Luke, tell us about yourself and The Biosphere.
I’ve been involved with The Biosphere on Newcastle Helix since January 2019. I work for a North East building consultancy company called Aura North East, who were appointed to manage the facility in 2018, and I joined the team in preparation for The Biosphere opening its doors to the biotech community.
The Biosphere is a purpose-built laboratory facility focused on the commercialisation of life sciences. So, importantly, we’re not just renting out labs and offices, we’re trying to build a commercially oriented biotech community by also providing services within the building that add value for tenants.
My role at The Biosphere covers everything from negotiating terms with prospective tenants, to ensuring that the physical facilities run properly, to engaging with sector networks such as Bionow bionow.co.uk to coordinate specific events.
This is the first commercial laboratory facility in Newcastle – what’s been the reaction?
I would definitely say that the building was welcomed by the biotech ecosystem. There has been demand for a facility like ours for some years, particularly from university spin-outs and micro to small scale biotechs. We’re purposely looking to accommodate businesses in their early to mid-stage of growth. This is really important too for supporting the region’s economic strategy, which highlights life sciences as a key sector.
Probably the best way of measuring how positive the reaction has been is by the number of businesses who liked our facility enough to join the community by moving in. So far, we’re ahead of our target and have over a dozen businesses in The Biosphere. We run tenant forums with this group so we can adapt our activity to be as impactful as positive. We’ve also had hundreds of visitors attending events we host.
What has been your personal highlight so far at The Biosphere?
There have been two clear highlights – and rather than choose between them, I’ll say both.
Firstly, our occupancy level. We have managed to keep the building well ahead of target over the months, which has been a great early success to build momentum. And the tenants we have managed to attract are innovative job-creators.
Secondly, The Biosphere won the RICS Social Impact Awards in recognition of the role our ecosystem will play in the local economy and society. This shows a lot of confidence in what our facility will achieve – a brilliant foundation on which we can build in the coming years.
Now you’re up and running, what is next for The Biosphere?
Our first 18 months have been a success in terms of establishing a physical cluster of businesses, so our focus moving forward is to continuing adding value for our tenants and attract more companies to join our community.
With Bionow, we’re crafting sector specific events for the benefit of our tenants. With local universities, we’re understanding the types of spin-outs likely to appear in the near future and ensure our offer to them is attractive. With Newcastle’s economic development team, we’re exploring how we can use The Biosphere to catch the attention of investors, graduates and expanding businesses to make sure Newcastle’s reputation as a hub of life sciences is maximised as much as possible.
If you’re interested in speaking to Luke about opportunities at The Biosphere, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org