Manchester's Eureka Moment: Why Science Will Change Everything For Property
Last week’s announcement of a groundbreaking £50M green loan and refinancing to Manchester Science Partnerships and the start on-site of the 172K SF Henry Royce Institute open the door to yet more growth in Manchester’s £4B plus science sector.
With Manchester Science Partnerships saying that a significant pre-let on the 93K SF Citylabs 2 is imminent, it is clear Manchester's science revolution will impact far beyond Oxford Road, changing the city’s property market.
The Politics Is Right
So what’s new? The city that gave birth to the periodic table, split the atom, invented the screw thread and discovered graphene has always been a scientific hub. But until now its impact on the property market has been limited.
That is all going to change as the city’s thriving economy and evolving politics combine to supercharge the science sector.
Greater Manchester will soon embark on a unique experiment to take control of its £6B NHS health budget, creating an opportunity politicians are determined to grab.
Simultaneously the city’s economy is delivering big-time with science helping to drive entrepreneurship and growth.
LSH research showed that Manchester, Oxford and Cambridge were the UK’s top three locations for economic vitality. What the three have in common is a huge scientific base that appeals to business like German genomics company Qiagen, which is working with Health Innovation Manchester to establish a new Manchester campus for up to 800 scientists. If the deal comes off, Manchester could become a turbo-powered Cambridge, an Oxford on speed.
In the Oxford Road corridor, 1M SF of science floor space is already developed, with a significant pre-let on the 93K SF Citylabs 2 expected any day, according to Manchester Science Partnerships, the Bruntwood-controlled portfolio of five campus locations including the 400-acre Alderley Park, Cheshire, and the original 15-acre Manchester Science Park next to the University in central Manchester. In addition to the pre-let, another 127K SF Citylabs 3 speculative start is expected to follow.
Buildings Will Look Different And Work Differently
Science is all about showing your workings — and Manchester's new generation of science-led buildings will do just that.
“Science is on show these days,” NBBJ partner David Lewis said. “It’s about giving people something to look at, and that means lots more visibility and outward-looking buildings. At Henry Royce this mean the façade shows off what’s going on inside. Its transparent, you can see people moving about from floor to floor and meeting points and hubs.
"You can see that science is all about interaction. The façade becomes a constantly moving thing — something kinetic — not a static display.”
Not only will science-led buildings look different but they will have to function differently from standard office space.
“You can do a lot of science in existing buildings — a lot is the same as an office building — but science does require different levels of resilience,” Manchester Science Partnerships Managing Director Tom Renn said.
MSP operates five North West science parks that dominate the city's Oxford Road Knowledge corridor.
“This is part of what the £50M Lloyds lending to the science park is for because we want to explore battery power and mass-energy storage solutions, so if mains electricity cuts out, power can kick into our buildings in a matter of seconds. That is what those operating very specialist scientific equipment want.”
Power requirements for science occupiers rise from 400 KVA to around 1MVA, and heating and cooling requirements are also more sophisticated, according to Renn.
Professionals Will Cosy Up To The Scientists
The new Manchester professionals' motto will be: follow the lab coats.
“We’re already seeing emerging demand for co-location from professionals partnering the science sector," Capital & Centric Director Tim Heatley said.
"The professionals want to get closer to the source of knowledge, just like we’ve already seen in the Manchester tech and digital sectors, where they want to get closer to the guys in the jeans and trainers. Watch the intellectual property, legal and finance professionals, all of whom are watching the lab coats.”
So far the professionals have been playing it cool, often going unbranded.
‘We are aware that legal firms and accounts are aligning themselves with science-based businesses in shared working environments close to or within major science- and tech-based developments," GVA Regional Senior Partner Chris Cheap said.
"By having unbranded teams embedded in these spaces it allows them to cultivate relationships within the sector. This approach is very different to the traditional client/advisor relationships and will evolve further as the sectors grow.”
“Today we don’t have any ancillary professionals occupying space in our sites, though we do work closely with people like PwC. They don’t need to be physically on the campus every day — they come to events, hold surgeries maybe once a month, or do mentoring, in all kinds of ways,” he said.
The City Centre Will Change Shape
Manchester city centre is already expanding — just walk down the Oxford Road — but a surge in science development will accelerate the process.
“The southeastern side of the city and the Oxford Road corridor are rapidly becoming part of the perceived ‘city centre’," Cheap said. "The continued growth of the city means we are on the cusp of seeing something similar, but on a smaller scale to London where there isn’t a defined central business district but a collection of different parts, which speak to different occupational audiences.”
“Manchester will need to re-think office accommodation based on the fact that scientists, and the professionals who work with them, want to be where the talent is and that means the city centre,” Heatley said.
The process may not be smooth and some locations will be out-of-bounds, according to MSP’s Renn.
“The constraints on building are different — so much depends on proximity to an electricity substation and in some city locations that might be impossible or not financially viable,” he said.