EDITOR'S LETTER: Where science meets real estate

Office development is a big focus of the summer edition of PropertyEU, reflected not only in our annual ranking of the biggest builders of workspace in Europe but also in our site tour of two science parks in the Netherlands as we explore this nascent asset class. 

For this issue we bring you our proprietary annual league table of the largest office developers in Europe and put things into context for you with a commentary on the major trends influencing them. As part of the theme, we also turn the spotlight on life science parks.

This sub-category of real estate is practically shunned by other real estate magazines, perhaps because owners of these assets are often public bodies such as universities.
But private real estate capital is keen to collaborate and/or get a piece of the action given trends playing into the growth of medical and life sciences.

It is a fascinating – if nascent – real estate sub-sector but one that people believe will see an explosion in activity. This is why you see the likes of JLL and Cushman & Wakefield hiring Europe specialists in the field.

In this issue we report on the state of the market, which is basically that the UK is the capital of European science parks but that the whole of Europe has yet to mimic the US.

The UK might be the biggest market, but another European hotspot is the Netherlands. So, we sent our reporter Dominic Gover into the field (literally and figuratively) to visit two of the country’s leading parks.

Dominic uncovers a fascinating thread. The Netherlands sees Brexit as a chance to attract global life science companies, but there are challenges. Demand is there, but some science parks do not seem ready – they do not all have the funky work & live facilities required to attract and retain top university grads, start-ups, world-class medical research companies and international brands. This is why some are developing new facilities such as residential blocks and leisure property. At the University of Leiden’s science park, for example, a Chinese company is developing apartments.

It gets political though. The Netherlands wants to benefit from things such as the relocation of the European Medical Agency from the UK. At the same time, the Dutch have one of the best healthcare systems in the world and it is felt by some that there is a contradictory message coming out of the government as it seems to be questioning issues around medical pricing and the national system’s sustainability.

At the very top of this, the EU is struggling with a delicate balance between encouraging science and innovation while keeping medicines and health products affordable for everyone. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out in the real estate investment world.

Robin Marriott, Editor-in-chief

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