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14 February, 2019 - 10:07 By Tony Quested

20,000 new jobs and £2.8bn payback if Oxbridge hits demand for new labs

Science & Technology companies will create 20,000 jobs in the Cambridge and Oxford clusters in the next four years and create £2.8 billion for the economy – but only if developers can meet their insatiable demands for new lab space.

Bidwells research shows that Oxbridge will need around 6- new labs or 40 football pitches worth of new lab space – 2.5 million square feet – to accommodate the next five years of growth.

If the lab target can be hit then employment would need to grow by 22 percent to support growth; Bidwells says this could add £2.8bn to the UK economy by 2023, boosting an S&T sector that employs more than 90,000 people in the two cities and is worth an estimated £9.8bn.

Bidwells is currently advising on over 10m sq ft of science related real estate for clients such as Trinity College (owners of Cambridge Science Park), Cambridge Biomedical Campus (UK home of AstraZeneca), the UK’s space industry epicentre at Harwell, Oxford, and Imperial College London.

Patrick McMahon, senior partner at Bidwells, said: “Oxbridge’s soaring S&T sectors are a huge UK success story but we must do everything to ensure the area can maintain its place as a global leader post-Brexit. That means infrastructure, dozens of new labs, a million new homes and certainty over employment.

“Businesses that cannot get the space or people they need will take their investment elsewhere and the time is now to launch clear proactive policy and a single joined up growth plan for the area to ensure its future world leading status.”

Bidwells estimates around 6 million sq ft of commercial space across the two cities is currently used for R & D.

More than half the S & T executives Bidwells sourced for the intel said they planned to increase global spending on R & D over the coming five years. The research underlined that recruitment depends on strong connectivity through quality infrastructure and companies also prioritised the need to have space to grow. 

Close proximity to academic and research institutions is a key driver of decision making – which is why Oxford and Cambridge are so popular with global companies.

Brexit was not noted as a major challenge per se but the impact on recruitment of high skilled international talent is a real concern.

Bidwells said future demand will be for a variety of space: wet and dry labs, offices for computer modelling and specialised industrial floorspace for hi-tech manufacturing.

They add that this will place considerable strain on the already constrained commercial markets and growth risks being stifled by a lack of joined up thinking amongst government and planners.

Bidwells, along with other key figures and companies in the two cities and along the “Growth Corridor” that connects them is lobbying for more proactive policy around development: from offices and laboratories to housing and infrastructure.

Currently the corridor adds around £100bn to the economy, but has the potential to quadruple this by 2050 if its knowledge-based industry receives the support it requires.

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