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a spike in life sciences.

Construction firms stand to benefit from controversial new government plans to increase life sciences lab space across much of the UK. Michael Gove recently launched the Cambridge Development Group to address an ongoing shortage of suitable lab space to pursue biotech advancements in a move that he says will make the city of Cambridge "one of the intellectual centres of the world".

Supply and demand imbalance

Fitted lab space in Cambridge, London and Oxford typically fetches rental rates of up to 70% greater than the equivalent square footage of office space and with a current vacancy rate of less than 1%, developers stand to benefit from an eager audience when they pursue new developments specifically to appeal to this sector.

Plans in progress

Many wiser developers have already set plans in place to begin construction and retrofit projects to satisfy the demand of the life sciences industry. These include:

- The Victoria House Redevelopment. Oxford Properties owns an eight-storey former insurance block in Bloomsbury Square in London and has received planning approval to pursue a £78.4M conversion, in conjunction with Pioneer Group, to convert the space into predominantly "wet lab" space for life sciences businesses. This project is due to start later this month, and the conversion is anticipated to complete within 5 months.

- Canary Wharf North Quay Life Science Building. This £500M project is being run as a joint venture between Canary Wharf Group and Kadans Science Partner and once complete, the 23-storey new build in London will be the largest commercial health and life sciences facility in Europe. This project is expected to begin later this year and to run for 44 months.

- CGI of Grafton Life Sciences Building. Property developer Trinity Investment Management has ambitious plans to redevelop the Grafton Shopping Centre in Cambridge. With an estimated value of £39.49M, Trinity Investment Management intends to create a life sciences hub which will be situated alongside a new hotel and leisure quarter, whilst retaining the existing gym, cinema and shops on Fitzroy and Burleigh Street. The project is planned to commence in Spring 2024 and last approximately 10 months. 

- Cheadle Royal Business Park. Life sciences firm Seda has committed to a 20 year lease on The Lakehouse, a 38,000 foot facility which is situated directly alongside its existing facility at Cheadle Royal Hospital in Manchester. This lease will allow the company to scale up its pharmaceutical development operations. With an order book value of £11.9M, the project is planned to commence next spring.

- Alderley Park. Bruntwood SciTech, which is a joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General, has received approval for their plan to develop a £60.8M life sciences development at Alderley Park in Macclesfield. This project will deliver two new laboratory buildings and create circa 1,600 new jobs. The project will commence in summer 2023.

Future opportunities

Although many large scale projects are planned or underway, they are unlikely to be sufficient to fully satisfy the demand of the life sciences industry, so even the most cautious developer would be wise to investigate the opportunities offered by retrofitting existing infrastructure or developing new lab space.

The UK life sciences sector is currently valued at £94Bn and encompasses fields such as drug discovery, MedTech, diagnostics and the creation of vaccines. As the digital evolution continues, this field is likely to see a period of rapid expansion which will encompass innovations including AI, biomanufacturing, genomics, personalised immunotherapies and tech-enabled healthcare devices. 

It is only possible, however, to pursue innovations such as these with sufficient, well-fitted and tailor-made biotech space, meaning that the need for more space is unlikely to dwindle at any point in the near future.

In conclusion

At Build Space, we see the Life Sciences field as offering unlimited opportunities to the UK construction industry.  We have helped build teams for several high spec Pharma and R&D laboratory projects over the last 3-4 years and this is a market we are really going for at present.
For more information about the talent solutions that we can provide, drop us a line at our Bankside HQ – 0208 332 2727.

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