Minister opens new facilities to boost bioscience business at Babraham

Minister opens new facilities to boost bioscience business at Babraham

Minister opens new facilities to boost bioscience business at Babraham

Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, opened new bioscience facilities for business start-ups at the Babraham Research Campus today. The new building is part of on-going development at Babraham following investment to deliver innovation from the research base, generate economic growth and to create and support new companies and jobs based on world-leading bioscience.

The Minister officially opened a new Bioincubator building, Moneta, funded as part of the £44 million BBSRC project announced by Government last year - an investment in capital infrastructure to support bioscience innovation. Moneta, which is already over 50% occupied, offers businesses access to capital equipment, provides small, flexible laboratory space and allows companies to be part of a research driven campus.

Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts said, “Thanks to recent investment Babraham is expanding and nurturing biomedical companies. The new facilities at the Moneta building will allow world-leading academics to rub shoulders with business, driving innovation and helping commercialise research.” Moneta adds to the extensive facilities on one of the UK’s leading innovation campuses. Babraham’s heritage supporting early-stage enterprises has so far attracted 5 new companies to Moneta with 5 campus companies expanding their operations from smaller facilities on the campus.

One of these is Cell Guidance Systems, founded in 2010, which focuses on stem cells - developing and manufacturing reagents for life science research and bio-manufacturing. CEO Dr Michael Jones, explained, “The hurdles to starting a biotech business are much higher than for most other business. Even the smallest company needs a lot of infrastructure. Babraham Research Campus provides an ideal environment for our company to grow. The interaction we get with neighbouring companies and academics here is a real bonus.” During the visit, the Minister also cut the turf at the site of a new follow-on laboratory, which will equip campus with an additional 20,000 sq ft of laboratory and office space. These new premises will accommodate a diverse set of companies throughout an intermediate stage; early-stage companies will be able to draw upon the facilities and expertise at the Babraham Institute in order to grow and ultimately to create high-quality new jobs.

Professor Michael Wakelam, Director of the Babraham Institute said, “We are delighted to show the Minister the progress that we are making to support economic growth here at Babraham, a research-led campus that builds on the world-leading BBSRC-funded research of the Babraham Institute. As a leading hub of life sciences innovation in the UK, the Babraham Research Campus plays a key role in supporting early-stage biomedical enterprises, while also helping to attract inward investment. These new facilities will enable us to build on our current strengths and support the life sciences industry in both the region and the UK.”

While visiting the Campus, the Minister also highlighted £250M funding that will ensure the UK’s bioscience research base remains globally competitive and at the forefront of meeting the grand challenges faced by society in the coming decades. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has allocated the strategic investment that includes 26 strategic science programmes and 14 key national research capabilities, to be delivered by eight of the UK’s world-leading bioscience research institutes and their university partners. £37M has been allocated to the Babraham Institute, including a Strategic Program Grant to improve understanding of immunology.

This will have important implications for supporting healthy, longer lives as the population ages. “We are delighted that this funding award will continue to support world leading, strategically relevant bioscience research at the Babraham Institute,” Professor Michael Wakelam added.

Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive, said, “By almost all measures the UK has the world’s best bioscience research base. BBSRC’s strategic funding of institutes with distinct missions and unique national facilities is one of the reasons we achieve this. However, being the best doesn’t mean much unless you make a difference in the world. Through their close links with industry and policy makers, and through engaging the public, the institutes are at the forefront of translating fundamental bioscience into products, services and advice. “This investment is a major commitment to realising the potential of a bio-based economy in the UK. This is only possible through a sustainable, excellent fundamental research base with the right people, skills and facilities.”

George Freeman MP for Mid-Norfolk and Government Life Sciences Adviser commented, “We face an urgent challenge of global sustainable development.  Explosive growth of population and emerging economies in the developing world creates urgent problems of food security, public health and clean energy.  There is a massive demand for new technologies in the three key 'life sciences' of Biomedicine, Cleantech and Agri-science.

Today's announcement of £250m of new funding for the UK Bio-economy is a historic shift in the development of a new Industrial Policy for Science and Innovation. With today's massive vote of confidence in Babraham and Norwich Research Park as world-class life science clusters, East Anglia is set to become the bio-economy capital of the UK." The Babraham Research Campus is currently home to 35 early-stage life science companies. With this latest development, the campus will offer over 100,000 sq ft lab/office space, a hub of innovation in the greater Cambridge Biocluster. This ‘follow-on’ laboratory building is the first of four new research buildings at The Babraham Research Campus.

Other developments at the site include improved infrastructure, including roads and utilities, and a new composting facility, underscoring the commitment at the campus to sustainable environmental practices. Cllr Nick Wright, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for planning and economic development, said, “This investment is a huge boost to the area and shows how important South Cambridgeshire science and innovation businesses are nationally. I am delighted how quickly our planning team has granted permission for the first building, which has been possible by taking a can-do proactive approach. Residents and businesses have asked us to help develop the economy, and teams across the Council all have a part to help achieve this. On top of the work by our planners, we have already launched Cambridge Plus, a new website to help existing businesses and encourage new ones to the area.”  

Media Comment

£250m investment in new UK bioscience facilities ITV News 24th May 2012
UK bioscience industry gets £250m cash boost from government BBC News 24th May 2012
Life sciences share £127m government grant BBC News 24th May 2012
Researchers in the East awarded £168m biosciences grant BBC News 24th May 2012

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Notes to Editors:
About the Babraham Institute:
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £450 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, health and well-being and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.