GSK has announced that it has formally started the process of seeking a development partner to transform land within the company’s existing 92-acre Research & Development site in Stevenage into one of Europe’s largest ‘clusters’ for biotechnology and other early-stage life science companies.

The vision for the new campus has been developed in partnership with Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC), the UK Government, Stevenage Borough Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and would build on the existing presence of GSK, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and the SBC on the site.

As part of proposals set out today, GSK is looking to sell the 33 acres of land, with an aim to subsequently unlock up to £400 million in new investment from a private sector developer to build the new campus and potentially create up to 5,000 highly-skilled jobs, over the next five to ten years. The company expects to select a development partner later this year, with a view for work to begin on master planning for the new campus in 2022.  

Tony Wood, Senior Vice President, Medicinal Science & Technology, GSK said: “The past 18 months has shown the UK life sciences sector at its best and the UK has recently unveiled an ambitious 10-year vision for the UK life sciences sector. Our goal is for Stevenage to emerge as a top destination for medical and scientific research by the end of the decade. We are excited to find a development partner to realise our vision to foster the next generation of world-class scientists and biotechnology firms in Britain.”

If successful, the new campus could attract several world-class research organisations to Stevenage, creating exciting opportunities for collaboration in a state of the art, life science ecosystem. The highly-successful Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst are both already on the site and have attracted a number of successful start-ups which collectively have raised around £1.6 billion of funding. These organisations were set up with a mixture of public and private sector support – including from GSK – and are both involved in the plans which should enable their expansion.

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst said: “Stevenage is already a leading location for life science companies to develop and commercialise cutting edge therapeutics. Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is home to over 40 companies, and today’s proposal presents exciting opportunities to build on this by supporting their growth, attracting new organisations to the ecosystem and facilitating further collaboration with world-class organisations. We look forward to working with GSK and other partners to further develop the thriving life sciences campus in Stevenage.”

The new campus – which would sit next to GSK’s existing site at Stevenage – could ultimately deliver 100,000 square metres of new floorspace for commercial life sciences research and development.

As one of its two global R&D hubs, Stevenage is a key location for GSK, employing world-class scientists and driving cutting-edge innovation. It is already the UK’s largest cell and gene therapy cluster, the third largest globally and includes GSK R&D activities in the field. The plan is expected to build on these strengths.

Initial estimates suggest the plan could ultimately deliver:

  • up to £400 million of investment in Stevenage from a private sector developer to build out the campus, over 5 to 10 years; and
  • depending on finalisation of proposals and planning consent, space for up to 5,000 full time, high-skilled jobs.

Councillor Sharon Taylor OBE, Leader of Stevenage Borough Council said: “I am deeply proud that Stevenage is home to a world-leading life science cluster and welcome plans for a new life sciences campus.  This will cement our standing as a leading STEM location within the UK. As we recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is vital that we create new, quality jobs and opportunities for our town and our country. Our shared commitment is to make Stevenage even better, working with businesses, residents, community groups and partners to help regenerate the town and create many new jobs and opportunities for local people. We look forward to continuing our work with the life sciences sector to make Stevenage a leading light in the discovery and development of the medicines of the future.”

Mark Bretton, Chair, Hertfordshire LEP and Chair, LEP Network, said: “Our investment in the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst has consolidated Stevenage’s position as a globally recognised hub for cell and gene therapy, attracting international companies with the potential to create thousands of high-level jobs. Hertfordshire LEP played a pivotal role in securing Stevenage’s Life Sciences Opportunity Zone and High Potential Opportunities recognition. This exciting new development will be a key component of our Cell & Gene Cluster Plan, ensuring continued growth and investment for the area.”

Adrian Hawkins OBE, the independent Chair of the Stevenage Development Board said: “Our highly successful Towns Fund bid fully recognises the importance of the STEM sector organisations based in Stevenage and how they can provide an excellent opportunity, to level up and secure long term social mobility for local people within Stevenage and the broader North Herts area. The Hertfordshire LEP and County Council, have regularly worked with both central Government and the Stevenage Borough Council to facilitate the delivery of both the Catalyst and the Catapult within the GSK Stevenage site and this announcement of an additional space allocation, will bring many more successful start-ups to Stevenage and enable the scale-up of companies already based in the Town. This development cannot fail to further enhance Skill levels locally and provide the opportunity for all our residents to achieve beneficial employment, at the same time as an exciting career in the Life Science and Advanced Engineering sectors.

GSK’s existing R&D operations at Stevenage are un-affected by the development plans announced today, which will also require the expansion of the public road gyratory to improve access to the site.