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Q&A: New MedCity Lab Providers’ Forum to tackle rising demand for R&D space

As much of the UK returns to virtual working, we recognise that R&D space is still required for many life sciences companies at the forefront of healthcare innovation. Addressing this need, MedCity’s Head of Cluster Development Ivana Poparic is taking forward a new initiative – MedCity Lab Providers’ Forum.

We spoke to Ivana about how the idea for the forum came out of some the key findings in our recent London Life Sciences Real Estate Demand Report, and how the forum aims to help address the needs of lab providers and life sciences companies.

Q: What was the overall thinking behind the forum and how it would work?

A: One of the key findings from the Demand Study is the current lack of space for R&D-based activities in London. Demand overall is outstripping supply and has increased fourfold since we last looked at this issue in detail in 2016. In particular, there is a growing requirement for increasingly sophisticated lab space that facilitates small-scale manufacturing as part of the R&D process.

One of the main points that we took on is the need to make it easier, not just for companies to find that appropriate space, but also for academic or commercial providers of space to communicate, exchange information and share learnings. This is something MedCity has previously facilitated in an informal way, but now, with the need for more space quickly, we have set up the Forum to scale our offer and bring the whole network together in a very transparent way, so that people can enquire about new opportunities in London, as well as collaborate and exchange information between the existing lab providers.

Q: And what would that look like in practice? How will lab providers be able to exchange information among themselves?

A: The most direct way is that we’re setting up a quarterly meeting of all members. The first one is going to be in January. This will be the first face-to-face meeting that will bring together all the organisations in (or within commuting distance of) London. Members will be able to present and discuss current initiatives, as well raise any issues they might be having.

I also communicate with all of the members via email and share incoming opportunities or pieces of information that are relevant in a very open way, so everyone can see what type of companies are making approaches, and what type of space they’re looking for.

Q: So how many providers are there in the forum so far?

A: There are 12 active members at the moment. Included in that are some providers in locations commutable from London, because we realise there are companies looking for space right now that still want connections to London but are not able to find appropriate space to grow in London in the short term.

Q: And what is MedCity’s role in the Forum?

A: We are convening the lab providers on neutral ground to share knowledge. And at a time when there is a clear demand for lab space that is in short supply, we are providing an effective, efficient platform for brokering — between those that are looking for space and those that are providing it.

MedCity’s expertise in life sciences and knowledge of supply and demand is also valuable to ensure that the right space is developed where needed.

Q: And can companies looking for space access the Forum?

A: Yes, they can! MedCity’s aim here is to provide an easy-to-access brokerage service – helping the community as a whole by connecting people and facilitating knowledge sharing, to address the pressing need that is out there for space in London.

If you are a lab provider in the London area, or a company looking for space, we would encourage you to email [email protected] for more information and support.

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