Sally Ann Forsyth, director for Colworth Science Park
Background: Sally Ann is Director of Science Parks for Goodman International, the major Business and Science Park developer in the UK. As part of this role, she is also Director for Colworth Science Park in Bedfordshire, a joint venture between Unilever and Goodman.
Prior to joining Goodman, Sally Ann was principal with Unilever Ventures where she focused on technology and biotechnology spin-outs and investments.With more than 19 years experience within Unilever operating companies, Sally Ann has had a range of management roles including Head of Technology Licensing and strategic Alliances for Unilever Bestfoods, Internal Consultant and External Research Programme Leader.Sally Ann holds a BSc (Hons) in genetics from Edinburgh University and a PhD in molecular biology from Cambridge University. She started her career through the Unilever management trainee scheme and is a qualified Associate Chartered Management Accountant.
1. What are the ingredients that make Colworth Science Park a viable science cluster?The park has a long heritage of innovation and offers excellent facilities in a remarkable setting which together draw in academic institutions, large corporates and SMEs. This has helped to create a unique community which engages and interacts to accelerate the commercialisation of R & D. We provide the scientific services, amenities and support facilities to encourage this collaboration to flourish, but it is the knowledge and enterprise of the occupiers which account for the park's success. We also provide supporting amenities such as sports and recreation facilities, café and restaurant, shop and even a day nursery.2. Can you give a snapshot of Colworth as it stands at the moment, in terms of investment received to date, jobs created, number of tenants and any notable successes?Colworth Science Park is located amid 1,200 acres of natural parkland, with around 40 buildings providing laboratory and office space for a growing number of companies and academic institutions. It is home to the Research and Discovery activities of Unilever, and around 20 other companies including Mo Logic, Insense, Mi Life Coaching, Leksing and Qualogy.3. What are the key outcomes you would like to see have been achieved in five years time?Colworth Science Park will become a leading a leading science and enterprise hub, developed by Goodman in conjunction with Unilever bringing together academia and life science companies to drive technology transfer and support economic growth in the UK. Our own investment, supported by funding from EEDA will enable Cranfield University and the University of Cambridge to establish a presence in a new amenities centre. As part of this new phase of development we will also be establishing a new innovation centre which will provide a research facility for IFR Extra Ltd, part of the Institute of Food Research.4. What will be the keys to success in your view?The key to our success to date, and indeed the key to delivering future growth, is partnership. We continue to work extremely closely with Unilever, the site's principal occupier, to evolve Colworth into a leading science and enterprise hub with a focus on health and well-being. We have already attracted the three world class academic institutions to locate amongst leading scientists from global blue chip and start-up companies.We also have support from EEDA, who recognise the economic stimulus the Colworth gives the region, including new jobs for Bedfordshire.5. With the new cluster being developed at GSK in Welwyn and the Cambridge Biomedical campus at Addenbrooke's Hospital is there a danger that the region is becoming over-resourced?The East of England has a earned a reputation as a world leader in life sciences, which has been nurtured and encouraged by academia, private sector and regional interventions. The focus on health and wellness is common across all three locations, but each has a different focus within this market sector.Colworth's activities look at health across the life course including non-prescription preventative measures to address weight management, heart health, brain heath etc but also more recently lifestyle intervention and healthcare diagnostics.6. There has been some controversy about the need for improvements to the traffic infrastructure around Colworth. Is this something that will be addressed?An independent, detailed study into the impact of future development on traffic surrounding the site revealed that there would be no significant impact on Sharnbrook High Street, which was the road causing most concern. There is also a travel plan for Colworth, which is a condition of future development, which will be implemented before new buildings are occupied.7. What effect has the credit crunch had on the development of the site?As with all of Goodman's business and science park developments, we take the long term view to developing sustainable environments to meet the demand from both the public and private sectors for high quality workplaces. We have just committed £13.7 million to deliver the next phase of development at Colworth Science Park, which incorporates two new buildings with a combined 56,000 sq ft of research, laboratory and office space. Our occupiers are also looking for added value for their business over and above a great property offering. At Colworth we provide a supportive environment throughout the supply chain from foundation research, though prototyping and on to business and market development. This is achieved by providing access for companies on site to scientific and prototyping facilities, leading researchers and business mentors which they could otherwise not afford.8. Why, in your view, is there such a buzz behind the concept of `Open Innovation' at the moment?Open innovation is the underlying theme for Colworth Science Park. Over the past few years there has been an exponential rate of change in the development of new technologies such that no single company can have a monopoly on these innovations. It is therefore important for companies to collaborate with others to gain access to a wider range of potentially valuable innovations and become the partner of choice for their development. We believe that science is a contact sport, so we must develop the right facilities for researchers to interact on a formal and informal basis to create an environment where collaboration and networking are part of the campus culture.9. What are the key challenges that currently face the UK science park in your view?The UK is renowned for leading-edge research, innovation and an entrepreneurial approach to science and technology. There are around 100 science parks in the country, providing facilities for approximately 3,000 companies. To ensure the continued evolution of the industry and for the UK's position as a world leader in the sector to be maintained, science park developers must work in partnership to create a supportive environment that brings together major businesses, SMEs and leading research organisations. This creates an explosive diversity that contributes significantly to successful technology transfer and delivery of innovation to the market.10. As an international property developer, how would you say this region's tech and medtech/Life Sciences clusters rank on the global stage?Without a doubt, it is comparable to any cluster anywhere in the world. It can boast world class academic institutions, global leading blue chip companies, and some of the most prominent scientists working across a range of bio and life science fields. It is also able to fuse a long standing heritage and reputation, with enterprise and innovative vision for the future. The East of England has a worldwide reputation as a home to the medtech and life science communities which will continue to be a hugely significant driver for economic growth for the region.