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From out-of-town science park to urban neighbourhood


Nicol Dynes talks with Edinburgh BioQuarter’s Interim Programme Director Anna Stamp, as published in Real Assets magazine.

“ This is a really exciting time for Edinburgh BioQuarter,” says Anna Stamp. “ There’s very much a new chapter in front of us and we have a shared vision of what we want to achieve.”

The district’s foundations are already strong, she adds, as it’s an advanced health, research, teaching and discovery hub with world-class facilities. Now the goal is to go further and to combine economic growth with the regeneration of the local area.

“ It’s really about unlocking the BioQuarter’s full potential and transforming it into Edinburgh’s health innovation district and a global destination for health-focused innovators and entrepreneurs who share the ambition and the vision of the four partners.” 

It is a new vision for today’s world, she emphasises: 20 years ago to find an innovation economy workers had to drive miles to a secluded suburban business park, where they would work in isolation and drive home again.

“ Today people want to be in an urban context and want to work in a place they can walk to or travel to by bike,” she says. “ They want to bump into other people, to be near other businesses, research labs and universities and create relationships that will lead to smart ideas being turned into new products. Innovation districts are becoming cool spaces where people can live, learn, work, discover together.”

This is why Edinburgh BioQuarter is going through this transition from out-of-town science park to urban neighbourhood, a place deeply integrated in the social fabric of Edinburgh. It will have residential real estate, shops and cafes, hotels and nurseries, supermarkets and restaurants to create a sense of community as well as a buzzing collaboration hub.

“ What we envisage is a mix of people and businesses,” Stamp says. “A real vibrancy bringing in the residential, and becoming a seven-days-a-week living environment, which you don’t traditionally get in science parks which tend to be more 9 to 5, five days a week places.”

To make this vision reality, the intention is to undertake a public-private partnership, EBQ5, that will take forward the development. “A new board will oversee the ownership and stewardship of the BioQuarter while continuing the culture of collaboration, sharing and working together across the district,” Stamp says.

Diversity and inclusion are a key part of the project: “We intend to reach out to all the local communities with both local skills and education, job opportunities and facilities, in order to have all the key ingredients a thriving innovation district requires.”

Wellbeing is equally crucial. The plan includes a goal for a carbon neutral future and good quality public outdoor spaces to promote walking and cycling, but the district will also be accessible by public transport from all parts of Edinburgh.

“We want to have strong connectivity with all our local communities, in the centre and in the periphery. We want them to visit and to use the BioQuarter and feel they belong.”

Article written for Real Assets Insight Magazine and published in the October 2020 edition (Pages 18 – 21)