The South East's Life Science Sector

The Life Science Sector in the South East
The Life Science Sector in the South East

19 June 2017, by Simon Preece

The pharmaceutical and health sector has historically been a key driver of occupational demand in the South East office market


South East

■ The pharmaceutical industry has traditionally been a key driver of demand within the M25 office market. This theme was prevalent in 2016 with the sector being the one of the most active across the entire market. The pharmaceutical industry which Savills define as part of the manufacturing and industry business sector was notably active as 372,819 sq ft of take-up was recorded which accounted for 10% of all space transacted in the region. Between 2011-2016 the pharmaceutical and health sector have leased 1.46 million sq ft of office space in the South East which equates to 8% of total take-up highlighting the occupier demand evident from the sector.


South East pharmaceutical take-up

Graph 1

Source: Savills Research

■ The strong take-up witnessed last year has continued into 2017 as by the end of Q1 17 there has already been 64,162 sq ft acquired by the pharmaceutical sector which accounted for 9% of take-up. The average deal size since 2010 has been 23,539 sq ft compared to the market average of 15,950 sq ft illustrating the scale of the pharmaceutical companies active in the South East.


Average pharmaceutical occupier deal size

Graph 2

Source: Savills Research

■ Notable transactions in 2016 involving pharmaceutical occupiers including Bayer leasing 80,000 sq ft at Green Park in Reading, Smith & Nephew leasing 60,000 sq ft at Croxley Green Business Park in Watford and Becton Dickinson acquiring 44,557 sq ft at Winnersh Triangle in Reading. Furthermore pharmaceutical companies have been involved in three transactions that resulted in either record rents being achieved or the current highest rent for the cycle being achieved in that market. All of these deals completed post the EU referendum which underlines the confidence in the pharmaceutical sector and the South East office market.

■ Historically in the South East office market, the pharmaceutical and health sector has been attracted to out-of-town business park locations. In the last five years, 68% of take-up involving pharmaceutical and health occupiers has been on business parks. The landscaped and campus style feel that the region’s business parks possess has proved attractive to pharmaceutical and health occupiers, more notably to international pharmaceutical occupiers as they have accounted for 78% of all deals signed involving pharmaceutical occupiers on business parks in the last five years. A survey by Savills uncovered that 58% of science occupiers preferred to be located out-of-town and this sentiment is reflected in the South East.

■ Indeed the appeal of the South East to the pharmaceutical sector is not only restricted to the domestic occupiers, in fact UK pharmaceutical occupiers have only accounted for 28% of transactions involving pharmaceutical companies in the South East in the last five years highlighting the global appeal of the South East office market. The international pharmaceutical occupier base in the South East predominantly originates from the US; the US has been the most active occupier nationality in the last five years accounting for 685,563 sq ft of take-up which equates to a 41% market share. Notable US pharmaceutical occupiers to acquire space in the South East since 2011 include Gilead Sciences, Abbott Laboratories, Covance and Becton Dickinson.

■ Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally been more footloose then other business sectors. This was illustrated in a previous Savills research paper 'How far are occupiers moving?' (2016), which revealed that on average occupiers from the manufacturing and industry business sector relocate 10.9 miles. This trend of pharmaceutical companies moving long distances relocated from Newbury to Reading (17.3 miles), Pierre Fabre moved from Winchester to Reading (31.8 miles) and Becton Dickinson moved to Reading by consolidating two sites in Oxford and Basingstoke. Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals have established their global corporate headquarters in Staines, their other UK offices are in Portsmouth and Chesterfield. On average pharmaceutical companies relocated 13.8 miles in the South East in 2016 underlining their footloose credentials.


Life Science deals with new high rents in 2016

Table 1

Source: Savills Research | *Record/cycle high rents at the time of signing

■ The South East’s international appeal was further recognised in 2016 as Amicus Therapeutics and Alnylam both established a presence in the UK by opening their first UK offices in Gerrards Cross and Maidenhead, respectively. Four other pharmaceutical companies either consolidated sites or opened new offices in the South East region again underlining the prowess the region possesses and the appeal to pharmaceutical occupiers. Pharmaceutical companies are traditionally less rent sensitive when compared to other business sectors as they are prepared to move further and pay higher rents in order to secure the right premises that will allow them to attract highly skilled labour.

Thames Valley

■ Focusing solely on the Thames Valley, the pharmaceutical sector has been particularly active in the region. In 2016 the sector accounted for 30% of take-up, which is the highest proportion recorded since 2000 and 13% of take-up in the last five years, this in part due to the highly skilled labour that resides in the area. According to the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP there is currently a 7,700 strong life sciences workforce and there are over 2,200 life sciences companies in the region. The Thames Valley has the highest concentration of life science employees and companies in the UK. The opportunity for potential synergies to be realised by clustering with fellow pharmaceutical companies is readily available in the Thames Valley and has proved attractive to pharmaceutical companies who were previously based from outside the region.

■ Furthermore as technology companies and pharmaceutical companies continue to work together more frequently we envisage there will be greater pharma-tech clusters. Collaboration between pharmaceutical companies and big data analytic providers has become crucial to improving efficiencies within the pharmaceutical industry. Large amounts of data are produced during clinical trials which can prove extremely time consuming to disseminate without advanced analytical capabilities. Big data companies are able to speed up the analytical process from the clinical drug trials and ultimately accelerate drug development programs. This innovation can speed up the process in producing new drugs and improve productivity. Examples of this collaboration include Tessella who are a data analytics provider based in Abingdon have worked with both AstraZeneca and GSK. Another example is SAS having a partnership with GSK to provide a globally accessible private cloud.

■ Oxford Economics are forecasting a 12% growth in employment in the professional, scientific and tech sector in the South East by 2025 which equates to an extra 55,000 jobs. There are many opportunities in the Thames Valley for these pharma-tech clusters to materialise such as at Thames Valley Science Park in Reading where there is already a clustering of smaller pharmaceutical and technology companies with this set to expand with 800,000 sq ft of future space to be developed at Thames Valley Science Park.

Investment into Life Science Companies

■ The pharmaceutical sector in the South East received £519.7 million of investment in 2016, following on from £1.48 billion of investment in 2015 highlighting the clear demand for holdings in pharmaceutical companies in the South East from investors. The extra capital invested into the pharmaceutical companies bodes well for future job creation in the South East which in turn will inevitably lead to further real estate transactions. Therefore we expect take-up from the pharmaceutical sector to remain strong in the South East inthe near future years.

■ There have been examples of pharmaceutical companies receiving funding and then acquiring more office space, a notable example in the South East in recent years is when Teva Pharmaceutical Industries bought a 4.6% stake in Mylan for £1.04 billion in 2015, Mylan subsequently leased 39,000 sq ft at Hatfield Business Park.


South East pharmaceutical investment transactions

Graph 3

Source: Company Data

■ Looking further afield from the core South East office market, Immunocore received £205 million of funding in 2015 and Adaptimune received £63 million of funding in 2014, both of these companies subsequently let space at MEPC’s Milton Park near Oxford totalling 82,872 sq ft. Becton Dickenson acquired Carefusion in 2015 who were based in Basingstoke and have since merged their operations into one site at Winnersh Triangle in Reading. They chose to relocate to Reading as they felt confident they could recruit from the highly talented local labour pool and benefit from the synergies of locating near global science and technology companies. This is testament to the appeal the Thames Valley has to the pharmaceutical sector.


▲ Thames Valley Science Park is a new development under construction by the University of Reading, advised by Savills that will create a new business community in the Thames Valley


■ Looking at the performance of larger pharmaceutical companies, the FTSE 350 Pharma & Bio has consistently outperformed the FTSE 350. Five of the nine pharmaceutical and bioscience companies listed on the London Stock Exchange have operations in the South East highlighting the appeal of the South East to large corporate companies as well as small start ups. The appeal of the South East to pharmaceutical companies is undoubted and the strong levels of investment will ensure that the sector continues to thrive in the region.

■ The fundamentals of demand for pharmaceutical services remain strong, the ever changing demographics of the UK to an ageing population will continue to drive strong demand for drug development and life sciences products, Oxford Economics are forecasting that by 2026 there will be 14 million people living in the UK who are over the age of 65.

■ The UK Government has continued to promote innovation within the research and development industry. The research and development tax credit is available to small and medium sized enterprises as well as large companies this tax relief has proved popular amongst pharmaceutical occupiers and continues to help promote innovation within the sector which can help facilitate the expansion of existing companies and new entrants to the UK market. The graph below illustrates the world's top 50 companies research and development spending in 2016. The pharmaceutical and biotechnology sector spent £868 billion in 2016 and of all of the companies included in this figure have an operation in the South East highlighting the scale of the companies active in the South East market.


Top 50 world companies R&D spending in 2016

Graph 4

Source: European Union

■ The UK's decision to leave the European Union has resulted in uncertainty surrounding future R&D funding. There is an opportunity for the UK to carry on receiving EU funding for R&D in a similar way to Switzerland by becoming an associated country or a third country to Horizon 2020. Once the negotiations to the leave the EU are underway it will become clearer to what future funding pharmaceutical companies based in the UK will receive. Landlords need to ensure that there is an appropriate level of space available for this sector in order for it to continue to flourish. The University of Reading developing Thames Valley Science Park is encouraging although further development may be needed to cope with expected increased demand.



Key Contacts

Simon Preece

Simon Preece

Commercial Research

Margaret Street

+44 (0) 20 7409 8768


Steven Lang

Steven Lang

Commercial Research

Margaret Street

+44 (0) 20 7409 8738


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