Newcastle Laboratory – a new hotspot for biotech

Two weeks ago, I hosted the first Newcastle Laboratory Business Pitching and hard hat tours in partnership with Bionow and Cam-Sci. This was one of the earliest opportunities we have had to showcase the new 76,000 sq. ft. laboratory facility on Newcastle Helix – and the event was a huge success.

We’re still five months away from opening Newcastle Laboratory but already we have an allocated occupancy of 38%. And interest continues, with the event attracting over 85 colleagues, representing more than 50 companies, from the life sciences sector, supply chain and fund managers.

I’d like to thank the 22 speakers who gave their 120-second business pitches. This gave attendees fantastic insight into the range of businesses we have in the Newcastle city-region and the north, and the type (and high calibre) of company we expect to make Newcastle Laboratory their home.

So why is this development proving so popular?

Of course, Newcastle Laboratory has the impressive technical specification you’d expect of a c£25m project*. Our strategic partners, Cam-Sci, and architects, Ryder Architecture, have ensured flexibility and resilience run throughout the building’s design.

But Newcastle Laboratory is much more than a single development plot. Its popularity has certainly been boosted by its surroundings.

The laboratory is based on the UK’s largest urban development outside London, Newcastle Helix, which itself is at the heart of one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK, Newcastle upon Tyne. This £350m flagship site brings together academia, businesses, communities and the public sector, focusing on innovation and collaboration to help us live better lives – easier, healthier, longer, smarter.

For the life sciences sector, the site’s proximity to Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – a UK leader in clinical trials, and Newcastle and Northumbria universities, as well as Newcastle International Airport and Newcastle Central Station, are all advantages.

Newcastle Labs Courtyard
Newcastle Labs Courtyard

On-site neighbours include Newcastle University's National Innovation Centre for Data and National Innovation Centre for Ageing, both nationally significant centres of excellence in their fields. Plus the NIHR Innovation Observatory – a world-first in using big data analytics and machine learning to study global health innovation. The opportunity to locate alongside these expertise, and rub shoulders with digital SMEs in adjacent tech hubs are further benefits.

Within an hour’s drive, life sciences businesses have access to assets that support the entire bench to bedside pathway. From CPI’s National Biologics Manufacturing Centre, to the UK’s top performing Clinical Research Network, to sector support networks (including Bionow and First for Pharma), to four world-class universities, to CROs and CDMOs, and centres of excellence in precision medicine, MedTech, and clinical trials.

Newcastle Laboratory sits genuinely at the heart of the North East’s £1.1bn life sciences ecosystem.

As well as satisfying commercial laboratory demand, its lively events programme and conferencing space will offer a new centre-point around which the sector can meet, share knowledge, and find collaboration opportunities as the industry continues to flourish.

From a national perspective

Newcastle Laboratory will not only attract local biotechs. The laboratory space and wider site is significant at a national and international level. In my role, I have insight into trends within inward investment – business movement into and within the UK (not purely foreign direct investment).

Increasingly, the Invest Newcastle team and I engage with businesses from London and the South East (across many sectors) looking for alternative locations in the north of England – a process called ‘north-shoring’.

With Brexit challenges, and ever-inflating operating costs in the south, northshoring – in cities such as Newcastle – does offer a cost-effective method for lowering risk without cutting quality of access to talent, research, etc.

But more importantly, north-shoring can drive innovation and accelerate growth by allowing businesses to access a greater diversity of assets, academia and new SME clusters; not to mention the patient population. The success of many multi-site operations, across all sectors, evidences the value of north-shoring.

Supporting our reputation, sector-specific initiatives covering the Northern Powerhouse such as Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and Bionow, do a fantastic job ensuring the profile of life sciences in the north goes from strength to strength.

For Newcastle Laboratory, the centres of excellence on and nearby Newcastle Helix (mentioned above) contribute to a very strong proposition. Their uniqueness and proximity alone are highly appealing. Viewed from a north-shoring perspective, their value is ever more significant.

What next?

Over the coming months, I’ll be working alongside Cam-Sci to support tenant enquiries, and for those coming from outside the Newcastle city-region, provide a range of inward investment support services (including economic research, network introductions and recruitment guidance).

I will be arranging further talks and tours, and sharing regular updates through the usual channels.

And finally, I’m ambitious that we will open Newcastle Laboratory with 60%+ of our lab space occupied by local high-growth SME and a healthy proportion of new biotechs establishing their first base in Newcastle, having discovered the remarkable proposition of our city.

Credit: Matt Bratton

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