A new report published in June this year, confirms the Babraham Research Campus as one of the leading lights in the UK when it comes to delivering a supportive ecosystem to enable the commercialisation of life science research.
The Campus has long excelled at providing the right mix of access to specialised start up and scale up space, shared environments and world-class science-led facilities; coupled with the softer - but no less important - elements of facilitating collaboration and nurturing networks to bring scientists and entrepreneurs together with investors and mentors. It has until now however, been difficult to quantify the impact of its activities in a more evidence-based way. Research led and completed by an academic team from the University of Cambridge has now provided the evidence of that impact and the insights deliver an exceptionally positive picture.
Report context and objectives
Commissioned by the Campus partners, Babraham Bioscience Technologies (BBT), the organisation which develops and manages the Babraham Research Campus, UKRI-BBSRC and the Babraham Institute, the objective for the research team was to identify and capture a comprehensive evidence-based understanding of the scientific, economic, and social benefits arising from the development and public investment in the Babraham Research Campus.
The research team was led by Cambridge Economic Associates (CEA) and comprised the Cambridge University Centre for Business Research (CBR), Cambridge Econometrics (CE), Savills and Professor Lisa Hall, Professor of Analytical Biotechnology, Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, the University of Cambridge.
The insights gained will inform the future development of the Babraham Research Campus, in addition to providing an evidence-based understanding of the overall contribution the Campus makes to the Cambridge and wider UK economy.
Serving a niche in the UK innovation system
The Babraham Research Campus specialises in supporting the creation and development of life science ventures in the early stage of incubation, with ambition to scale to an Initial Public Offering (IPO). The uncertain viability of these types of companies makes them far less attractive tenants to more commercially orientated science parks, and often the standard commercial science park offering of shell and core buildings on long leases lacking a scientific and entrepreneurial community is unattractive to the young ventures and their investors.
The Babraham Research Campus proposition of access to specialised start up and scale up space; shared environments and world-class science-led facilities within a stable and supported community has enabled these organisations to flourish, which in turn has led to faster growth in the life science sector in Cambridge.
Its ability to provide this ecosystem, with the support of UKRI-BBSRC, enables the Babraham Research Campus to fulfil what is otherwise a largely unoccupied niche in the UK innovation system.
Making an impact locally, nationally and internationally
Locally, the Campus has (and continues) to make a significant contribution to the Cambridge high-technology and commercial property market, through the provision of its specialist start-up and scale up space on lease terms that cater to the needs of early stage companies.
The importance of the location is not lost on the companies which choose to locate there. Over 75% of the companies based on Campus, who were surveyed as part of the research project, considered their location at the Babraham Research Campus as either a ‘very important’ or‘critically important’ factor in helping them access laboratory and office space on flexible and affordable terms.
The evidence also suggests that the support structure provided by the Babraham Research Campus is a key factor enabling these companies to make an impact across local, national and international ecosystems.
To put this into context:
There is also evidence that the attractiveness of companies based on the Campus to life science and other investors has increased over time.
Attracting commercial investment and deal flow
The research showed that the Babraham Research Campus has played a central role in facilitating the fundraising activity of Campus companies. More than two-thirds of companies surveyed regarded their location on Campus as having a degree of importance in facilitating their fundraising; in addition to helping them access flexible, affordable lab and office space.
The ownership of the majority of the Campus companies surveyed has also become more dispersed during the last five years. These results highlight the fact that companies on Campus have been able to attract funding from a wide range of international and leading life science and technology investors including the IP Group, SV Health Investors, Morningside and Medixci Ventures and many global corporate fund venture investors such as Merck Ventures, SROne (GSK), Novartis Ventures and Pfizer Ventures. These investors have supported Campus companies at different stages of their growth, from seed financing to Series B and C rounds and on to IPO.
Fundraising by the largest Campus companies has been further facilitated further by the University of Cambridge, primarily through its commercialisation arm, Cambridge Enterprise, in addition to Cambridge Innovation Capital, a preferred investor for the University. Slightly over a third of the companies derive directly from research from the University of Cambridge. This suggests that early-stage entrepreneurial activity comes from a wider local and regional base.
Collectively, these insights point to the key role the Campus plays in attracting large commercial investment into the wider Cambridge life science cluster
Supporting and developing the Cambridge Innovation System
Successful innovation requires interaction and collaboration between business and institutions. The Babraham Research Campus successfully acts as a conduit for this activity, enhancing interaction both through the provision of its own accelerator programme (Accelerate@Babraham) and by supporting other soft-landing programmes that shape business development and facilitate access to funding from a variety of sources.
The contribution of the Campus in the provision of new start-up and accelerator space particularly was widely acknowledged and it was felt that it was overcoming constraints in the provision of space and facilities. Its ability to enhance the flow of funds going into life science companies was considered to be very extensive, particularly in attracting funds from Research Councils.
The Campus’ significant contribution across a number of additional areas was also highlighted, including;
The Campus was considered to be making a strong contribution to the overall Cambridgeshire sub-region and UK Life Sciences, particularly in generating jobs, enhancing the sector skill base and increasing the global impact and value from UK science. It compared very favourably with other UK campuses.
An environment ideally positioned to support life science entrepreneurs
The evidence presented throughout the report clearly confirms that the Babraham Research Campus provides a strong contribution to both the commercialisation of life science research, and the life science knowledge base; enabling entrepreneur driven businesses to form (including new academic spin-outs) and facilitating collaboration.
Companies based on Campus clearly value and actively choose the location as one which facilitates growth and enables them to attract and retain talent, as well as being part of a unique community within which the speed and scale of their activity is expedited.
In conclusion, the report evidenced that considerable value can be realised by well targeted public sector investment in life science, which is an extremely important sector to the future economy and society. Given the tangible data presented within the report, it therefore doesn’t feel like an exaggeration to say that the Babraham Research Campus really is at the forefront in supporting the UK’s early-stage bioscience enterprise…if not Europe.
*Report data collated in 2019 covering the period 2011-2018.
Please explore the Executive Summary, Full Report & our round-up film via the links below: