Dr David Hardman, UKSPA

Science Parks Development | Summary, slides + pictures

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Kier Group

How to foster a knowledge-sharing environment, meeting tenants’ high requirements, and the opportunities presented by technology in property were all discussed at a half-day event at Manchester Science Partnerships’ Citylabs on Oxford Road, organised by Place North West in association with Kier Group.

Speakers on the day included:

  • Colin Sinclair, newly appointed chief executive of Liverpool Knowledge Quarter, who outlined his preliminary ideas for the city’s new innovation district after only 10 days in the job.
  • Dr David Hardman, chairman of the UK Science Park Association and chief executive of Innovation Birmingham
  • Dr Mark Bacon, director of engagement for Keele University Science & Innovation Park
  • Alex Solk, partner at Sheppard Robson
  • Dr Matilda Bingham, executive director at Redx Oncology, currently overseeing her department’s move from Liverpool to Alderley Park, Cheshire
  • Simon Hoad, executive director of Trinity Investment Management.
  • Heather Standidge, associate director in development consultancy at Cushman & Wakefield, gave an overview of the opportunities presented by the Cheshire Science Corridor Enterprise Zone…
  • …alongside Jonathan Walsh, UK head of business park portfolio asset management at Patrizia, owner of Birchwood Park in Warrington

Below is a summary of points made during the morning’s presentations and panel debates

See gallery of photos and link to slides at foot of page


  • For science parks, it is the occupiers rather than the buildings that are the commodity. The emphasis is on building communities and creating environments for sharing ideas
  • Both physical geography and net connectivity bring businesses together
  • Developing “a knowledge transfer environment and co-working” was top of Colin Sinclair’s list as he draws together plans for Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter
  • UKSPA’s David Hardman called on the regions to deliver science park clusters as “we cannot afford to focus on one city”
  • Identifying the synergy between occupiers and encouraging collaboration could lead to new products and services, said Dr Mark Bacon of Keele University

Tenant requirements

  • Hardman pointed out that 90% of businesses on science parks usually employ under 100 people
  • RedX Pharma’s Matilda Bingham said “clustering is not just a marketing myth; it helps attract staff”
  • Sinclair emphasised the Liverpool Knowledge Quarter would look at how to give customers the right experience at every stage, but ultimately “businesses need to go wherever is best for them”
  • Business parks could also satisfy science occupier needs. Patrizia’s Jonathan Walsh pointed to warehouses at Birchwood Park as “waterproof wrappers for science functions”, but said that amenities such as a gym and nurseries were needed “as the glue without which buildings would be soulless”
  • The quality of science park occupiers was part of the appeal to investors, according to Trinity Investment Management’s Simon Hoad, however they were not always offered the right services
  • Although Enterprise Zones are aimed at science occupiers, allowing suppliers and recruiters to take space and benefit from some rates reductions would add to tenant mix and vitality of parks

Technology & fit-out

  • Science parks need to respond to the digital revolution. Hardman said “the social generation is forming relationships with people they’ve never met, and I’m convinced they’ll form businesses with people they’ve never met”
  • The challenge for science occupiers is that they have very specific needs for the fit-out of space, need different labs for different functions
  • The appeal of places like Alderley Park is that they are already equipped with specialist equipment, which according to Bingham was a big draw from RedX Pharma, which has relocated all 193 staff to the Cheshire site

New developments

  • Hardman highlighted 1m sq ft under construction by UKSPA members
  • Sheppard Robson’s Alex Solk outlined Bruntwood’s plans for Citylabs 2 and Citylabs 3 in Manchester, on the site of the former St Mary’s hospital. Each element will contain 90,000 sq ft, with construction due to start next year
  • Universities backing the Knowledge Quarter in Liverpool needed someone to lead delivery, shaping Sinclair’s role
  • Keele University is on site with its fifth innovation centre, built by Pochin Construction
  • Birchwood Park is on site with 105,000 sq ft of speculative warehouses within its 1.2m sq ft estate, according to Walsh
  • Trinity’s Hoad said many science parks were unloved, and don’t have the right facilities, presenting the opportunity to invest and refurbish, but also expand
  • A pot of money built up through rates retention on Enterprise Zones would be used to invest in infrastructure and facilities, said Standidge. The retained income is “the jewel in the status” said Walsh


  • Overseas investors could be drawn by the added appeal of Enterprise Zone status on business cases
  • Institutional investor interest into science parks was strong according to Hoad, even if rental yields might be softer compared to other sectors
  • University occupiers, which dominate many science parks, could be used as a stable occupier to appeal to private investment, said Bacon
  • Constant challenge was supporting science park occupiers, need private equity to turn ideas into products
  • Creating a unique proposition at science parks and focusing on specific innovations could draw both occupiers and investment, said Solk


  • Around 65% of people within the M62 use cars as part of their daily journey, said Walsh
  • Talking to local authorities on how to improve transports systems and support buses and cyclists was top of the ‘to do’ list when buying a science park, according to Hoad
  • Potential development within Liverpool’s Knowledge Quarter might one day see a new train station, or the re-use of old tram lines around the city, Sinclair pondered

To view the presentations on Slideshare click here

Click any image below to launch gallery

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