The relentless demand for science and technology space in Oxford has grown by around 50 per cent in the last year.

Charles Rowton-Lee, head of commercial agency for Savills Oxford, told OxPropFest on September 14 that at the same event last year the huge growth in demand reported at the time has continued.

Chairing the first session of the day, he said: “This time last we were seeing unprecedented levels of enquiries for new space within the market, many from science, and certainly technology, and the sector has continued to grow exponentially.

“We were sitting looking at 1.5 million sq ft of demand for that type of accommodation and those of us of a certain age, who have been through the dotcom boom and other critical pathways in commercial property, were asking ‘was it going to go on?’, was it going to continue?’, and it has.

“Over the last 12 months we’ve seen the market continue to grow. We’ve now got over 2.3m sq ft of demand in a market where, historically, if we had had a requirement over 25,000 sq ft that would have been a good, exciting year.”

Skills and infrastructure to support the sector in the US were described by Douglas Cuff, vice president of UK Real Estate for IQHQ REIT.

He noted the contrast between fast growth in Boston, where there are 26 universities and colleges compared to Oxford’s two. But he suggested the universities sited between them on the Ox-Cam Arc were important.

He said: “You have great talent and patents will be filed. Ideas are going to be there but unless you have the skillset and the people behind that to fill the benches and do the work, where are they going to come from?

“So, when you look at why demand grew so quickly, it’s really about that talent – and it’s that secondary talent – that makes Boston so successful. It’s really a levelling up question.”

Steve Lang, director and head of office and life research for Savills, described research which asked scientists their preferences over workplaces.

He said: “Scientists were least satisfied, benchmarked against the office sector, around cost and length of commute.”

He added: “If you want that talent coming out of the colleges and the universities, it’s got to be easy for them to get to.”

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