What was once the Daresbury Science & Innovation Campus became Sci-Tech Daresbury in April 2012, to reflect its newly-won Enterprise Zone status. Langtree Property Partners, Halton Council and the Science & Technology Facilities Council are the partners in what has been one of the UK’s more active EZs.
September 2014 saw the acquisition of a 12-acre strategic development site next to its main campus access point. The new phase, the joint venture said at the time, could deliver up to 220,000 sq ft of new office and laboratory space spread across five or six buildings. The zone also secured £3.59m of Enterprise Zone Capital Grant funding for infrastucture. A key road access project was completed in March 2015 as part of the Department for Transport’s pinch-point programme.
Further good news came with the 2014 Autumn Statement, in which it was announced that the STFC’s Hartree Centre, in a £113m project at Daresbury with IBM, were to build a Big Data Innovation Centre for small businesses. The technology giant then followed this up with a commitment in June to base IBM researchers at Hartree and also announced a joint commercialisation deal with access to IBM facilities including the world-class Watson cognitive computing system.
In March 2015 it was announced that Vanguard House, a 36,000 sq ft building for maturing businesses, was now 80% full after four new lettings totalling 6,500 sq ft. That’s been added to since; US-headquartered Flexera Software signed up for 4,848 sq ft in October, bringing 30 new jobs to the area.
Summer 2015 saw ground broken on two new buildings, effectively phase one of the 220,000 sq ft promised last year. Techspace One and Techspace Two are to be delivered in 2016 and will offer 56,000 sq ft of lab and office space. The 46,000 sq ft Techspace One, which will include both ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ labs targeting biomedical, cleantech and materials science, is supported by a £7.6m Regional Growth Fund grant. The 10,000 sq ft Techspace Two, an offices-only building divisible for up to four occupiers, is supported by a European Regional Development Framework grant.
Planning consent is now in place for environmental improvements that will “help knit together the campus feel of Sci-Tech Daresbury and open up new areas for development,” the partnership said.
It’s all go at Daresbury, now home to more than 100 businesses. But how much can be attributed to EZ status? Once a key development site for the North West Development Agency, work here has been in progress for many years, while since 2010 the government has gone all out to stress its support for high-tech British businesses. This is exactly the sort of location that should be thriving, really.
However, Daresbury did seem to lack direction in the years up to 2010, and you can’t fault the pace of things now. The numbers aren’t huge, as there are around 1,200 people employed on site in total, but smaller employers are attracted by business rates discounts in a way multinationals aren’t.
Daresbury is becoming something of genuine national significance. It’s focused, of manageable size, and projects can be delivered relatively quickly. A qualified success.