The Crown Estate and Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE) have formed a partnership with real estate developer Pioneer Group to build a laboratory facility in Oxford city centre.

The project represents an initial investment of around £125m (€146.5m) by The Crown Estate, marking the start of a partnership that has a long-term ambition to invest up to £1.5bn to address the lack of suitable real estate and community infrastructure for the science, technology and innovation sectors through mixed-use regeneration and development.

The partnership said it will transform the former Debenhams site into approximately 100,000sqft of life sciences space. 

The Crown Estate acquired the long leasehold of the former Debenhams site from DTZ Investors, with a total investment of around £125m including the purchase price and projected capital investment in the building.

Subject to planning, construction will begin next year, with the lab space due to be fully operational by 2027/2028.

Oxford Arial

Source: The Crown Estate

The city of Oxford, UK

The partnership between The Crown Estate and Pioneer Group also has the potential to expand beyond Oxford to other regions, supporting future science, technology and innovation growth nationally.

The Crown Estate is investing where it can have the most meaningful impact in addressing areas of national need, meeting local challenges and realising opportunities, the real estate owner said.

Dan Labbad, chief executive at The Crown Estate, said: “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, CEO at Oxford Science Enterprises, said: “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 at Pioneer Group, said: “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.”

Ben Haller, director at DTZ Investors, said: “Ahead of the sale, DTZ Investors acted to help de-risk the development for the buyer with an array of technical due diligence reports alongside secured power upgrades to the building.

“We are excited by the prospects of being aligned to this new opportunity and look forward to seeing the transformation.”

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