The future economic success of the UK is tied to using science and technology to generate new business, according to a report titled “Bridging the valley of death: improving the commercialisation of research” made public last week by the Science and Technology Select Committee.
The “valley of death” refers to a disconnect between progressing science from laboratories to the point where it becomes a commercially successful business; or a product passes through the (slow and complex) stages of R&D to become fully commercialised.
Working in the eye of this very real storm is Kent Science Park, who works hard to nurture economic success in the field of science and technology at their Science Park in Sittingbourne. Innovators located on the Park face the daily realities of the ‘valley of death’, but unusually for companies in this sector, they have extraordinary, long-term, support from their landlord. Site Director James Speck commented:
“Innovators need more than just a lab and nice working environment to be a success, so the management team at KSP offers the support they need to get from lab to commercialisation as quickly as possible. We have designed a unique support package called KSP LaunchPad – a range of dedicated business services and advice for start-ups or SMEs, only available at the Park, including advice on intellectual property, law, financial management and in some cases access to funds. There is also bespoke financial assistance backed by the landlord, LaSalle Investment Management, who is prepared to invest in science and technology businesses who have robust business plans and want to grow.”
The report outlines concerns raised by the committee regarding the lack of access small firms have to large scale testing facilities and, more worryingly, why so many R&D companies are snapped up by foreign investors with the subsequent job creation and wealth going overseas. James spoke about the work being done at Kent Science Park in relation to this:
““The select committee report has reinforced that the future of the UK economy is inextricably linked to the development of cutting edge science and technology, and highlighted the importance of a long term strategy rather than short term investment gains.
“We champion all business here at Kent Science Park and try to accommodate research and development companies by understanding their objectives and paths to commercial success. In some cases KSP financially shoulders the initial cost of creating bespoke laboratory space for a new or even an established business and spreads this cost over the duration of their lease. Therefore the initial outlay, especially for a small firm, can be significantly lower, freeing up more of their short-term cash and resources into getting their business off-the-ground or to the next stage of development.
“We’ve seen real successes from scientific start-ups on the Park. For example, Ecologia started onsite with just two employees – they now employ more than fifty. Another example is AbBaltis, who joined us about 18 months ago – since relocating to KSP they have started to grow their small workforce and increased their turnover from £10,000 to a profitable £200,000.
“What all this demonstrates to a foreign investor or large corporate is that there is real, tangible support from Kent Science Park to keep the knowledge, business and the jobs in the UK.”
James also spoke about how one of the Park’s tenants – Flexible Lab Solutions, had made it easier for companies to access costly laboratory equipment:
“Flexible Laboratory Solutions joined KSP in 2011, as a spinout from Pfizer. Their business is rare in the marketplace as they allow companies to rent expensive lab equipment for fixed term contracts, which saves businesses from having to spend capital on buying the equipment outright, in part addressing the concerns of the Commons Science and Technology Committee regarding access to experimental production facilities.”
For more information on how Kent Science Park is helping scientific businesses to get started, with the aim of bridging the valley of death outlined in the report, please contact a member of the team.