Takeways from attending UKREiiF
Last week I attended the second UK Real Estate & Investment & Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF) in Leeds along with more than seven thousand visitors. Agents, developers, investors and council leaders gathered to discuss the issues facing the industry and the Science & Technology sector was well represented in the panel discussions. With this in mind, I thought I would share with you the big takeaways from the event; in particular, the seminars I attended focussed on science, innovation and the built environment.
- Lord Johnson, the Minister for Investment kicked off the event reiterating Chancellor Jeremey Hunt’s ambition for the UK to become a science and technology “superpower”. Throughout the three-day event, very few seminars failed to mention Government Policy, the Planning system and Net Zero.
- Last week I attended the second UK Real Estate & Investment & Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF) in Leeds along with more than seven thousand visitors. Agents, developers, investors and council leaders gathered to discuss the issues facing the industry and the Science & Technology sector was well represented in the panel discussions. With this in mind, I thought I would share with you the big takeaways from the event; in particular, the seminars I attended focussed on science, innovation and the built environment.
- All of the discussions I attended touched on the levelling up agenda and how the benefits of this could reach the local community more quickly than other sectors had in the past. The key advantage of this would be increased messaging around science, which would raise interest and subsequently makes it possible to shape education, beginning in primary school, leading to the creation of future science entrepreneurs.
- Many commented on the increased need for a coordinated national effort and regional strategy in the UK, since this would improve the sector’s outcomes. Along with regional clusters improving their varied specialisms, this would enable the UK to compete more competitively on the global stage.
- It was remarked that the UK has fallen behind other nations in this field, being particularly good at fundamental science but lacking in its commercial application. We are well on the way to closing this gap, but right now are still acting reactively evidenced by establishing labs retrospectively in response to demand.
- Investors are aware of the excellent science and research being conducted on a macro level and so a national map is now taking shape, rather than all the focus being just on the golden triangle region. Numerous cities including Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Norwich, and Lincoln, all establishing their respective specialisms, were mentioned throughout the seminars. It was encouraging to learn that North American funds are very interested in the UK, considering our research to be world-class and that we serve as an excellent gateway to the rest of Europe.
- On a more targeted level, potential investors are looking for a story on how education and private industry are collaborating to encourage investment. As an operational-led building type, they need to incorporate all aspects of the triple helix model to ensure that the development is successful; you can’t just build them and expect to attract occupants.
- There are some major hurdles that we must overcome in the upcoming months, just like in every sector of the industry. Smaller-scale urban manufacturing will be possible as healthcare shifts from chemical to cell and gene medicine, but with AI’s impact on speeding up the race to market, science is moving faster than construction, pushing the need to build in flexibility and quick decision-making from key stakeholders.
- Sustainability and net zero were rightly key discussion topics, raising the immediate query of how to build in flexibility whilst also meeting ever-increasing environmental targets. It was noted that a lot more thinking, innovation and knowledge sharing was needed on this as it was high on occupiers’ and investors’ agendas.
- Another issue was how to deal with the large levels of carbon and energy used by buildings in this industry. Maximising use was one response along with the proposal to refurbish existing stock wherever possible and make use of distressed assets, with the retail sector presenting some very real and diverse opportunities.
- On the whole, interest in the sector continues to be very high and, when asked for their opinion, all the speakers felt very positive about the future prospects of the sector.