Innovation by Design: Developers Create Collaborative Communities
Silicon Valley and the wider Bay Area has long been renowned as the world leader in creating innovation hubs for the digital tech sector. The impact of the businesses that have developed out of a relatively small geographic area is almost unquantifiable, with our lives significantly altered by the ways in which companies such as Google, Facebook and more have changed, and enriched, our lives.
This model has become the envy of the world, and it is therefore unsurprising that cities and districts across the world are seeking to learn from the cluster approach that has driven Silicon Valley’s success. The UK is a good example of this. In Manchester, England, an innovation district has been created to the south of the city and is set to become one of the top five innovation districts in Europe by 2025. Its success is rapidly leading to the creation of innovation hubs in other UK cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool and the establishment of ‘connect to town’ sector-specialist clusters such as Alderley Park.
The emergence globally of innovation districts was documented by the Brookings Institute in its 2014 research paper, Rise of Innovation Districts. This detailed numerous elements that are crucial to the success of any such endeavour, with particular importance attached to geographic locations where anchor institutions and businesses cluster in order to connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators.
Alderley Park, located just outside Manchester, has long held an internationally recognised reputation as one of the world’s leading full-spectrum bioscience campuses and the home of global pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, but that is changing.
Since being acquired by Bruntwood SciTech – the UK’s only specialist property company providing infrastructure and assets to the UK’s burgeoning science and technology sector - the Park is evolving into a vibrant ecosystem which is home to over 2000 life science and digital tech professionals. However, there is no room for complacency and the continued success of any innovation hub can be defined by its growth – more companies, creating more jobs, in turn contributing more Gross Value Add (GVA) to the local, national and global economies. Key to the successful and sustainable growth of any hub is the growth of the companies located there.
Working with the Scale-Up Institute, the private sector, not-for-profit company focused on making the UK the best place in the world to scale up a business, Alderley Park is not only able to offer the world-leading property infrastructure science and technology businesses need, but also the other key ingredients for success: access to talent and skills, the ability for businesses to build leadership capability through an experienced mentor network, access to markets and finance and risk capital.
Alderley Park is home to the UK’s largest single site bioscience campus. Already comprising over 1m sq ft of world-leading scientific space including high spec biology, chemistry and pathology labs, a further 50,000 sq ft of laboratory space will be created this year to keep up with market demand. The $15m investment will see the development of additional chemistry and biology labs that range in size from 500 sq ft to 20,000 sq ft to accommodate all sizes of life science and biotech companies. A further 100,000 sq ft of up to 15,000sq ft labs will be developed over the next two years. Designed for larger companies, these labs allow the Park to support the changing needs of its companies as they scale up, ensuring their growth can be accommodated at the Park. Alderley Park also offers an open access lab for early stage businesses, a range of scientific services such as NMR, oncology and imaging offered on a pay as you go basis and an accelerator to form and scale new companies.
The 150,000 sq ft Glasshouse has been designed with forward-thinking digital tech businesses in mind. The central atrium structured to house single-person start-ups and entrepreneurs as well as small, fast-growing scale-ups aims to stimulate collaboration. The design reflects what early-stage businesses need - to be surrounded by other like-minded peers – with opportunities for expertise and encouragement to be shared. Offering co-working, serviced, managed and leased offices for all sized businesses, the potential for growing businesses at Glasshouse is exponential.
Having seen the approach successfully used at LinkedIn, Alderley Park’s team of specialist asset managers work with growing scale-ups, helping them to predict and understand their current and future growth requirements, working with them to determine the physical space they need, both today and tomorrow.
Creating a collaborative community is not just a case of having the right physical infrastructure. It is people that make this happen. Alderley Park has an expanding mentor network of over 200 highly-experienced pharma professionals. These C-level experts provide valuable coaching and training, while a comprehensive events programme includes a range of specialist science seminars that provide the guidance and knowledge scitech companies need to grow.
Lack of access to finance and risk capital is recognised as a key barrier to growth. Alderley Park offers both pre-seed and seed capital from its onsite venture funds, allowing its fund managers to develop close relationships with the onsite companies and make connections to potential investors.
Access to skills and talent and market access are two other key components that need to be considered in the creation of any successful science or tech community. As the home of Cancer Research UK MI and the UK’s Medicines Discovery Catapult, an independent not-for-profit national facility that connects the UK science community in order to accelerate drug discovery, as well as being located close to The University of Manchester, the UK’s fourth largest university, Alderley Park is able to offer this in spades.
Learning from the from of the likes of Google, Alderley Park has recognised that it’s not enough to just attract top talent, but to retain it within the innovation hub. Set within 400 acres, the Park boasts restaurants, soccer pitches, a lake, walking and running routes and a gym alongside onsite housing.
What has been achieved at Alderley Park is a reflection of Bruntwood SciTech’s ambition for the creation of innovation districts in the UK, delivering sizable economic growth while helping to improve the world around us.