A 100,000 sq ft life sciences, technology and innovation building could replace the former Debenhams store in Oxford.

The Crown Estate has partnered with Oxford Science Enterprises and Pioneer Group to provide lab space in the region with an investment of around £125 million.

The partnership has a long-term ambition to invest up to £1.5 billion to support the UK’s science, technology and innovation sectors.

A lack of suitable space, especially for early-stage businesses, has been identified as a key barrier to growth for the UK’s science, technology and innovation industries, especially in supply-constrained locations such as Oxford.

The city is the third most intensive science and innovation cluster in the world and is ranked second globally for life sciences research.

Subject to planning, construction at the former Debenhams site will begin next year, with the lab space due to be fully operational by 2027/2028. The site will provide high specification space to meet the needs of Oxford’s fast-growing science, technology and innovation sectors.

The partnership between The Crown Estate and Pioneer Group also has the potential to expand beyond Oxford to other regions.

Dan Labbad, chief executive of The Crown Estate, said: “Science, technology and innovation are vital growth sectors for the UK as the nation looks to cement its position at the forefront of innovation globally.

“To realise this goal, the sectors must be supported with mission critical partnerships that bring together venture capital and expertise in asset management and property investment, matching the immense talent and ingenuity of the companies that are growing at pace.

“This partnership represents our long-term commitment to supporting national and regional growth and we hope others in the industry will also come together and continue to invest in sectors that are of significant value to the UK.”

Ed Bussey, chief executive of Oxford Science Enterprises, said: “The UK’s science and technology sector is full of promising businesses with the potential to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges, but they often struggle to access the right lab or start-up space – which can be a significant barrier to entry for companies as they scale up.

“As a key player in Oxford’s innovation ecosystem, we’re proud to partner with The Crown Estate and Pioneer Group to support entrepreneurs and companies working at the forefront of the UK’s science superpower strategy.

“This collaboration will ensure the next generation of pioneering life science and technology companies have the necessary space to grow their operations in the heart of Oxford and continue to export world-leading research from the region to the world.”

Richard O’Boyle, executive director of Pioneer Group, said: “We are thrilled to partner with The Crown Estate and Oxford Science Enterprises, two industry-leading organisations, on this pioneering initiative.

“Our joint effort will not only transform the former Debenhams site into a leading life sciences hub but also deliver extensive developments throughout Oxford. This collaboration will create a central nexus for scientific innovation, supported by our accelerator and launch programs aimed at empowering science entrepreneurs. With the UK’s largest network of life science experts, cutting-edge labs and robust support systems, we are poised to redefine industry standards and foster a vibrant scientific community.

“This is just the beginning of a far-reaching and impactful partnership that will enhance innovation across our existing locations and beyond.”

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