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London’s role in the growing UK Life Sciences sector

In the post-Covid world, Life Sciences as a sector has never been more in demand and it is widely acknowledged that ‘clustering’ Life Sciences expertise is key to driving forward innovation. Bringing together hospitals, universities and industry in a collaborative environment provides the ‘bench to bedside’ research that is essential for progress.

London, which sits at the heart of the Cambridge-London-Oxford ‘golden triangle’, plays a critical role in this. As the home to some of the world’s top universities, academic health science centres and leading medical research institutions, London is well placed to act as a global hub for the Life Sciences sector.

London’s infrastructure makes it particularly well suited to the establishment of clusters, which allow for mobility and collaboration between innovators, clinicians, investors and developers. This can transform the study and practice of healthcare, meaning better trials and, ultimately, greater take up of products. London’s role as a global city also means it can attract and retain the brightest talent.

The Howard de Walden Estate covers 92 acres of Marylebone including the world-renowned Harley Street Medical Area. As home to over 5,000 medical practitioners as well as digital tech and medtech start-ups, it is at the forefront of the conversation about how Life Sciences hubs can be fostered and supported within the capital. I spoke to Mark Kildea, Howard de Walden’s Chief Executive, to find out more.

CI: What do you see as the unique opportunities for London in the Life Sciences sector?

MK: Ideas come from universities but, to roll them out, you need proximity to hospitals. London has both; world-class universities including UCL, King’s College London and Imperial College as well as multiple specialist hospitals which offer greater access to a diverse pool of patients. From a transport and infrastructure perspective London comes out top; London connects all of the UK’s Life Sciences hubs – from Cambridge and Oxford to Stevenage, Milton Keynes and Manchester. It also has the ability to draw the best talent who want to be living and working in a major city with all of the benefits that has to offer, like vibrant retail and a curated space.

CI: What about the challenges?

MK: There is a chronic shortage of space in Central London and a perception (which I would personally dispute) that rents are too high to make Life Sciences spaces financially sustainable. There are real challenges in making sure that a property is fit for purpose and the need for specialist architects and developers to build out suitable spaces. Added to that, there can be difficulties in accessing full hospital care which is essential for NIHR accreditation. The combination of these factors has meant slow growth of commercial Life Sciences hubs across London.

However, this is an exciting time. Advancements in construction and fit-out mean there are now greater opportunities than ever before to create wet lab spaces across the city. With collaboration between landowners, design teams, healthcare providers and organisations, I’m confident that London can cement its role as a global hub for Life Sciences.

CI: How do you see the relationship between the Life Sciences and Healthcare sectors evolving?

MK: The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the importance of physical connections between the Life Sciences and Healthcare sectors, in particular with translational or ‘bench to bedside’ research and the delivery of patient care. I think there is a real need for collaboration between both sectors to drive forward innovation. After the past two years, the NHS is under more pressure than ever and trials can get crowded out due to other priorities. Space and staff are at a premium which has a really damaging impact on research and there is a role for the private sector in bridging this gap.

CI: Why is Howard de Walden particularly interested in the Life Sciences sector?

MK: There are a number of reasons why we are looking at Life Sciences across the estate. The proximity t of Marylebone to King’s Cross, organisations like the Francis Crick Institute and the major London universities means we all well connected. We’ve got extensive experience in retrofitting heritage buildings so they are suitable for specialised medical use and the range of properties we own, means we can support organisations from the incubator stage through to scale up.

However, our main ambition is to facilitate collaboration. The Healthcare sector is at the core of our estate – we’re home to a wide range of hospitals and clinics. Healthcare and Life Sciences are inseparable, and we want to enable Life Sciences organisations to tap into the Healthcare opportunities within our estate, connecting research, private capital and hospitals.



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