A market full of occupiers at the leading edge of bioscience, robotics and many new wave technologies and one set to further benefit from enhanced connectivity between the city centre and out-of-town science and business parks.
There are renewed attempts to enhance the cohesion of the Oxford market by creating stronger public transport connectivity between the city centre and out of town science and business parks.
Central to this would be the re-opening of the Cowley Branch Line, which last took passengers back in 1963. The proposed reopening of the line, which could be as early as 2019, would link Oxford Business Park and Oxford Science Park to the city centre and Oxford train station in around 10 minutes. The economic value of opening the Chiltern corridor north to Oxford Parkway and Bicester is evident. The real benefit of enhanced train connectivity is reducing dependence on the car and the resulting congestion. Furthermore, this would be a key element of a wider transport initiative that could ultimately lead to the redevelopment of Oxford’s main railway and the creation of an East-West rail link with Cambridge.
Oxford’s academic pre-eminence has shown considerable commercial teeth over recent years. The establishment of the university’s own innovation fund - Oxford Sciences Innovation – has sought to create an infrastructure and environment supportive of knowledge-based spinoffs. The fund searches Oxford’s Math, Physical, Life Sciences, Medical Sciences, Computer Sciences and Engineering divisions to spot opportunities for commercialisation.
To date it has raised over £600m to support more than 40 companies in fields as diverse as drug discovery and cutting-edge machine learning. This is an important development in the context of the Oxford real estate market – essentially creating a pool of local, knowledge-intensive and potentially high-growth occupiers in the market.
The emergence of Science Vale in the south Oxford market, badged the UK’s home for scientists, entrepreneurs and innovators has created a knowledge based industry cluster, located midway between the M4 and Oxford and supported by local authorities in the area.
Its aim is to build on the research talent within the area to create one of the most significant commercial knowledge based clusters in the world. Science Vale amounts to 216 hectares of development land spread across seven distinct locations. It benefits from two designated Enterprise Zones – Science Vale Oxford and the Didcot Growth Accelerator.
Particularly encouraging is the fact that the area is synonymous with emerging, new wave technologies. For example, Science Vale has recently been designated the first place within the UK to host fully autonomous vehicle trials.
Oxford’s historic city centre, the nature of which has restricted significant development, means the office and laboratory market remains driven by the out-of-town science and business parks which have the available sites to deliver the high quality office space that occupiers demand.
Over 200,000 sq ft of Grade A accommodation is being delivered through speculative developments at Milton Park, Harwell and Oxford Science Park, although much of this space is anticipated to be committed at practical completion due to pent-up market demand.
Whilst the out-of-town science and business parks will continue to flourish with demand from spin-outs from Oxford University and the R&D cluster which surrounds it, the next generation of product for the city will be led by the regeneration around the city centre sites, including Oxpens and Osney Mead, which will also help spur further rental growth.