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Discovery Park leads the way for Kent as science hub

Posted on 09/02/16

The newly created North Kent Enterprise Zone is being inspired by Discovery Park, the business estate based at the former Pfizer site in Sandwich.

More than 2,400 people are employed at 125 companies on the location. It is a significant number, given the fact that 2,400 people worked there before US drugs giant Pfizer announced it was scaling back its operations in Kent in 2011, costing hundreds of jobs.

According to Discovery Park managing director Paul Barber, a simple philosophy is behind the success.

“Word has got out around the scientific community that science works better in times of collaboration,” he said.

“Back in the day, it was so secretive but now people realise that was prohibitive.

“If you show more of what you’re doing with your so-called competitors and they share their information with you, then you achieve more progress together.

“That doesn’t happen everywhere but does at Discovery Park. We are finding a lot of science companies are arranging their meetings themselves without us, which is great.”

One such group is BioGateway, which was launched last summer with the aim of connecting Kent’s life-science community with similar groups internationally, such as FlandersBio in Belgium.

BioGateway chief executive Imran Khan said:

“We have been set up to help firms irrespective of whether they are a small business or a big corporate, whether they are at the idea stage, need help getting capital or getting a lab or finding talent.

“There is a really strong network of science companies in Kent. Big companies are coming here and taking note of what’s happening.”

One group feeling the uptick [county wide] is Locate in Kent, an agency that offers free advice to businesses looking to move to the county, or to expand their premises here.

The organisation has placed 20 life-science companies in the county over the past five years, and has another 26 such projects in the pipeline.

Chief executive Paul Wookey said:

“The life sciences industry is a key part of the science and technology sector in Kent.

“Historically, it has clustered around Oxford and Cambridge but in recent years the county has developed thriving science-centric locations such as Kent Science Park, Discovery Park and innovation centres supporting small technology companies.

“We now have the critical mass necessary to create a golden triangle stretching from Kent to Oxford and Cambridge for life sciences, thanks to infrastructure developments such as high-speed rail and road links to London and the Continent, and the spread of high-speed broadband.

“This will benefit the county as a whole, as the companies in this sector tend to grow quickly, the jobs they create are usually highly skilled, and the companies attract a high-quality workforce who make a positive contribution to the local economy, both at work and outside it.”

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