As part of Liftstream’s on-going Cluster Series we have chosen to profile the Golden triangle. The golden triangle consists of London, Cambridge, Oxford and Stevenage and is seen as a global centre in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. In the final profile of a series of four, Liftstream looks at the Stevenage Biotech Cluster.
Stevenage is the latest edition to the Golden Triangle of biotech clusters and is one of the newest clusters in Europe. The cluster was established out of a Wellcome Trust & GSK initiative. Stevenage located ideally between London and Cambridge. Stevenage has the benefit of being able to access talent and resources from both the London Biotech Cluster and the Cambridge Biotech Cluster. This ensures that the cluster has the opportunity to grow significantly over the coming years, lending from the expertise and talent located in these locations from within life sciences. This is reiterated in the long term plan to expand the biotech field in Stevenage by 5 fold in the coming years.
Stevenage’s presence in life sciences is largely created by the Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. The Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is an open innovation biomedical campus which is home to a range of companies from start-ups to mature companies. A number of companies in the cluster have experienced recent funding successes. CompanDX, the UK based diagnostics company, has recently raise £3.9m in funding from venture capital companies in China. NeRRe Therapeutics, which was spun out from GSK announced in November 2012 it had secured £11.5 in series A funding. CompanDX have also recently signed a partnership deal with US based, ResearchDx to develop companion diagnostics. The centre is the UKs first open innovation campus which has fostered a unique environment that the creators hope will accelerate the pace of discovery towards product development. The development is split into 3 distinct segments:
- The Bio-incubator: The bioincubator is designed for start-up biotechs. The area is a 4750 sq metre building combining office space and labs
- The Accelerator: The role of the accelerator is to provide maturing companies more space to expand and develop
- The Hub: The hub is a conference and meeting facility
The catalyst is supported by the Wellcome Trust, Technology Strategy Board, EEDA and GlaxoSmithKline. GSK has been critical is fostering the open innovation culture and has recently pledged $60m to help develop a new crop of biotech companies in the area. GSK itself has a significant operation in the Stevenage Biotech Cluster with the Medicines research centre set in over 100 acres of land.
At present GSK dominate the Stevenage Biotech cluster in terms of employees and resource, however as the Bioscience Catalyst continues to develop a thriving biotech community will be able to benefit from the expertise offered by GSK, the Wellcome Trust and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. Liftstream sees the Stevenage biotech cluster offering significant opportunities for both companies and individuals. Initially the focus of Stevenage will be very early stage ventures and biotech companies offering entrepreneurially minded individuals significant career opportunities. With the backing of significant players such as the Wellcome Trust, TSB and GSK the potential for rapidly developed biotech cluster in Stevenage seems a definite possibility.
Liftstream believes that the short term opportunities in the Stevenage biotech cluster will come from innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs looking to be involved in Stevenage’s entrepreneur in residence scheme (EIR). EIR is a position usually held by a seasoned entrepreneur whose role is to help launch new ventures, assist in the evaluation of potential investments and provide functional expertise with existing ventures. Long term, significant opportunities will lie in a number of areas as Stevenage looks to expand its capability. With a wealth of industry, academia and charitable connections ensure that any start-up will be ably supported. As the cluster develops so will its ability to attract more global pharma, biotechs and medical device companies, thus boosting it further.