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Manchester drives North West life science growth

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By Sally Morris-Smith


Published 03 June 2024


Sally Morris-Smith, Real Estate partner at international law firm DAC Beachcroft, looks at how Manchester is leveraging its centres of academic excellence and the growth of relevant businesses across the North West and leading the region’s life sciences sector expansion.

Investment in Manchester’s life sciences sector has surged, with both public and private investment driving further research and innovation and investment into mixed-use schemes.

Collaboration between academia, industry, and healthcare organisations has been instrumental in driving progress. Manchester's sci-tech strong ecosystem facilitates close partnerships between researchers, businesses, and healthcare providers, fostering a collaborative environment conducive to innovation and those seeking to accommodate them. The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University have attracted substantial funding for cutting-edge research projects, fuelling advancements in genomics, drug discovery, and medical technology. The Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) as a major biotechnical and health hub will be an important coordinator of public / private sector resource and anticipates translation of research findings into tangible improvements in patient care for the NHS.

Government support has also played a vital role in the expansion of the life sciences sector as an employer in Manchester. Regional development initiatives and funding schemes have led to infrastructure development, skills training, and business support programs supported by the City Council and local business leaders such as the Chamber of Commerce. These initiatives aim to bolster the region's life sciences ecosystem, attract investment, and create high-quality jobs at entry level and beyond. According to research by business consultancy, Ryan, the rise of HealthTech has seen employment in life sciences increase by 61% across the North West during the past five years. Bioscience and health technology sector statistics released by three government departments show the number of people in the region employed at R&D sites associated with life science businesses has reached more than 7,675, and the region has also seen 28% growth in the number of life sciences sites conducting R&D.

We are also seeing the emergence of new companies and start-ups, further enriching the innovation landscape from incubators and accelerators in the city who provide support and resources for entrepreneurs, helping them bring their ideas to market whilst contributing to the diversification of the life sciences ecosystem enhancing Manchester's reputation as a hub for innovation.

Life sciences facilities are also now anchoring some exciting new mixed use developments:-

  • Plans for the latest phase of Bruntwood SciTech’s Manchester Science Park were approved last summer. This joint venture between Bruntwood and Legal & General will deliver a £60m redevelopment of the park’s existing Greenheys building to bring 131,000 sq ft of lab space to market. This third phase of the Science Park masterplan is expected to open in spring 2026.
  • Kadans, McLaren, Property Alliance Group, and Moda Living have consent for the redevelopment of 7.5 acres off Upper Brook Street including 700,000 sq ft of lab space and around 2,000 student bedrooms.
  • To the south of the city, the evolution of Alderley Park in Cheshire is continuing into a world-class life sciences campus, with state-of-the-art laboratories, office space, and amenities. The site, once the headquarters of AstraZeneca, is now ‘home to 2,500 innovators’ including biotech startups, contract research organisations, and corporate innovation labs.

Looking ahead, Manchester's life sciences sector is poised for continued growth and innovation. Strategic partnerships, investment in research infrastructure, and ongoing government support post-election will be essential for sustaining momentum and unlocking the full potential of the region's life sciences ecosystem.

As befits a city where John Rutherford first split the atom and Alan Turing began the work that would result in the Enigma code-breaking machine, Manchester is building on its strengths in research, collaboration and innovation that will fuel further life sciences activity and investment. Watch this space!

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