Stevenage MP visits thriving life sciences campus to help create future ‘STEM city’

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, visited the campus to hear at first hand how it is fast becoming one of the most significant life science clusters and the levelling up opportunities this could bring for the town.

The MP met with Adrian Hawkins OBE, Chair, Stevenage Development Board and Chair, Skills Advisory Panel, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, Steve Martin, VP and Head, Biopharm Discovery at GSK, Dr Sally Ann Forsyth OBE, CEO, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, and Dr Stephen Ward, Chief Manufacturing Officer at Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, on Thursday 27 January to hear about their shared vision for the cluster and the urgent need for a skilled workforce to support that growth.

The campus on Gunnels Wood Road comprises GSK, Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Innovation Centre and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst. It is central to the UK’s largest cell and gene therapy cluster and the third largest globally thanks to its clustering of R&D and manufacturing excellence and its proximity to London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Over the past year, the New Town has attracted considerable investment with:

  • GSK currently formalising the sale and development of 33 acres to unlock up to £400m in new investment and create up to 5,000 highly-skilled jobs, over the next five to ten years;
  • Reef developers transforming the former Marshgate town centre car park site into a £66m European Manufacturing Headquarters of Autolus;
  • North Herts College proposing to open its Stevenage Innovation and Technology Centre in September to help develop a local workforce to support the town’s fast growing life sciences and advanced engineering sectors located on Gunnels Wood Road;
  • £37.5m Towns Fund to support a package of measures to help communities to build back better after the pandemic;
  • A further £565k from the Government’s Community Renewal Fund to help realise Stevenage’s ambitions to evolve from a pioneer post-war New Town into a future STEM city.

Cell and gene therapy is one of the fastest-growing health and life sciences in the world, contributing around £74bn to the UK economy and a quarter of a million jobs per year. Stevenage is at the heart of this growth and has been designated a High Potential Opportunity location for cell and gene and a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone by Government. The total private equity investment in biotechnology raised in Stevenage is similar to that of Cambridge, Oxford and London

This exponential growth and scale of investment has led to an urgent need for a skilled workforce. According to a 2021 UK Cell and Gene Therapy Skills Demand Survey Report, the forecast skills demand nationwide for 2026 is 10,000 bioprocessing jobs, a growth of 151% from today. It states that ‘there is an urgent need to prioritise skills provision to continue the substantial growth of UK companies and for the UK to be a global leader in advanced medicine manufacturing’.

Stephen McPartland, Member of Parliament for Stevenage, said:  “It is an amazing facility and I remember laying a commemorative brick back in 2011 when we were originally building the site. It is still there alongside our hopes and dreams to make Stevenage the hub for these exciting new technologies and treatments. We have already come a long way with the support of over £200 million of Government investment and we are still just at the start as we plan even more rapid expansion to cement Stevenage’s global leadership role in this area.”

Adrian Hawkins OBE, Chair, Stevenage Development Board, and Chair, Skills Advisory Panel, Hertfordshire LEP, said: “I was absolutely delighted to welcome Stephen McPartland to this fantastic campus. No one who comes here can fail to be impressed at the scale of work being undertaken to support advances in the development and manufacturing of innovative therapies.

“We have an unrivalled opportunity to capitalize on that growth and create levelling up opportunities for our communities by developing a highly skilled local workforce that can service the sector’s needs. Central to this vision is the new 4,000sqm state-of-the-art Innovation & Technology Centre to be operated by North Hertfordshire College in partnership with key businesses to provide new training opportunities.

“This sector growth on our doorstep opens up tremendous opportunities for apprentices, graduates, those already working in the sector who wish to relocate and those outside of the sector to retrain. With a focus on lifetime skills, this will have a very positive impact on the town’s regeneration and help us to realise our ambition to make Stevenage a future STEM city.”

Dr Sally Ann Forsyth OBE, CEO at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst (SBC), said: “There are around 40 companies in the SBC community, including many life science start-ups. Together, we currently support over 1,000 jobs locally and contribute £65m to the Hertfordshire economy. The campus provides many high-quality jobs for the local community as well as apprenticeship and training opportunities for school leavers and people looking to build on their existing skills. By 2040, there are expected to be over 3,000 jobs at SBC-based companies and £196m contributed to the local economy.”

Steve Martin, VP and Head, Biopharm Discovery at GSK, said: “Our global R&D hub in Stevenage is a key location for GSK in developing our pipeline of vital medicines. Our scientists here are focused on the science related to the immune system, the use of human genetics and advanced technologies, aiming to discover transformational medicines for patients. We welcome the opportunity to work with local partners and are extremely excited about the plans to develop one of Europe’s largest life science campuses in Stevenage.”

Matthew Durdy, Chief Executive Officer at Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, said: “The support of stakeholders like the local community represented by Stephen McPartland MP is essential to our success. The exciting collaborations with industry partners within and around our Stevenage Manufacturing Innovation Centre make Stevenage a global hub of CGT innovation. We have seen increasing national and international investment in our facility in Stevenage, with companies drawn not only to our state-of-the-art manufacturing innovation capabilities, but also to the continuous efforts in developing highly skilled local workforce. We are excited to continue to work with the Government, as well as the local community, in supporting the enormous growth in the UK CGT industry, developing a skilled UK-ATMP workforce through the Advanced Therapies Apprenticeship Community (ATAC) and Advanced Therapies Skills Training Network (ATSTN) initiatives.”

Note to Editors

Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership
Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is part of a network of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships across England. They are business led partnerships between local authorities and local private sector businesses.  They play a central role in determining local economic priorities and undertaking activities to drive economic growth and job creation, improve infrastructure and raise workforce skills within the local area.
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