Daniel May reflects on Boston's Life Sciences offering

Socius is increasingly interested in how we can blend life science spaces into our urban mixed-use schemes, which is a deliberate departure from the vast majority of the UK’s life science accommodation that sits within out-of-town business parks. Before Christmas Barry Jessup and I visited Boston to learn more about how we can bring science into the heart of UK cities. Here are a few takeaways:

The sheer scale of the Boston life sciences cluster is fundamental to its success – it comprises 40 million sq ft of lab space, roughly the equivalent of the entire UK – and supports the full ecosystem, from global corporates to university spin outs.

As with many other sectors, access to talent is a fundamental factor that will determine where life sciences companies emerge and choose to locate. This underpins our thesis of developing science in the city; will science parks be able to attract the best Gen Z and millennial talent?

Access to capital is vital. Boston has critical mass of venture capital (especially later phases of funding), which acts as a magnet for life sciences companies from across the US and the rest of the world. UK ‘PLC’ needs to create attractive incentives to retain these companies throughout all stages of their growth.

There is a lot of focus on the delivery of high-value lab space, but we perhaps overlook the need for science infrastructure, including manufacturing, distribution, and storage facilities. The challenge for the UK will be delivering this accommodation to provide a credible ecosystem. This could provide an opportunity for some of the towns and cities that already have strong distribution and logistics infrastructure.

We tend to talk about ‘life sciences’ as a singular asset class but in truth it encompasses a range of very different workspaces, from purpose-designed containment labs, through to science-enabled office space. Creating a product that is able to accommodate a broad spectrum of research is likely to be paramount to success.