towards urban innovation districts that provide ‘real’ rather than ‘curated’ communities.
Diversification of skills is fundamentally reshaping the needs from buildings – it’s the built environments responsibility to be able to identify and serve these niches when, and before, they appear. Particularly around MedTech where technologies are influencing the space and subsequently the spaces needed. An education upskill for industry is needed to drive further improvement as well as strategic input into curriculum design and delivery to inform and meet future skills needed in Life Science, sustainable and future technologies as well as digital capabilities.
Which key takeaway resonates most for you?
- Open for business
- Net zero solutions
- Collaborative eco-system
- Tenant centric design
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Connectivity and community
- Mind the skills gap
What would you ask for if you could have just one wish?
For many people, the answer might simply be ‘good health’ or something that removes the threat of serious illness such as ‘find a cure for cancer’.
Thanks to advances in modern medicine, we are living longer than ever before, but we are also more demanding of our healthcare providers and have a greater understanding of the medical conditions that can determine our quality of life.
It follows that Life Science is truly an industry that affects us all. It did not require a global pandemic to illustrate the importance of drug discovery and diagnostics, any more than we needed Covid to underline the valuable role the NHS and healthcare providers in other countries have in protecting all that we hold dear.
What would your wish be?
- Good health
- Financial security
Yet we are emerging from a health crisis that has pushed biosecurity up the agenda, made pandemic preparedness a priority and driven massive interest in biotech.
The UK has long been blessed with a powerful base of science and research in Life Sciences and pharmaceuticals.
Keeping the sector growing
in a global economy where innovation and knowledge
crosses borders easily, and where competition for investment and talent will always be intense, is the subject of this Morgan Sindall Construction
Intelligent Solutions paper.
We are exploring life science from the perspective of the built environment. In this first instance, we brought together a group of industry professionals in Cambridge to discuss ‘space’ and ‘place’...
Colin Brown, Development Director, Mission Street | John Steele, Project Director, Hoare Lea | Galvin Tarling, Global Head of Life Science and Director, Gleeds | Emily Slupek, Partner, Bidwells | Jon Flin, Director, CB3 Consulting | Jamie Shearman, Area Director, Morgan Sindall Construction, Cambridge | Matt Dunkley, Head of Design, Morgan Sindall Construction Cambridge | David Rowsell, Area Director, Morgan Sindall Construction, Northern Home Counties | Brian Brooks, Head of Design, Morgan Sindall Construction Northern Home Counties | (Chair) Chris Hulme, Director, Influential
What is the contribution real estate and construction is making to ensure great science continues to flourish?
How can placemaking help foster an environment where translating research into drug discovery and development has the best chance of producing better patient outcomes?
When will we reach a tipping point where the parallel
demand for decarbonising how we live and work makes a real impact in life science?
Cambridge has for generations been pivotal in the sector.
As part of UK’s largest life science cluster – spanning London, Cambridge and Oxford – it generates billions every year for the UK exchequer and provides over 24,000 highly skilled jobs.
A study prepared by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership in 2020 found that the region between Oxford and Cambridge contributed £111bn in gross value added to the economy every year.
The government has forecast that could rise to between £191bn and £274bn a year if a build programme delivered new homes and linked up towns by rail and motorway.
Casting the net a little wider, the celebrated Golden Triangle features four of the ten best universities in the world for health care: Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and University College London, according to the Times Higher Education supplement.
Cambridge Biomedical Campus alone is the largest centre of medical research and health science in Europe.
It is the site of AstraZeneca’s new global headquarters, while the Wellcome Sanger Institute, home to the bulk of Britain’s genomic-sequencing capacity, is only 13km farther south.
This intellectual powerhouse is not without challenges, especially in respect of the dearth of lab space, transport connectivity and the affordability of housing, along with the ever-present challenge of driving towards Net Zero. But we started our debate by focusing on what space Cambridge needs now.
Watch our quick 80-second videos where Area Director's Jamie Shearman and David Rowsell (Morgan Sindall Construction in Cambridgeshire and in Northern Home Counties respectively) discuss the some of the key takeaways from the workshop:
Life Science Video:
Eco-systems and infrastructure
Life Science Video:
and Net Zero
Simple availability is a pressing issue.
Emily Slupek of Bidwells commented: ‘It’s just supply and demand - Cambridge has nothing on the market. So rents are increasing.”
A resident of Oxford, who lived and worked in London for many years, and who now has a brief that covers Cambridge, she felt the planning system struggles to keep pace with the dynamism in the sector.
Emily called for a new approach to unblock delays that affect the development of new science facilities, along with the surrounding envelope of housing and transport:
Galvin Tarling of Gleeds put the emphasis on a diverse portfolio of stock, which appeals to a broad spectrum occupiers.
“We need space for major corporates but also stock which supports start-ups and spin-outs that come out of the university, which scale very quickly. Some of the schemes that we're looking at now, which involve extending or redeveloping science parks, the challenge is, ‘how to have those mix of the property types and assets that support the growth of these businesses, but also can accommodate the major corporates that support them as well?”
A great deal of debate is focused on spatial requirements - labs versus write-up space versus collaboration space and amenity space.
The weight of capital wanting to back prime UK innovation was, said Colin Brown of Mission Street, a significant driver.
“Life Science is still a specialist sector but we're seeing large institutions showing very strong appetite. It's relatively easy to get your head around a market where there is a consistent demand, demonstrable over decades. So somewhere like Cambridge the investment thesis is great. Yes, these are fly-or-die high growth companies that probably won’t be in your building for any more than three or five years, either because they’ve outgrown it, or fallen by the wayside. But there is a consistent demand coming from the next wave of start-ups and spin-outs and a consistent turnover in terms of occupiers.”
He reflected on problems around legacy building stock.
The culture around innovation businesses has changed. “There was a time when everyone wanted to be behind a barbed wire fence with a secure, insular, inward-focused environment,” said Colin Brown.
“And now occupiers want something completely different and a more urban ecosystem. Ways of working are today collaborative.
There is also a stronger connection to proper communities and other complementary disciplines, such as tech. So, Cambridge and Oxford have to battle with how they can reinvent their offering to address the current and future demands of the occupiers.”
Is demand outstripping supply of space?
Jon Flin of CB3 Consulting reflected on the risks of repurposing buildings outside of an existing science setting.
“There’s a lot of interest in retail, industrial, and commercial buildings but if you're doing it piecemeal, you're not creating that cluster. Attracting the tenants or their employees would be a challenge."
Emily Slupek picked up the point. “Plain and functional is not where things are going.
You might have the practical elements that make any given building right for refurbishment, but you may end up having to rehash the building to the extent that you might as well demolish it and start again.
The change is seeing scientists as people and understanding that collaboration breeds innovation.”
Jamie Shearman of Morgan Sindall Construction said the need for a ‘wow’ factor should not be overlooked.
One of Mission Street’s forthcoming projects is set to be an exemplar of what can be done with a repurposed building in an urban setting.
The developer is transforming an iconic building in central Bristol into one of the largest R&D and innovation hubs in the South-West.
Originally built in 1974 for Bristol United Press, and complete with a printworks, 1 Temple Way has large floor plates and a flexible structure. Colin Brown said the building will have the scale to support the emerging R&D and deep tech ecosystem in Bristol through the provision of wet labs, dry labs and high-specification office space.
*Image from Mission Street website
John Steele of Hoare Lea stressed that sustainability is increasingly part of the equation. Funders, developers, and occupiers may well already have ESG credentials but their importance will only grow.
Future-proofing, he said, means “making sure we're doing the right things” now in terms of sustainability and lower carbon.
**The incubator challenge**
Over the last decade, global Life Science has been deconstructing itself, with big pharma attempting to de-risk the high cost of producing novel therapies by contracting out more elements of the drug discovery process and putting a greater focus on acquiring promising early-stage research and intellectual property.
At the same time, the rise of precision medicine has encouraged the proliferation of highly focused contract research companies operating under licence with big pharma.
The overall trend has driven the growth of SMEs and highlighted the importance of nurturing start-ups at the beginning of the chain, where small teams might have potentially valuable science but may lack the wherewithal to scale up the business.
Business incubators have an important role in helping these acorns grow, but who pays for their operation? Emily Slupek acknowledged that the incubator model does not suit everyone. She felt the UK needs more companies dedicated to lab operations:
Galvin Tarling echoed the point. Citing Bruntwood SciTech, he said there are developers that have the scale to take the property issues away from SMEs and their investors.
In that scenario, the occupier is “not hamstrung by leases and property-related issues that constrain them.” Instead, they “focus on what they're set up and funded to do.”
Cambridge’s Babraham Research Campus has a vision to be the best place in Europe to start up a Life Sciences venture and is expanding.
A joint venture between the campus and BioMed Realty is set to deliver a 40,000 sq ft purpose-built accommodation, which includes lab space.
The site already co-locates academic research and commercial bioscience enterprises.
Emily Slupek reflected on its importance of the Cambridge cluster but noted that Babrabam has an element of public funding, with a subsidy for its incubator spaces.
Colin Brown felt the investment produced a critical dynamic.
“Why is everyone willing to do business in Cambridge, Oxford and London? Because there are successful, albeit oversubscribed, incubator spaces.”
In a previous role, he worked with a rule that part of the underwriting thesis for any Life Science development was the proximity of incubators.
Where they existed, “there was no need to provide incubator space that lose money,” and a belief that the companies progressing will require bigger space one day.
The panel agreed that UK Life Science has a theoretical advantage over other countries because of the NHS. A unified health system, in which every patient is assigned a single number that follows them from birth to death, is particularly useful for running clinical trials.
The idea that the NHS is a fast adopter of innovative medicines and products, as well as the cleanest, largest pool of medical data in the world, sounds great and is an attractive proposition to global investors.
However good it sounds on paper, UK biotech understands that it does not work quite as well in practice, but Cambridge does at least excel in health care.
The UK regions that have physically located businesses in the knowledge economy alongside NHS Heath Trusts and research-focused universities have generally thrived – with Manchester’s growth over the last decade up accepted by the panel as an example that other cities could follow.
Developers will always be concerned with future-proofing their buildings.
Emily Slupek felt that adaptability is easier to achieve than flexibility, a point backed up by John Flin.
Mission Street is trying to push the envelope here, said Colin Brown. “We talk to architects about how we can create ultimately flexible buildings in the sense of demountable elevations, extendable buildings within the masterplan framework.
Obviously future growth is a massive consideration of any type of dynamic, knowledge intensive business. If you can demonstrate your capacity to facilitate that growth through the network of buildings that you own, so much the better.”
Do flexible life science buildings work?
- Only as part of a cluster of buildings
He talked about bringing forward schemes in Oxford and Cambridge that will be able to meet the demands of a range occupiers.
These range from relatively immature post-incubator series A seed-plus type funded ventures, all the way through to HQ-type buildings of around 50,000 sq ft.
Mission Street is exploring the modularity the buildings and developing a proposition that provides growth without occupiers necessarily even leaving the lab they are in. This means potentially by creating buildings that can be adapted to “make them properly long life, loose fit in the sense that you can extend within a masterplan framework.” In the end, the panel agreed, making occupiers love where they are is fundamental. That means finding solutions for occupiers, solving problems, and staying in meaningful communication so that the developer is up to speed with their growth aspirations.
High hopes for convergence outcomes
There are high hopes for what the convergence of Life Science, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will one day mean.
In straightforward terms, the vast amounts of data produced during clinical trials can be unpacked more efficiently by AI and ML, for example, potentially speeding up the discovery process and reducing costs.
AI may also enable greater value to be extracted from compounds created in labs. In silico drug development, where a compound is tested virtually against a target, is also gaining traction.
Other dynamics, such as consumer wearables, have already come to the fore.
What’s clear from the convergence that has taken place in other industries is that, one way or another, it disrupts markets and may change business models. And, in the end, convergence will affect space requirements.
Will convergence affect space requirements?
- Yes absolutely
- No, this won't happen
- Unsure as I haven't seen it yet
Galvin Tarling commented on the rationale for different types of businesses across the innovation spectrum being co-located.
Colin Brown took it further and said the post-Covid world offers “a window of opportunity to harness, inspire and educate people” about what goes on in the types of buildings that we create.
“We now have the opportunity where the rents and investment yields are enabling us to position innovation real estate in cities.
We can blur the edges with other disciplines, with local communities, with professional services, with tech occupiers and other specialists. And that blurring of the lines of research will only accelerate change.”
The panel agreed that collaboration should be a guiding principle in terms of design and operation of buildings for today and tomorrow.
In this new world, bricks and mortar alone will never be enough, said Emily Slupek.
“You see landlords and science parks investing in the social aspect of the environment. There are festivals, meet and greets, yoga sessions. There’s a management aspect to it. It’s more than just say, look we’ve made available this nice space or area of grass.”
John Steele agreed. “Where you've got clusters of science buildings owned by a single developer, it’s almost about creating a culture intertwined within those buildings.
They have building managers who organise rounders events, and cricket matches and so on. That’s still all placemaking.”
The panel members had all followed – and some worked on – Abcam's £46million Discovery Drive headquarters at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The 100,000 sq ft laboratory and office development is part of the second phase of a healthcare village jointly developed by Liberty Property Trust and Countryside Properties.
Abcam, a global innovator in Life Science reagents and tools, put a clear emphasis on spaces where its different departments could easily mix in the same building.
The design, led by the architectural firm NBBJ, ended up being focused on what was dubbed a ‘million-dollar staircase’ where clever ideas can be created by spontaneous meetings and conversations, while the rest of the space supports agile working and both introvert and extrovert workspaces.
Colin Brown was involved at one stage. “I visited NBBJ and they had a full-size mockup in their office to work out how wide the Abcam staircase needed to be, so that you couldn't pass someone without acknowledging their presence.
But it had to be wide enough that so you could pass easily. One of the great successes of that staircase is if you want to visit the labs, you have to come out on an office floor, and walk past the people in commercial and other departments.”
John Steele had seen a similar focus whilst working on Francis Crick Institute in central London. Collaboration space was a priority given the number of different organisations coming together under one roof.
Bringing the people
and our planet with
us on the journey
Jamie Shearman of Morgan Sindall Construction felt the cost-of-living crisis only underlined the challenge Cambridge – and other regions experiencing high growth in the knowledge economy – have to address in making sure that communities are not left behind and talent ignored.
The panel agreed that being able to live near where you work would be important for people early in their careers or founders at the outset of a business.
“In an incubator setting, it’s not uncommon to hear of people so focused on what they're doing they are working 20-hour days,” observed Galvin Tarling.
Do you live near your work (30 mins)?
Colin Brown took this further:
Begging to differ, Emily Slupek pointed out how restrictive gaps in public transport can be, complicating journeys.
Progress on the £5 billion East West Rail plan to improve links between Oxford and Cambridge and wider parts of central and eastern England have stalled pending a government review. “New bus and train routes and stations are not a silver bullet, but they would improve accessibility,” she said.
Cambridge is blessed by being flat and cyclist friendly – and also has a Guided Busway system. “We haven't exploited the value of that yet,” said Galvin.
“There's still a way to go but certainly linking Cambridge Science Park to Cambridge North and the emerging CB4 development of the eastern fringe development.
That's a fundamental part of that infrastructure, together with link in Cambridge North, to Cambridge Central, through to the Biomed Campus and the South Cambridge Station when it comes online.”
That said, he felt technology was central. “I don't think trying to recreate a Victorian type of transport system is our answer. It’s about the way we conduct business.
There’s a modal shift happening and it’s not going to be answered by physical construction or better transport.
This cultural shift in the way that we work, and the way that we do business is becoming more pronounced within the Life Science sector, which relies on global collaboration. Technology is part of the answer.”
All of Mission Street’s development are within 15 minutes of a train station, pointed out Colin Brown.
He felt that while large infrastructure improvements are game changers, they take so long that other trends, such as more working in urban centres, prove more impactful.
Given that Life Science is largely about preserving life, the panel agreed that almost everyone in the sector was exploring ways of working that reduce our impact on the planet.
Are we reaching a point where investors will insist that portfolio companies do not occupy buildings that are less than BREEAM outstanding?
Are we reaching this point?
Colin Brown thought so: “It will become a commercial imperative. We're fortunate in as much as we have an ESG focused capital partner, who are always encouraging us to do the right thing. If it costs a little bit more money to make a highly efficient building, then so be it. Not everyone has that luxury."
But we are now in a sustainability arms race.
If you think about delivering buildings in four years’ time, what will be considered commonplace? The commercial imperative around sustainability is not just for developers, but for occupiers and for their investors.
If you're looking at VC funds, they will be rated and remunerated on the ESG performance of their own investments.
That will flow down into the occupier requirements.
It will then affect the commercial terms that you're in to negotiate with occupiers and, ultimately, the attractiveness of your scheme against others in the market.
We're at the cusp of a tipping point. We’re about to see that making its way through the building design and performance.”
The panel agreed developing buildings now that have anything less than outstanding sustainability credentials is just storing up a problem.
There’s a question-mark over how compromised refurbished space will be viewed in a few years’ time when there is more space available. Put another way – expensive retrofit in a few years, or spend the money now.
Jamie Shearman talked about the response from Morgan Sindall Construction
to the sustainability challenge.
It includes a detailed Decarbonising Communities strategy and a landmark research project known as Circular Twin where, with industry partners SCAPE, Cundall, Lungfish and HLM Architects, they created digital twin of a building that has already been completed.
The entire building was built again virtually to show the outcomes that could be achieved if every decision was made on the basis of sustainability. The results were stunning: a 67% reduction in Whole Life Carbon, a 72% drop in up front
carbon and energy consumption down by 52%. Capex was delivered within standard budgetary parameters over the lifetime of the asset.
In fact, Jamie Shearman said Morgan Sindall Construction has also developed a powerful software tool, CarboniCa, which supports decision making around carbon reduction.
The alignment of carbon measurement across projects, as well as greater knowledge and application of the metrics they output, would unlock consistent progression in the sector, he said.
From an operational perspective, Emily Slupek said there’s a driver around reduction and efficiency for tenants because the sector is energy intensive.
In terms of geopolitics, Galvin speculated that the biosecurity and sustainability agenda may lead to more elements of biotech to come back to the UK, making less use of China and India.
“There’s a lot of lobbying around manufacturing in a sustainable way and for all the functions, from R&D, innovation function, and manufacturing to take place locally.”
The panel agreed that the generation entering the workforce today will make decisions about where they want to work based on the company’s approach to sustainability. “It’s one of the first questions we are asked at interviews,” said Jamie Shearman.
**Building a better life
science future in Cambridge **
WE ASKED OUR PANEL TO PICK ONE ISSUE WHERE CAMBRIDGE SHOULD FOCUS OVER THE NEXT DECADE
Over the page are their closing thoughts...
Colin Brown: “It's vitally important for Cambridge and Oxford to be seen as being open for business. There is a danger in the perception of ‘what, more lab space?’ and the idea that with all the Life Science development that is happening, we've saturated the marketplace. In fact, it’s miniscule on a global scale. We have two of the top universities in the world and yet we actually have a relatively minor amount of the of the research and development space globally.”
Emily Slupek: “We’ve got to be careful that Levelling Up, the flagship domestic policy, isn't about whether we invest inside or outside of the Golden Triangle. There's a huge opportunity here that we must not dampen down by pushing away from Oxford, Cambridge, and London. Our growth trajectory needs to be supported by decent homes and enough infrastructure so that people living in disparate locations are able to travel in, which will help with affordability.”
Jamie Shearman: “There’s a lot of dynamism in the sector – here and overseas – and so seeing Cambridge building on its strengths and really going for it is hugely important. That ambition exists in other cities and it doesn’t matter how good you are, resting on your laurels is never a good place to be.”
Galvin Tarling: “I'd like to see the University of Cambridge come back to the fore and extend its prominence and influence. It would be a shame if it was overshadowed by what the private sector is doing. I look at our portfolio of work in Oxford and where the University is going, perhaps partly in the back of the vaccine discovery. Lots of things of development at scale is underway.”
John Flin: “The focus needs to be on infrastructure. That's about the East West Rail links across the region, and connectivity within Cambridge itself, but also about the longer term horizon we are heading towards, which may be a future without cars.”
Matt Dunkley: “Cambridge leading the way and setting the pace in finding lower carbon ways to live and work will make a positive difference in Life Science and other sectors.”
John Steele: If Cambridge wants to maintain its position as a global science and R&D superpower, and given the lack of available lab space, there is a need for the planners, clients and design teams to enhance collaboration and work together if we are going to realise rapid growth, development and construction of new science buildings to meet this urgent demand.
David Rowsell: "It's been interesting listening to the experts about the huge focus they have in their industry on R&D. In our own way we have that within our business and Intelligent Solutions really captures that. I'd like to see how we can help serve our life science clients earlier using tools like CarboniCa to add value in delivering validating low carbon solutions in design."