Oxford Properties Group (“Oxford”), a leading global real estate investor, asset manager and developer, and Pioneer Group, the UK’s first nationwide company to combine laboratory development and operation with venture building, have launched plans to convert Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square, central London, into a state of the art life sciences hub. The project has secured full planning approval and Oxford and Pioneer Group have also announced that Victoria House will be the new home of the BioIndustry Association (“BIA”), the trade association for UK life sciences.
Increased venture capital activity, funding and support from the UK government, including the recently announced £650 million “Life Sci for Growth” package, as well as wider investor interest into life sciences research and development, continue to spur occupier demand. The project will deliver meaningful new supply of best-in-class lab space to the London market amid a critical shortage of commercially available lab space in the city, which, according to the latest research from Savills, has reached functional full occupancy with a sub 1% vacancy rate as of Q1 2023.
Victoria House is a Grade-II listed building, which boasts a neo-classical façade with internal Art Deco features. It was designed and constructed in the 1920s for its former owner-occupier the Liverpool Victoria building society and served as its as head office until 1996. Oxford and Pioneer Group plan to convert 220,000 sq ft of the building’s 300,000 sq ft internal area into Grade A state-of-the-art wet lab-enabled life sciences space. The cutting edge development will have customer wellbeing and sustainability at its core, with the project on track to achieve BREEAM ‘Excellent’ certification and targeting an EPC A energy rating.
The property’s floor-to-ceiling height, internal infrastructure and scale of the floor plates mean it is well suited for conversion. The completed property will seek to support an ecosystem of occupiers ranging from start-ups in designated incubator spaces, to larger pharmaceutical companies as well as firms supporting the life sciences industry. Victoria House will also feature 80,000 sq ft of office, amenity, meeting and retail spaces to provide an exceptional employee experience for end users, highlighted by heritage meeting rooms, an eighth floor club lounge and a roof terrace overlooking central London.
Victoria House is in a prime location within London’s Knowledge Quarter in the immediate vicinity of the King’s Cross life sciences hub. It offers close proximity to several world-renowned universities, hospitals and medical research centres including University College London, GSK and Great Ormond Street Hospital. Its location gives Victoria House a true competitive advantage versus London’s existing life sciences space and immediate development pipeline, which is predominantly in edge-of-town and fringe locations.
With conversion works underway, the first phase, which includes 190,000 sq ft of lab-enabled space including a fully fitted incubator and grow-on space, is due to complete in Autumn 2024. This gives the project an important early-mover advantage with the vast majority of new London life science projects not expected to be delivered until at least 2026. This new supply will be delivered against a backdrop of what the recent LabTrack report by Gerald Eve concluded was “critically low” levels of lab-enabled workspace. The report concluded that low levels of available lab space in London was forcing some occupiers to look beyond the capital.
Abigail Shapiro, Head of Life Sciences & Residential, Europe at Oxford Properties, commented: “The conversion of Victoria House is a unique opportunity to deliver one of the largest life sciences conversion projects in Central London to date. We will give this iconic building a new lease of life by creating state-of-the-art lab space through a highly sustainable redevelopment which avoids the environmental impact of a new-build scheme. Given Victoria House’s central location and proximity to many educational and medical establishments, as well as investment capital targeting research and development in the sector, it provides the perfect ingredients for the creation of a new life sciences hub. By converting the space, we gain significant speedto-market advantages to deliver critically needed lab space, all in a building and location that will provide an exceptional employee experience.
The lease to BIA, the voice of the UK’s life sciences industry, is an important validation of our vision that Victoria House will become one of the preeminent life sciences hubs in London, and we look forward to working with Pioneer Group to achieve that goal.”
Richard O’Boyle, CEO of Pioneer Group, added: “This announcement is an important milestone for our plans with Oxford Properties at Victoria House. London is a renowned global life sciences hub and together we look forward to joining and supporting the local community by not only meeting growing demand from life sciences organisations that seek the ideal combination of amenities and location to attract talent and drive the future of scientific discovery, but also by creating strong, long-term relationships with local organisations working to maintain London’s unique identity as a major player on the international stage. Victoria House will be a premium offering which help further our goal of helping homegrown and international businesses solve the greatest unmet medical and healthcare needs of our time.”
Steve Bates, CEO of the BioIndustry Association, commented: “The UK has a prominent life sciences sector which is developing extraordinary science and delivering world changing products and services that will be transformational to our future lives. I truly believe that this innovation and pace is only sustainable if you create a stimulating and nurturing environment where companies at all stages of development can meet, network and collaborate. The aims of Victoria House and for the London life sciences sector are very exciting, which is why I wanted the BIA to be based there. The space is fantastic and the advantages it offers to the UK industry is going to be incredibly attractive to start-ups and established companies alike.”
Oxford and Pioneer Group’s Life Science Experience
Active in the life sciences industry since 2017, Oxford’s global life science business has grown across the top-ten North American life science markets, the UK and continental Europe. Its life sciences portfolio encompasses 8 million square feet of completed properties, conversion projects and ground-up development and includes R&D labs and GMP facilities. Since the start of 2021, Oxford has completed approximately £2.5 billion of life sciences investment and secured a further £4 billion of follow-on development opportunities.
Oxford’s initial European life sciences focus is on opportunities located within the London-Oxford-Cambridge ‘Golden Triangle’ and in Paris. Oxford made its first investment in the sector in Europe in May 2021, with the acquisition of 310 Cambridge Science Park, followed by the acquisition of Biocitech in Paris in November 2022 in partnership with French developer, Novaxia. In London, Oxford has been selected by Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation to deliver the development of its 300,000 sq ft Snowsfield Quarter site in London Bridge alongside Reef Group.
Pioneer Group’s operating asset base consists of more than four million square feet of highly leased office/laboratory and manufacturing space in key locations in the UK and Ireland, including Nottingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dublin. The company delivers the most comprehensive suite of accelerator and venture building, helping founders to transfer cutting-edge discovery into visionary ventures that scale. Pioneer Group’s in-house team supports start-ups and scale-ups and works in partnership with organisations such as Innovate UK AbbVie, Astellas, Academic Health Science Networks and many of the UK’s leading universities.
Pioneer Group also backs game-changing, early-stage life science companies with investment from its venture capital funds. Since 2015, Pioneer Group has supported over 80 early-stage ventures which have raised in excess of £200 million.
Oxford Properties and Pioneer Group have appointed CBRE and JLL as leasing agents. For enquiries or more information, please visit victoriahouselondon.com.