Historically dominated by public sector funding, the economics are changing to give science property the potential to be an attractive new asset class. This is being driven in part by a combination of a significant growth in both the number and level of funding of companies in the sector, which is increasing demand ahead of supply and moving rental levels upwards in many parts of the country. On the other side, traditional “alternative” asset classes such as student housing are maturing, with the result that investors are looking for the next growth area. Science assets may well be it.
This is causing a significant increase in activity, with organisations such as Stanhope and Mitsui announcing the creation of a 500,000 sq ft life sciences building in King’s Cross following on from their development at White City, which is also home to many life science and tech companies. Meanwhile, Dutch science park developer, Kadans, has made a number of UK science building acquisitions this year including significant investment in Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. The arrival of TUSPark (China) on Cambridge Science Park and also saw the delivery of the new state of the art Biohub on the science park.
Manchester-based Bruntwood also entered into a joint venture with Legal & General with the aim of acquiring and building science real estate in the UK, while Trinity Investment Management and MEPC (amongst others) continue to invest in the sector.
UKSPA will need to respond to this rapidly changing landscape: the ownership of science parks will change, with increasing private sector and fewer public sector owners; there will be more complex relationships between increasing numbers of stakeholders and there will be some consolidation in the sector. However It is a huge opportunity for both UKSPA and its membership. The ride is only just beginning.