Estate agents brace for life sciences big bang

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Research Into Cancer Conducted At The Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
London, Oxford and Cambridge represent a "golden triangle" for researchers (Source: Getty)

Estate agents are gearing up for an explosion in scientists searching for lab space in London over the next few years.

CBRE said there is strong demand for real estate near large research institutions in the capital, adding to the 27,000 people already working in the life sciences sector.

While it is unclear where the London-based European Medicines Agency will be following Brexit, CBRE said the city nevertheless has a critical mass of expertise that should continue to attract scientists.

“We expect London’s life sciences cluster to expand relatively quickly, and this will drive strong demand for office, innovation and lab space as close as possible to these knowledge centres,” said Andy Monighan, senior director of tenant advisory at CBRE.

The US and Switzerland remain dominant as hubs for life science research, with the biggest clusters attracting 50,000 people each.

Read more: Government mulls plans to make UK a life sciences world leader

The so-called knowledge quarter in London houses universities and hospitals around King’s Cross and has attracted 73 bodies including Google’s HQ and the Alan Turing Institute, the national centre for data science. The new Francis Crick Institute has added 1,250 scientists to the area.

However, the cost of rent in London has prevented some smaller enterprises from joining the big players.

“Biotech companies face the requirement to spend £50k+ on a year’s lease before even being able to build a proof of concept that could be used to raise that funding,” Dr Mark Hammond of Deep Science Ventures said.

“We are working with both local authorities and universities to try to address this challenge by creating a low-cost pay-as-you-go co-working wet lab model for very early stage biotech entrepreneurs in London and welcome collaboration with others.”

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