Science is a vast, exciting arena, holding enormous promise in many walks of life, where dedicated science parks play a huge role in supporting businesses of all sizes – from start-ups and SMEs to multinational corporations. Traditionally, science parks have provided real estate that can cater to the changing and growing demands of on-site occupiers but, as we enter a new decade, is it really enough for landlords just to be landlords?
A new opportunity
More and more companies are recognising the strength of the UK STEM sector, leading to increased foreign investment. This provides a unique opportunity to help scientific businesses even further, by investing in facilities and providing a holistic framework of assistance. This is particularly true for smaller enterprises for whom a lack of support and capital is often a major stumbling block. For this reason, Trinity Investment Management (a privately-owned real estate company) has partnered with Harrison Street (a leading investment management firm with significant scientific real estate experience in the US) to create the Knowledge Factory – a platform that aims to bring together the right people, ideas and funding to help accelerate UK innovation and help businesses to succeed.
A hands-on approach
This unique approach goes above and beyond what most landlords and asset managers offer, providing the appropriate infrastructure and partners to support a business throughout its growth. Take investment, for instance. It can be tricky to navigate the grants process to secure investment, so we aim to take the hassle out of this process by providing help and connecting start-ups with seed capital. Then, for businesses ready for the next stage, we can offer or provide connections to growth capital, helping occupiers to achieve their full potential.
Alongside this, we look beyond funding to offer a full collection of additional services to our occupiers, investing in their success. We have a number of strategic partnerships with industry leading experts in their fields, such as the Centre for Process Innovation at the Wilton Centre – which helps companies to develop, prove, prototype and commercialise next generation products and processes –as well as a host of other useful services.
All corners of the UK
The science parks in the portfolio – Edinburgh Technopole, Hexagon Tower, the Wilton Centre, Kent Science Park and Langstone Park – have paved the way for a new kind of investment into the scientific sector – a hands-on landlord that pushes collaboration, innovation and growth. The parks are spread all over the UK – located in Edinburgh, Manchester, Teesside, Sittingbourne and Havant respectively – with Colworth Science Park in Bedford recently added to the collection.
This growing Knowledge Factory portfolio now includes over 300 companies, and covers over 2.1 million sq. ft. of office, laboratory and manufacturing space, including specialist facilities such as pilot-plant space, a blast chamber and greenhouses, and is continuing to grow. In the last two years alone, we’ve invested more than £8 million in new collaboration facilities, energy efficiency initiatives and infrastructure improvements across our sites. This includes the recent opening of the new Pioneer building at Edinburgh Technopole and the extensive refurbishment of Hexagon Tower, with a programme of future works planned to minimise energy usage as part of our sustainability drive. We have also expanded Kent Science Park, including opening a £2 million communal Hub to provide new cafeteria and conference facilities for occupiers and the wider business community. These investments are designed to meet the needs of current and future occupiers by offering facilities that promote collaboration, nurture success and keep the sites at the forefront of innovation.
The link between our parks provides a unique opportunity for intra- and inter-site occupier collaboration, connecting businesses that might otherwise not know about each other. We strive to foster partnerships that allow like-minded businesses to exchange expertise, facilitating innovation and pushing new technologies to market. We work to create further links between occupiers and academia, providing access to a talented workforce and leading to more partnerships and investment in the local area. On top of that, our Pioneer Society organises and hosts regular events, from workshops and talks – including a recent presentation by the Bank of England – to investment networking and everything in between. We have also recently hosted the ‘Time to Talk Day’ to improve mental health at Kent Science Park, Hexagon Tower and the Wilton Centre. These events are all designed to foster collaboration, connecting ideas and people to increase investment in the scientific landscape.
Scientific businesses need the support of landlords and the wider ecosystem in order to succeed. Our goal is to be long-term players in the science and innovation sectors and to be part of the successful growth of the industry. Our experienced team’s hands-on approach to managing science parks is taking companies to the next level by providing the whole package, not just the building. With this in mind, we’re always looking to expand our portfolio in the UK and EU and support future potential. So, what breakthrough could be next!?
Author: Simon Hoad, Executive Director, Trinity Investment Management