If you look around the world at successful scientific clusters you see a pleasant working environment amidst world class laboratory facilities, access to a major international airport and that blend of smart financial capital working in and around the businesses there. Alderley Park is an exciting development because it has all those elements.
“The challenge is to build that critical mass around the businesses that are already there, like Redx, and make it a thriving cluster at the very centre of the North of England’s scientific strategy.”
Norman Molyneux is speaking during a tour of Alderley Park, a thriving hub of science and innovation in the midst of Cheshire’s most prosperous postcode.
Since founding Acceleris in 2000 he has known where to find good businesses and link them up with the right kind of investment. Places like Alderley Park.
It seemed like a bitter blow to the North’s science strategy when pharma giant AstraZeneca scaled back it’s presence at Alderley Park in Cheshire.
But the move proved to be the catalyst for Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP) to step in and they have revealed plans for the first phase of development at their flagship 400-acre life science campus.
In a session, titled ‘Translating Science into Place’, at MIPIM, a French real-estate exhibition, MSP were presented as a key part of Manchester’s plans for innovation and growth for the UK and a key part of Manchester’s future host city status as ‘European City of Science 2016’.
The plans signal the first major step for MSP’s vision to transform Alderley Park, AstraZeneca’s former research hub, into an open community for life science businesses, with over 7,000 high-value jobs planned on-site in the next decade.
Bruntwood and MSP have committed to £30 million of capital investment for the next three years at Alderley Park to deliver 1.5m sq ft of lettable lab and workspace, to respond to the demand and needs of a multi-occupier site, which already features state-of-the-art laboratory and office workspace set in the heart of idyllic Cheshire parkland.
For Norman, it represents a confirmation of his own belief in clustering businesses in the bio and science sectors together and allowing developments, discoveries and research to determine the next move.
“Looking around this whole development gives an exceptional sense of place and community as well as our opportunity to promote collaborative working practices and shared services,” he says.
Already based at the site are biotechnology business Redx and a spin out from that business, Redag Crop Protection. Both businesses Acceleris has supported and invested in. While other portfolio businesses like Yorkshire Process Technology have been attracted to the world class lab facilities left intact at the site when AstraZeneca moved out.
As MSP’s property partner, the Bruntwood model for property redevelopment and management will look to add real value to the estate by breathing new life into older buildings to diversify accommodation options for businesses at every stage of their life cycle, from start-up businesses to global corporate headquarters.
All of this has been helped by a high level recognition at local and national government level in the potential of the site. The new BioHub Incubator at the site has secured £1.1m funding through a Regional Growth Fund (RGF) award.
The funding will help to reconfigure space, attract new businesses to the BioHub and accommodate up to 100 new high-value jobs.
Operated by the specialist life science incubation company BioCity, the BioHub is effectively a collaborative R&D centre, allowing new and growing bioscience businesses to benefit from the Park’s high-specification research facilities and specialist incubation support services.
Dr Chris Doherty, site director at Alderley Park for Manchester Science Partnerships, says: “Securing RGF support is a fantastic ‘shot in the arm’ for the BioHub at Alderley Park and is another significant vote of confidence from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) who share our vision and strategy for growth at the Park.
“The funding is significant for Alderley Park as it supports the strategy to transform the site from a singly occupied R&D centre to a thriving multi-occupied bioscience cluster and MSP will be committing £3m to match the RGF funding.
“The BioHub is a key enabler for the Park and is needed by many of the potential ex-AstraZeneca start-ups that are being nurtured in the incubation pipeline. It is therefore critical for supporting entrepreneurship amongst scientists who are not relocating to Cambridge, and whose skills and expertise would otherwise be lost to the region.”
And as Norman acknowledges, these kind of projects, like the presence of specialist investors like Acceleris and the Seneca investment community create the impetus to attract new business and retain talent in one of the UK’s key SME heartlands.