The new owners of Alderley Park have today shared their vision for the future of AstraZeneca's former R&D site, which they say will see the site support over 7,500 high value skilled jobs.
Manchester Science Parks (MSP) shareholders were joined by local, regional and national business and community leaders at a celebratory launch event held today at the site.
Manchester Science Parks, who with majority shareholder Bruntwood acquired the 400 acre site in March, revealed its ambition to maintain top quality bioscience as the cornerstone of its commercial strategy.
MSP praised the investment record of previous owners AstraZeneca, and set out how the state-of-the-art research facilities at the site will be adapted to a new business model, where a community of businesses would specialise in different aspects of the drug discovery chain, working in a campus environment to encourage collaboration and the sharing of risk.
Chris Oglesby, Bruntwood CEO and MSP Chairman, said: "Through our acquisition of Alderley Park, we have a unique opportunity to create a diverse innovative community of bioscience businesses which is internationally respected for the quality of its work and as a sustainable business model. With our partners and the community of exceptional scientists who choose to remain at the Park, we will build a flagship for a vibrant life sciences industry in the North of England."
The vision for Alderley Park to remain at the forefront of bioscience innovation is supported by MSP's public sector and academic partners, including the two Manchester universities, Manchester, Salford and Cheshire East Councils, and the Central Manchester Foundation Trust.
Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice Chancellor, The University of Manchester, commented: "I am delighted to see the progress that has been made in ensuring the future of Alderley Park as a site of outstanding science. This has been achieved through excellent collaboration between the partners who are here today."
Former owners of the site, AstraZeneca, will continue to have a presence at Alderley Park, with over 700 employees retained on site and has pledged a £5m contribution to the 'Alderley Park Springboard Fund' that will be used to support new businesses starting up at Alderley Park.
MSP will also contribute £5m to the new Fund, and is optimistic that further contributions will ensure that it can play an important role in retaining and nurturing talent and enterprise at Alderley Park.
Cllr Michael Jones, Leader of Cheshire East Council, confirmed he is going to ask Cabinet to invest money in the Fund, which is initially hoping to raise £40m to be focussed primarily at start-up and early stage businesses.
He told alderleyedge.com "I am going to go away now and think about the number to put in, think about what's the value, talk to the officers and make a recommendation to Cabinet. I'll then make an announcement to Council.
"We are investing in new science that could keep people's lives long. We've got an elderly population this will allow it to grow and for people to live longer at home. We could maybe get rid of cancer forever, just imagine that and Cheshire East money could go into it.
"We won't invest unless there is a clear chance of getting a return though but I think it could become a revenue stream for us."
Cllr Michael Jones is also looking for the Government to invest "as much as possible" in Alderley Park.
Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President Innovative Medicines and Early Development, AstraZeneca, stated: "As we handover ownership of Alderley Park, we can look back with pride on the important role the site has played in our success. We are delighted that our legacy of scientific innovation stretching back many decades will be built upon by Manchester Science Parks, helping ensure the UK remains a global leader in life sciences."
George Osborne MP was a keynote speaker at the launch event and presided over the handing over of Alderley Park from Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President Innovative Medicines and Early Development at AstraZeneca to Chris Oglesby, Bruntwood CEO and MSP Chairman.
The Chancellor of Exchequer said "What you're doing here is vitally important. When AstraZeneca made the decision to create a new R&D centre in Cambridge and to sell Alderley Park I immediately recognised, as did many others in this room, the potentially devastating consequences for this area and that's why we went straight away in to setting up the Task Force, engaging with the company and bringing forward this strategy.
"The key decision we took was we wanted not only wanted to secure the long term future of Alderley Park but also the development of a strong life sciences cluster in this part of the country and together I believe we've risen to that challenge and I really welcome the scale and the ambition from Manchester Science Parks to create a world class bioscience campus here.
"There is already a cluster starting to emerge within the existing bio hub incubator with an incredible 61 companies created on the site so far*. It is a fantastic start but that's all it is - it is a start. It already exceeds our own expectations but obviously there's still a lot to do to secure the future of this site as a great centre for science in the North West and I'm very excited about the plans we have and I give a commitment, not only as your local MP but on behalf of the Government to do absolutely everything we can to support your work here and turn this into a really bright part of Britain's scientific future."
Speaking about Pfizer's potential bid for AstraZeneca, George Osborne added "Our overriding national interest is securing good jobs and good sites in Britain, manufacturing and science jobs. We will support whatever arrangement best delivers that for Britain and I regard it as a key part of my job to engage with and meet the management of AstraZeneca and Pfizer to secure Britain's economic interest.
"I think it's a huge error of judgement for anyone who cares about British jobs and British science to turn down the chance to engage with AstraZeneca or with Pfizer. It means putting politics above Britain's national economic interest, I will not do that. The Government will not do that because if you're not even in the room or on the end of a phone call what chance do you have to put British science and British jobs first."
When asked about how much housing forms part of the plan for the site, Chris Oglesby said "We're currently in the process of master planning the site here. We've acquired this site to create a world class bioscience centre and that's the key driver but there is more to delivering a world class bioscience centre than just the bioscience facilities here and we'll be consulting with the local community, working up that master plan to establish what is the best way to deliver that world class bioscience cluster."
Cllr Michael Jones added "If you want the science centre to be as good as it can be then we've got to be open to enabling housing. We're not in the process of destroying this wonderful environment, you can be sure of that, and my members who represent the area are passionate about it, but we've got to be realistic. Jobs are vital for this country, we're still coming out of recession and enabling housing we will look to support."
At the end of the presentations John Patterson, Nether Alderley resident and former director at AstraZeneca, asked "We've heard a little about housing, but nothing specific, would you like to comment about the Green Belt? For most of the local residents the Green Belt is sacrosanct will you keep it that way?"
Chris Oglesby responded "We will be engaging very shortly with local residents on our plans and we recognise that the physical beauty of this site is one of its key attractors and it's vital that we maintain that."
Cllr Michael Jones added "We are not going to allow the Green Belt to be encroached unless it's the absolute last real opportunity we have and here there no need for it. You don't need to go anyway near the Green Belt to develop what I consider to be enabling housing. You can have that assurance from me."
* Of the 61 companies currently located on site, 5 are new companies created by former AstraZeneca employees.
Photo: (l-r) Chris Oglesby, Mene Pangalos and George Osborne.