It is now two years since Discovery Park, a science and technology park in the South East of England, was established. Anna Stone is the park’s Leasing Manager and has been in post since its inception. Here, she shares her experience of the journey.
This week, Discovery Park celebrated its second anniversary and we held a celebration on site that was so enthusiastic I’d be surprised if the music wasn’t heard in the nearby town! Reaching this milestone is an incredible accomplishment. We have made it through an incredible journey over the course of two years, to become one of the most successful science and technology parks in the country.
As you may already know, Discovery Park came into existence in 2012 after Pfizer, who formerly owned the site, announced its closure. Discovery Park Ltd, a private consortium, purchased the park (which is aptly named in recognition of the many drug discoveries that occurred in the site’s labs, such as Viagra, Celsentri and Diflucan) shortly afterwards, determined to see the site realise its potential as a heavyweight in the science park industry.
Before the ink had even dried on the paperwork, I was en-route to Kent, having hopped on a train from my hometown in Teeside. Even though I was leaving equipped with my knowledge and experience of park facilities management, I knew we had a real challenge on our hands.
Our shareholders have a vision which is incredibly ambitious and long-term, but clear and concise; to create a tenant mix that offers a cohesive range of services, that operates symbiotically, but most of all, that life on the park has a thriving community feel.
With just five anchor tenants on the site – Pfizer, Mylan, Peakdale Molecular, Augean and Unilabs – we set to work straight away. With strong heritage, an on-site incinerator, waste water treatment plant, cleanroom facilities, a kilo lab and CAT 3 laboratories, we already had world-class facilities in abundance – we just needed to bring the site back to life and create a vibrant hub for the discovery, development, manufacturing and distribution of globally significant drugs.
On my first day, I encountered my first challenge: navigating the site without the use of GPS! Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer size of Discovery Park – it felt like a maze that threw new atriums and corridors at me with every turn. As we walked, I made a mental note of where I was going and how I could describe rooms and give directions to tenants to make life easier for everyone here. That’s hopefully what we’ve been spending the last two years working towards – making life easier for science and technology tenants to do what they do best: change the world.
To do our bit in helping them to achieve this, we’ve created a ready-made infrastructure of business utilities that are ready to leap into action whenever the need arises. We now have almost 100 tenants on site and 1,600 people, helped by our status of being an Enterprise Zone and the fact that we are able to offer flexible terms and ideal office space. We’ve attracted a whole host of business and enterprise companies to Discovery Park and now have a community with accountants, IT specialists, lawyers and solicitors, marketing professionals and just about every other service that our science tenants could need.
We quickly realised a few months into our journey that Discovery Park is unique in its location at the gateway to Europe, as well as being just an hour away from London. We started receiving enquiries from international and European companies interested in locating to the site. This led to new tenants setting up headquarters at the park, such as Genea Biomedx, IVF specialists who, having arrived from Australia, are our furthest migrators.
It’s been an incredibly successful two years and as Leasing Manager, it gives me great pride to see the incredible transformation that Discovery Park has undertaken to be able to offer this unique site to the science community of the UK. Our journey continues and if this blog has piqued your interest, I’d be happy to share the story of our history and our plans for the future with you in more detail.