Harwell Campus recognised by Government as a world-leading location for life sciences

Announced today by the Office for Life Sciences, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus has been designated as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone, which is awarded for a 10-year period. Harwell, already a world-renowned science and technology campus, is now one of only seven locations in the UK [six announced today], and the only one in Oxfordshire / Thames Valley, to hold the title. The announcement further underscores the role of the Campus as a national hub for health and Life Sciences research, and a launch platform for companies looking to grow in the UK.

Introduced in 2016, through the  Life Sciences Sector Deal, the Government has created a small number of specially designated ‘Zones’ in the UK with the purpose of promoting UK Life Sciences capabilities.  The Government will work with Harwell Campus to attract inward and foreign investment, establish trade agreements and promote the Campus as a world-leading location for companies to establish themselves.

Successful bids had to prove that pioneering work was already being undertaken in the field of Life Sciences, that strong infrastructure was in place and that growing physical laboratory/office space to host new organisations looking for a UK home was possible. Being fully committed to education and collaboration were also essential to being awarded Zone status.

Making the announcement today, Life Sciences Minister Nadhim Zahawi commented “The UK is home to one of the strongest, most vibrant health and Life Science industries globally, with discoveries and improvements in health diagnosis transforming people’s lives. Collaboration is vital to growing this sector.”

The news comes as Harwell announces the new figures for its HealthTec Cluster. Now with 58 organisations, collectively employing 1,250 people. The Cluster is centred around £2billion of open access National Physical Laboratories, including the Diamond Light Source, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, Central Laser Facility, as well as new the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre and Rosalind Franklin Institute.

Research and commercial work spans everything from drug discovery, including fragment screening, AI-enhanced drug design, vaccines, vectors and advanced medicines, through to environmental impacts on human health, biomaterials and ageing. This work is underpinned by globally unique multi-modal imaging expertise and capabilities in structural biology, genomics, big data analytics, super-computing, and satellite enabled digital connectivity.

“The Campus continues to evolve in order to meet the nation’s technological and health challenges. The Life Sciences Opportunity Zone designation will be a key driver for future growth in Oxfordshire and along the M4 corridor, creating jobs and contributing to UK GDP.” said Dr Adrian Hill, STFC-UKRI lead for the HealthTec Cluster at Harwell, “I’d like to thank all our partners who worked with us over the past three years to build the reputation of the HeathTec Cluster and helped secure the designation.”*

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership said: “Today’s announcement is excellent news for Oxfordshire. Given Harwell Campus is one of just six new zones to be announced, it’s again a clear example of how we can be at the forefront of a globally-facing UK economy, helping to secure significant investment and alongside this, also boost productivity.It also means we – as a county – can continue to enhance our international reputation of being at the forefront of driving forward innovation and finding real solutions to some of the world’s biggest health challenges.”

The news comes a week after the Government’s launch of the Nucleic Acid Therapies Accelerator  and the groundbreaking of the new Extreme Photonics Applications Centre, both at Harwell. “With the recent addition of these nationally important research facilities on Campus the Harwell HealthTec Cluster continues to see significant growth” commented Dr Barbara Ghinelli, Director of Clusters and Business Development, STFC-UKRI, “Now with the new Life Sciences Opportunity Zone designation, the cluster will attract more inward investment which will benefit the whole of the UK.”

Talking about the sector, Gordon Duncan, Partner, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus concluded “The Life Sciences industry contributes over £70 billion per annum to the UK economy and provides 240,000 jobs. Harwell Campus plays an increasingly important role at the centre of this sector.

“We have a unique platform here to help accelerate research and innovation around the country, taking applied research and turning it into commercial outputs using state of the art technologies and applications – this is unparalleled across Europe.”

With a rich heritage and proven track record of Life Sciences world firsts, Harwell Campus is where the Medical Research Council set up its first Radiology Unit in 1940, Dr Mary Lyon discovered the X-chromosome inactivation in 1961 and where in 2012 a non-invasive biopsy technique was discovered at the Central Laser Facility as a viable option for diagnosing breast cancer.

*Partner organisations supporting the Harwell Campus bid for Life Sciences Opportunity Zone status were:

  • The Diamond Light Source
  • The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership
  • University of Oxford
  • The Rosalind Franklin Institute
  • The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre
  • GSK
  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • The Electrospinning Company Ltd
  • Vertex
  • Oxford Nanopore Technologies Ltd
  • Medical Research Council
  • Public Health England
  • The Wellcome Trust
  • Oxford AHSN