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Oxford in top 10 of global cities for life sciences, new report finds

Oxford in top 10 of global cities for life sciences, according to new report by Savills
Aerial view of Milton Park in Oxfordshire in 2019

Property agency Savills have ranked the top 20 cities for life sciences, based on their human capital, investment into health and R&D, the flow of funding into the cities, their openness for business, lifestyle indicators, and property costs in each market.

The new report shows that the United States is the dominant player in the industry, particularly in terms of size and funding volumes and cities in the United States claim the top five spots in the Science Cities rankings, led by Boston. However, European cities, including Oxford and Cambridge (at numbers 9 and 10 respectively), perform well in the analysis, especially given their comparatively smaller populations and lower VC investment.

Paul Tostevin, Director of World Research at Savills, said: "While US cities dominate, led by Boston cities in China, the UK, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, France, Singapore, Australia and Ireland are all major players."

Life sciences is a knowledge-intensive industry. For life sciences firms, the linkage between universities and industries is a critical source of new talent and new ideas. For this reason, universities, and their prowess in the life sciences field are a key component of the Science Cities index.

The leading universities in life sciences are concentrated in the US and UK. Of the top 20 highest ranked universities for science, 14 of them are found in our Science Cities. The first ranked is Harvard. Located in Cambridge, Greater Boston, it is well known for supplying top scientists and doctors in the US and worldwide. Second and third in the global rankings are the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the UK.

With world-leading research providing the ideas and talent to develop ground-breaking new technologies, Oxford also operates as a global powerhouse for clinical trials. The city received the highest VC funding for the UK in 2020 at $611 million and averaged over $26 million per deal. Notable companies in Oxford's life sciences sector include the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), Oxford Nanopore, Oxford BioMedica, Agilent Technologies.

These cities, large and small, compete for business, which is now no longer the preserve of out-of-town campuses. And it is not just costs that are the driving factors for where top scientists choose to live and work. Lifestyle plays a large role in the appeal of any city, and the talent working for the top research institutions will undoubtedly consider lifestyle factors in any relocation decision.

For scientists, researchers, and technicians, ‘green commutes’ to work such as walking and cycling, the cost of living, low crime, good air quality, among other factors, all matter. Cities that score well in the lifestyle category tick all the boxes and offer good walk and cycle scores, clean air, low crime, high numbers of international schools, and a low cost of living.

The challenge for the real estate industry is around supplying property that meets the particular requirements of occupiers in this space. The delivery of labs, incubator and R&D space through to major headquarters will enable critical facilities to operate and grow without interruption.