New owners We Are Pioneer Group have ambitious plans for the park and the wider UK life sciences sector

Life sciences park Cardiff Edge is under new ownership with plans for significant expansion.

The 27-acre scheme, located close to junction 32 of the M4 in north Cardiff, has been sold by property developer Garrison Barclay Estates to Harrison Street and Trinity Investment Management.

The value of the acquisition has not been disclosed, but is understood to be the biggest deal for a single asset in the commercial property market in Wales this year.

JLL advised Garrison Barclay Estates on the freehold sale. The acquisition by Harrison Street and Trinity Investment Management follows its recent £120m takeover of BioCity Group and its UK-wide portfolio of life science parks.

The assets have been folded into Harrison Street and Trinity’s existing life sciences business to create a new venture We Are Pioneer Group, which will manage nine assets spanning 2.6 million sq ft and 500 occupiers, including Cardiff Edge.

Cardiff Edge comprises life sciences, R&D and office space extending to 180,000 sq ft across seven buildings , which are 98% let.

Existing occupiers include Cytiva and the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with a significant laboratory pre-let under offer.

There is expansion land to develop up to 458,000 sq ft of new office and R&D space.

Justin Millett lead director of JLL’s Cardiff office said “We were delighted to advise Garrison Barclay Estates alongside JLL’s market leading life science team. Our client has created a strategically important and vibrant life science cluster at Cardiff Edge and is now handing over to a leading investor developer in the sector, with an unrivalled regional platform and unique business model.

“Our team is looking forward to supporting We Are Pioneer Group with the continued evolution and development of Cardiff Edge.”

The expanding life sciences sector in Wales, from pharma to medical devices, employs 17,000 people across 285 organisations with an annual turnover of £2bn.

UK-wide JLL estimate there is up to £15bn of investor capital allocated to UK life sciences real estate, of which less than 10% has been deployed to date. It said the sector has grown to become a standalone real estate asset class and has seen a significant increase in the volume of real estate transactions in the last three years.

Garrison Barclay Estates had acquired the scheme from GE Healthcare in 2018 in a £18m deal. It had developed a masterplan for a major expansion of the park. We Are Pioneer Group, which has its own investment arm to back high-growth potential tenant firms, will now worked up new and equally ambitious plans.

Jennie Howells, head of property at Cardiff-based Garrison Barclay Estates, said: “We have worked closely with occupiers including Cytiva and Defra to grow Cardiff Edge and we’ve had strong engagement from Cardiff Capital Region on future development of the park. We’re very pleased to have found a purchaser that shares our vision to grow and fully develop this strategically important site.

“We Are Pioneer Group have undoubted expertise, together with the ability to support and invest in the occupiers, which makes them excellent custodians moving forward. The sale is part of a strategy to release capital for further investment and we are actively seeking other opportunities.”

Richard O’Boyle, executive director at We Are Pioneer Group, said: “The mission-critical UK science and innovation industry sector are significant contributors to the UK economy, but is a nascent sector.”Through an integrated approach of investment, venture development and real-estate, We Are Pioneer Group creates a new nationwide innovation ecosystem in which businesses can scale and grow.

“Cardiff Edge will be a key location from where we will build meaningful links to the academics, governments, councils, researchers, and pharmaceutical firms that are critical for success.”

Garrison Barclay Estates were represented by Le Gros Solicitors led by Claudia Le Gros. The purchaser was represented by DLA Piper, led by Thomas Gatenby.