UK Life Sciences Sector to Maintain Strong Growth Trajectory Despite Market Normalisation

- ‘Golden triangle’ locations – Cambridge, London, Oxford – anticipating circa 10m sq ft of potential deliverable real estate in next five years 

- Venture Capital investment in the UK has more than doubled in past five years 

The latest research from global real estate advisor CBRE indicates the UK life sciences sector will maintain its strong growth trajectory, despite investment market normalisation since the 2021 boom.  

The report, ‘Trends that transcend the US-UK life sciences industry’, finds the life sciences real estate sector is boasting an impressive development pipeline in the UK, namely in the ‘golden triangle’ locations – Cambridge, London and Oxford – which are earmarked for circa 10m sq ft (4m sq ft, 2.2m sq ft and 4m sq ft respectively) of potential deliverable real estate in the next five years. 

This activity follows substantial Venture Capital (VC) investment, which has more than doubled in the past five years. Notably, in 2021, 80% of the sector VC funding in the UK was allocated to Cambridge, London and Oxford areas. 

The report notes that capabilities in next generation therapies manufacturing is growing in the UK, but there is still a huge reliance on offshore manufacturing to produce pharmaceuticals and the UK’s manufacturing presence has shrunk in real terms. There is an opportunity for the UK to become a more  attractive destination for manufacturing, and capitalise on the reshoring, onshoring and nearshoring trend, which countries such as Germany, Ireland and Switzerland are benefitting from.    

Beyond the golden triangle, there is a clear opportunity for investors and local authorities to capitalise on VC investment into emerging hubs such as Stevenage, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham  

In 2021, companies in Stevenage received over £200m in VC funding, making it the largest recipient of funding outside of London, Cambridge and Oxford. Approximately £2.9bn of equity has been raised in the last ten years.  

While the US and UK clearly differ significantly in terms of the scale and maturity of the life sciences real estate offerings, we are seeing encouraging movements in the UK that point towards a similar growth trajectory, albeit on a smaller scale. By building on the strong scientific foundations and the positive momentum the industry is experiencing, real estate investors are now becoming stakeholders in supporting early-stage innovation and positively contributing to the competitiveness of the UK on a global stage.

Joanne Henderson, Head of Life Sciences UK & EMEA
Jennet Siebrits, Head of UK Research, CBRE

Growth in the sector cannot continue at its current rate without better public funding. The government’s ambition to become a ‘science superpower’ by 2030, coupled with the chancellor’s renewed commitment to R&D, healthcare and infrastructure in the Autumn Statement is welcome news. However, it’s only a two-year commitment. Cambridge, Oxford and London need to keep receiving the public and private funding to drive their potential on a world-class scale. A more long-term and sustainable commitment for the life science industry is required; the private sector cannot do it alone.

Jennet Siebrits, Head of UK Research, CBRE