Innovation In Kent
Kent can provide the right environment, the best skills and the perfect networks for business innovation to thrive. Our county nurtures talent, giving businesses at all stages the support and space to grow with a rich and diverse skills base, extensive expertise, and strong international connections.
A History of Innovation
2022 marks 70 years since Pfizer first established operations in Folkestone to create the base compounds for life-saving medicines in the UK market. This was followed by a new research facility at Sandwich that would become famous as a world-leading centre for pharmaceutical research.
The company received three Queen’s Awards between 1979 and 2001 in recognition of the work carried out at facilities in what is now known as Discovery Park, including the creation of tropical treatment Mansil, anti-inflammatory medicine Feldene and sexual health drug Viagra.
At Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne, two blue plaques celebrate the life and research of Nobel prize award winning scientist Sir John Cornforth for his contributions to science in Kent including his work on developing penicillin during the Second World War. In 1975 he was joint winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for research that would eventually lead to the development of statins used to control cholesterol levels in humans, lowering the risk of heart disease.
A Global Reputation for Excellence
From agricultural research to life science research and sustainable green technology, Kent is a place where brilliant ideas realise their potential – and garner the world’s attention.
Pioneering work includes the development of a new variety of strawberry at Agri-tech research centre NIAB EMR, creating more sustainable and efficient growing methods and reducing the need for imports. NIAB EMR is also working in partnership with leading UK vineyards, including many Kent producers, using the site’s scientific expertise to support the country’s rapidly growing viticultural sector. It will result in the UK’s first viticultural research centre opening here in Kent.
New health treatments using the properties of venom or research into molecules that encourage the immune system to fight disease; new hormone monitoring technologies with the potential to revolutionise women’s health. These are just a few examples of the vast range of cutting-edge work taking place here in Kent. Industry focused universities are also providing the catalyst for the next generation of innovators in the county from research into the potential of Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality to advances in food production, health technology and advanced manufacturing.
An Innovator Ecosystem
Pfizer remains the largest tenant at Discovery Park, Sandwich which since 2012 has developed into a thriving scientific community. In the last year alone more than 10,000 sq. ft of laboratory space taken up last year by businesses involved in life sciences seeking high quality laboratory space. Other key tenants on site include leading UK contract research brand Concept Life Sciences, part of Malvern Panalytical; the European headquarters of fertility research company, Genea Biomedx and biotech research company Centauri Therapeutics.
2022 will see the launch of a new incubator for science SMEs in the iconic Building 500 at Discovery Park. This will deliver 50,000 sq. ft of laboratory and write up space over two floors of a building which was at the centre of Pfizer’s research operations at the turn of the millennium. It will offer flexible laboratory, write up and office space for innovative SMEs involved in drug discovery, cell and gene therapy, digital health, manufacturing and MedTech. Discovery Park has also launched the Reactor Initiative, providing eight weeks of coaching and mentoring to help innovative SMEs scale up their business.
Kent Science Park in Sittingbourne has major ambitions for growth, including proposals for an extension that would add 100,000 sq., metres (100 hectares) of commercial space to the site. Awarded the UKSPA Best Life Science Research Facility in South East England in 2016, Kent Science Park is now part of the We Are Pioneer Group, a £450m network of 10 science parks across the UK. GW Pharmaceuticals, awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise for its work developing cannabis based medicines is among the business located at the site.
Opportunities To Grow
A £9.5 million Innovation Centre at Kent Medical Campus in Maidstone will provide 37,000 sq. ft of office space, facilities and business support for SMEs working in the life science, health care and med tech sectors, located off junction 7 of the M20. Plans were approved in 2019. They will join KIMS Hospital, Kent’s largest private hospital and mental health service provider Cygnet Healthcare on site.
Work has also begun at Rochester Airport, home to defence technology company BAE Systems, of the new Innovation Park Medway. The £15 million investment will create a new world class business park for leading technology and science firms with the first buildings set for completion in late 2023. Once complete it will add 60,000 sq. m of commercial space to this important strategic location.
Both Kent Medical Campus and Innovation Park Medway are part of the North Kent Enterprise Zone where businesses can access a range of benefits including business rate relief. It is part of a range of financial incentives available to businesses that locate in Kent, including the Kent Life Science Fund managed by Kent County Council.