The UK has a rich history as a centre for science and innovation, with its life sciences offering among the best in the world. The sector is a significant contributor to the UK economy and a major focus of the Government’s Levelling-Up agenda. But, with the majority of activity focused on the UK’s ‘Golden Triangle’ academic powerhouses in Oxford, Cambridge and London, how can other locations build effective life sciences communities and benefit from the buoyant investment market?
A different approach
Most science and technology parks have emerged and grown ‘organically’ from academic institutions, Government research facilities and the R&D divisions of major corporations. Now very much an in-vogue asset class, science parks provide an environment for knowledge-intensive businesses, from start-ups to all stages of maturity, to collaborate, innovate and grow.
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park sets out to take a different approach, drawing together a broad community founded on public sector sponsors and education institutions from the outset to harness knowledge and innovation in order to bring the benefits of economic growth to the local residents and wider City Region.
Located on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium in Attercliffe, the flagship athletics venue for the 1991 World Student Games, Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is the brainchild of former Sports Minister and Sheffield MP, Richard Caborn.
Once a thriving industrial area at the heart of the City’s world-famous steel industry, the Lower Don Valley has suffered years of economic decline.
Inspired by his role in bringing the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to London, and his involvement with Sheffield’s successful Advanced Manufacturing Park, Richard embarked on a mission to deliver a tangible legacy of whole-population improvements in health and wellbeing by bringing together expertise from academia, elite sport, the NHS, and public and private sector organisations.
Beyond elite sport
Burnished by a unique agreement with the British Olympic Association that makes it the only venue outside a host city to be permitted to use the name ‘Olympic’, Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is already home to well-established sporting facilities with an impressive track record in cultivating elite athletes, such as The English Institute of Sport Sheffield and iceSheffield. Icons such as London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill, world number one and London 2012 Paralympic silver medallist, Will Bayley, world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua, and former World Boxing Organization female flyweight Nicola Adams, to name but a few, have all trained at the Park.
The vision for Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is to build upon the benefits brought by these exceptional facilities to develop a diverse and active life sciences park focused upon health, wellbeing, sports and activity.
Since its inception in 2014 and January 2021, Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park has secured over £100m of investment to deliver several key projects, namely Oasis Academy Don Valley – a coeducational school which admits students between the ages of 2 to 16 years, UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, which specialises in computing, health sciences and sport science, and Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, a state-of the-art, research and design facility aimed at transforming lives through innovations that help people move.
In 2018 we acquired the Community Stadium site from Sheffield City Council and, in 2020, concluded a wider agreement with Sheffield City Council to deliver the next phase of the Park. The Community Stadium – incorporating 23,000 sq ft of business space – is due for completion in early 2022 and, in the first half of the same year, the Group will bring forward a masterplan for approximately 850,000 sq ft of commercial space across an 80-acre zone around the established facilities. This will completely transform the eastern quarter of the city into vibrant, world-class community for the health, wellbeing, sport and activity sectors, creating up to 5,600 high-value jobs.
Among the next wave of occupiers to have a presence on the Park is Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which has recently benefitted from the Government’s Levelling-Up Fund to deliver the National Centre for Child Health Technology; a ground-breaking facility that will deliver the world’s most advanced integrated healthcare system for children. Canon Medical Systems Europe is also due to start on site shortly with its new diagnostic imaging lab and research centre, providing a state-of-the-art research hub for product development including AI (Artificial Intelligence) that promises to transform the speed and accuracy of diagnostics for the NHS.
The community of businesses and the support that Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park provides for them are more fundamental to the creation of a life sciences park than the buildings themselves.
At the heart of the next phase of development will be an ‘Innovation Centre’ to support start-ups, scale-ups and SMEs in collaboration and innovation, as well as ‘Grow-on space’ for more established companies. Custom design and build opportunities for major corporates will also be available. Business space on flexible terms will be offered from Spring 2022 in the Community Stadium building.
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park will present occupiers with an exceptional and continually evolving working environment and innovation community to support and advance their businesses. Over the course of the next generation, the Park will deliver better healthcare outcomes, education opportunities, jobs, and economic growth, with a firm intention to be of national and even international significance while delivering benefits local and regionally.