Discovery Park worth £324m a year to UK economy

A report into the economic impact of Kent’s largest community of science and innovation companies suggests Discovery Park is estimated to be worth more than £324 million a year to the UK economy.

The value is thanks to the combined efforts of the 160 companies and 3,100 employees at the Sandwich site. A further 900 contractors were employed at the science park during the last year, and an estimated 1,840 jobs are supported elsewhere as a result of the activities of the Discovery Park-based companies.

Welcoming the news during a visit to Discovery Park, Cllr Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council, said: “The report confirms Discovery Park’s place as one of the county’s most important economic drivers.

“With some 14,600 STEM undergraduate and postgraduate students at the county’s universities, it is important that we do everything to retain these skills in Kent.

“The commitment to promoting collaboration between the companies on site and the county’s colleges and universities is a model of good practice that we should highlight and encourage others to consider in strengthening Kent’s skills base and improving productivity.”

Of the jobs on site, 57% are involved in life sciences, health and social care, technology, information and communication companies. A further 9% work in manufacturing and engineering, plus 10% in construction, development and facilities management, and 13% in professional services.

Mayer Schreiber, CEO of Discovery Park, said: “The report recognises the work we have done to promote innovation and provide business support for our companies.

“We have successfully helped open doors to funding opportunities, made high-quality laboratory and office space available, and nurtured the STEM skilled workforce of the future.

“Our mission is to become a world-leading science park. Many of the companies based here are driving improvements in healthcare through innovation and collaboration, and we are determined to play our part in creating the right conditions for growth.”

Demand for laboratory and office space remains strong. A £6m investment in a flexible laboratory facility, offering spaces from 250 sq ft to 3,000 sq ft, has proved popular with companies eager to set up and then scale-up, without the need to relocate as they expand.

Funding for startups and scale-up businesses remains a challenge for the country’s science community. Since it launched Discovery Park Ventures, the early-stage life sciences fund, it has invested in six high-potential businesses. The companies are involved in manufacturing, digital and AI, cell and gene therapies, synthetic biology and neurology, including ophthalmology.

An important element of Discovery Park’s success has been achieved by helping companies grow on site by focusing on skills development. The Skills Hub, a partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, EKC Group, Pfizer, The Stem Hub and the University of Kent, is helping tenants to offer further training to their workforce, as well as helping them to find new talent and retain existing people to drive their businesses forward.

Discovery Park recently became home to one of the country’s 30 Barclays Eagle Labs offering co-working and incubator communities for start-ups and scale-up companies. Based in Innovation House, it helps entrepreneurs and ambitious businesses innovate and grow, with a focus on collaboration between the life sciences and technology sectors.

The 220-acre science park has also been identified by the government as a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone, with established links to academia and a thriving scientific community.

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