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11 April, 2022 - 00:05 By Tony Quested

Rents surge as companies race for space in Cambridge

Cheffins has found that a major shortage of supply across all sectors of the Cambridge business space market is driving rental values upwards.

The firm’s new Datapoint report shows that take-up of lab space for 2021 was three times the level of the previous year, at 205,000 sq ft and rental levels have now reached £48.50 per sq ft.

Some 70 per cent of total take-up was at the Portway Building at Granta Park following two significant leases to Altos Labs and Bicycle Therapeutics.

Take-up of office space throughout 2021 was 475,600 sq ft – 30 per cent higher than the previous year.

The supply of laboratory space around Cambridge is effectively zero, according to the report, with no new space currently under construction and it is likely to be 2024 before there is any significant new stock available for occupation. Cheffins says this will inevitably mean that rents will continue to rise and, in the meantime, the challenge for occupiers will be to secure space needed to enable them to scale-up.

Cheffins says new rental levels are being reached for Cambridge and edge of town locations with £37.50 per sq ft achieved at the iconic Cambridge Science Park.

Cheffins’ Datapoint report states: “There is already an increased focus on available office and other space which might be suitable for conversion. Another notable feature of 2021 has been the fierce competition from investors from around the world for investment and development opportunities to bring forward new supply of this type of space. 

“The year started with Brockton Capital’s purchase of Units 214-240 at Cambridge Science Park and ended with IQHQ buying Units 120-136, also on the Science Park.

“There have also been numerous other transactions with the largest being the acquisition by Blackstone’s BioMed Realty of both Cambridge International Technology Park and further land at Granta Park which, upon receipt of planning, will provide in excess of 800,000 sq ft of additional space.

“Demand grew sharply during the year across all size ranges and we are now tracking in excess of 750,000 sq ft of requirements currently within the market. Demand is coming from both existing Cambridge start-ups and expanding companies, as well as major new entrants recognising the advantages of this location. In particular, requirements for buildings in the 20,000– 30,000 sq ft size range are increasing. This was previously at around 10,000 – 15,000 sq ft, and this growth can be attributed to the scaling-up of life sciences companies in the region.”

Take-up of industrial space was up 15 per cent in 2021 and availability in Cambridge and within a 10-mile radius is currently at a record low of 215,000 sq ft. 

Cheffins said there was no new or second-hand Grade A space currently available within the market and that rental levels were increasing due to sustained demand, with £16.50 now being achieved for city centre locations and £13.50 for similar properties within a 10-mile radius. It adds that speculative schemes due to complete in 2022 should bring relief to the market.

Michael Jones, head of Commercial at Cheffins says: “2021 was once again dominated by Coronavirus, but the underlying strength of Cambridge was demonstrated by the levels of activity seen with supply of new space being the main challenge across all sectors.

“This is particularly the case for appetite for Cambridge’s world-leading laboratory sector which performed stronger and faster than ever with take-up almost three times the level of 2020. 

“The main concern, however, continues to be the lack of availability of laboratory space which, as demand continues to grow, is driving significant rental growth and is a property puzzle which needs to be solved to maintain Cambridge’s success in the longer term.

“Just as tellingly, perhaps, is the way in which the office market is bouncing back with deals in this sector up approximately 30 per cent compared to the previous year. 

“Again, supply for offices remains tight and, as confidence in the need for office space continues to grow, demand from both occupiers and serviced office providers is increasing. 

“The situation is likely to be further exacerbated as the number of offices being considered for conversion and repositioning into life sciences spaces continues to grow at pace thanks to large-scale investment in this sector. 

“Lack of supply was also the overriding theme within the industrial space. Availability currently stands at a record low throughout Cambridge and within a ten-mile radius and this has led to growth in values.

“However, the sector has been buoyed by significant investment which has helped to propel new schemes into action. A number of these new industrial developments are set to complete in 2022 and hopefully this ought to help ease the pressure on the current market.”

KEY LAB TRANSACTIONS 2021

Emmanuel Building, Chesterford Research Park

  • 9,241 sq ft let to Superdielectric
  • 9,241 sq ft let to Illumina
  • 19,514 sq ft let to unnamed biotech

The Portway Building Granta Park

  • 47,705 sq ft let to Bicycle Therapeutics
  • 53,785 sq ft let to Altos Labs

KEY OFFICE TRANSACTIONS 2021

2 Cambridge Science Park

  • 118,000 sq ft let to Roku Ltd

198 Cambridge Science Park

  • 36,446 sq ft let to Microsoft

194 Cambridge Science Park

  • 28,266 sq ft lease assigned to CMR Surgical

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