A new flexible laboratory facility is already filling up, as Discovery Park in Kent reports a healthy pipeline of interest from science companies looking to move in before the space is formally opened later in the summer.
Those currently in advanced discussions about taking space include intraocular lens implant specialists VisusNano; neurological therapy providers Optoceutics, and life science consultancy firm Martin Warman.
A chronic shortage of suitable accommodation is severely restricting the UK’s life sciences industry, (Life Sciences 2030 report (bidwells.co.uk), curtailing both start-ups and scale-ups; however the new facility at Discovery Park’s 220 acre science and technology campus, which will officially be opened in June, offers spaces from 250 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft, allowing companies to scale up as required without the need to relocate as they expand.
Dr Joanna Gould, Chief Executive Officer, VisusNano, whose intraocular lens implant is set to revolutionise cataract surgery in humans and animals, said: “At a time when life sciences companies are struggling to find suitable lab space, having access to this new facility at Discovery Park has allowed VisusNano to scale up our operations, while still remaining on the site where we were already established.”
The new labs, which have been given a bespoke fit-up by Discovery Park’s on-site engineering team, come with a range of business support, including an on-site Barclay’s Eagle Lab providing a full package of growth services, including mentoring, investor readiness programmes and access to investors, including Discovery Park’s own seed fund – Discovery Park Ventures.
The £6m capital project has been supported through the Government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’, with £2.75m of funding through South East LEP and Kent & Medway Economic Partnership, and there has been support too from Kent County Council.
Mayer Schreiber, CEO, Discovery Park, said: “The current critical shortage of R&D facilities is inflicting severe damage on the UK’s hopes of being a life sciences superpower. Without lab space, start-ups and university spin-outs are being denied any chance of developing their concepts beyond the early stages.
“If there is no pipeline of discovery, the science sector will stagnate and there will be no push towards manufacturing, which this country needs for future economic development.
“Discovery Park has been able to provide a new solution. The highly-priced ‘Golden Triangle’ is over-congested and companies can find it difficult to locate. At Discovery Park, we are able to offer flexible and affordable space which allows companies to grow in line with their business needs. And we’re already seeing a demand from interesting companies attracted by a viable alternative and our existing tenant base with ambitious growth aspirations.”
Sarah Dance, Chair of South East LEP, said: “The new incubator space is an excellent example of a project that identified a clear business need, in this case high-quality laboratories and office space.
“Thanks to funding from Discovery Park and the South East LEP, it has been possible to develop an environment that nurtures the growth of high-value businesses, and create new jobs which will help us to build a strong and sustainable economy.”
Discovery Park has been identified by the Government as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone, with established links to academia and a thriving scientific community.
Transport links and affordable housing have both been identified as factors influencing decision-making by employees working in the sector and at one hour by train from London’s bio-tech hub at St Pancras and with an average house price in Thanet of £353,500 (Zoopla), Discovery Park offers access to both, as well as an abundance of lifestyle advantages including good schools, leisure facilities, beaches and open countryside.
It is estimated that the new facility will create or safeguard up to 75 jobs.