How do you transition a single let science park to a multi let science park

Colworth Park has been a centre for R&D excellence since Unilever first acquired the site in 1947. The unique setting offers the ideal combination of proximity and access to Britain’s top universities, expansion space for growing businesses, and beautifully landscaped grounds, which together serve to foster innovation on-site.

Today, Unilever remains a core presence at Colworth, with the Park hosting c. 600 of their research staff split across three divisions including Safety & Environmental Assurance, Refreshments R&D and the Strategic Science group; but most recently, Unilever has sought to open the Park to other occupiers, recognising the benefits of building a community of like-minded science and business occupiers. Palmer Capital & Wrenbridge also recognised the potential and benefits of diversifying the mix of occupiers on site, and acquired the Park in June 2014 to continue the work initiated by Unilever.

Managing the transition from a single occupier site to a thriving, multi-tenanted science park is challenging, and Palmer Capital & Wrenbridge believe that collaboration with Unilever has been key to its success so far. One of the first steps taken at Colworth Park, has been build a strong relationship with Unilever, to understand their business, to benefit from their knowledge of both the site and the science sector, in order to position themselves to successfully identify and capitalise on the pull factors to the Park.

Additionally, early on Wrenbridge & Palmer Capital took the significant step of appointing a new Facilities Manager. Parkserve has already been instrumental in delivering efficiencies and cost savings at Discovery Park, the former Pfizer site at Sandwich, Kent, another Palmer Capital investment. On large sites such as Colworth Park, it is critical that excellent services are delivered to tenants whilst keeping costs under control. This strategic decision has resulted in immediate cost savings across the site, while improvements to the catering and conferencing provisions run by Parkserve have also strengthened the offering of on-site facilities, which has facilitated tenant retention and the attraction of new occupiers to the Park. The team have also focused on building a sense of social cohesion among the tenants, fostering knowledge-sharing through social events organised at the Park’s extensive sporting facilities, which includes a cricket and tennis club, football and rugby fields along with a 9-hole golf course. All of this work is focused towards developing a strong community at Colworth, something that the Park’s Business Development Director, Keith Purdie, is passionate about. He commented that “bringing the tenants together at Colworth is vitally important to the success of the Park. By forging strong links between individuals & businesses at Colworth, we’re able to share successes and best practices, as well as provide guidance and support when needed”. He added that “to effectively build a community, we need to develop a deep understanding of our tenants and their businesses. If we know them well enough, then the introductions that we make will have a real value for all parties.”

Aside from building a community at Colworth Park and providing cost-effective services, Palmer Capital & Wrenbridge have recognised the needs of early stage R&D companies, which require flexible accommodation for rapid growth. Significant capital expenditure has been committed to diversifying the space offering on-site, with new lab & office space being fitted-out and let on competitive, flexible terms. This strategy is already bearing fruit, and the team are seeing existing occupiers now committing to longer terms on newly-delivered space within the Exchange Building. Ewen McLeod, Director at Wrenbridge said “we are seeing growing demand from occupiers at Colworth Park and from outside tenants seeking to locate at Colworth Park, and one of our successes has been our proactive approach to refurbishing space to meet this demand”. He added “continued capital injection is vital to meeting the demands of a high-tech sector and been instrumental in us agreeing longer lease terms, which will drive capital value at the Park”.

So, as the community grows, and links become stronger, what does the future hold for Colworth? Undoubtedly Unilever remain a significant tenant on the Park, and their approach to Open Innovation will bring further Food & Drink research-related occupiers to the Park, However, change is happening on site with an increasing number of other occupiers. Plans are already underway to replace 30,000ft² of new office and lab space over the next 12 months, and to double the number of businesses on the Park within two years. In the longer term, Wrenbridge are looking at innovative ways to bring educators and employers closer together at Colworth, and to use the Park as a showcase for food manufacturing technology. The sky is the limit for Colworth Park.

To discover more about Colworth Park, and the opportunities available, please contact Business Development Director,

Keith Purdie, on +44 (0) 1234 867126, or visit www.colworthpark.com.

Author: Anne-Marie Keane, Associate Director at Palmer Capital