Posted by Oliver Stainsby

Posted 10 December, 2019 OBI BLOG

The NHS is once again the topic of hot debate, being thrust centre stage in the General Election with
various promises tabled by the respective parties. There are no doubt strains and challenges ahead for our beloved health system, the intrinsic detail of which will be thrashed out and scrutinised in the coming months, whatever the electoral outcome.

Sat here with my glass ‘half-full’ and not wanting to delve too deeply into the challenges of the NHS, I see great opportunity for Leeds to become a powerhouse in the healthcare and innovation sector.

Leeds is already a major hub for health and innovation, home to major national health bodies such as NHS England, NHS Digital and NHS Leadership Academy. The presence of these organisations, alongside other key public health sector bodies and three world class universities makes Leeds and the wider city region a beacon in this crucial sector.

Given the aforementioned strains on the NHS, there is a real drive to deliver innovation and efficiencies in the health system. Leeds looks set to lead the way on these initiatives with funding continually set to be allocated to the region over the coming years: £450m has been recommended for approval to facilitate two new state of the art hospitals within Leeds’ Innovation District, with delivery anticipated by 2025.

A further £233m will be allocated to develop healthcare technology supporting the work of existing centres of excellence, Leeds being one of only four centres alongside Oxford, Coventry and London with the local centres spread across the LGI (Leeds General Infirmary) in the Innovation District and St James Hospital on the outskirts of Mabgate.

The funding, should this be realised, partnered with the city’s ambition, will create a modern, sustainable and more efficient environment. Some of the older, now obsolete buildings, will be re-purposed and sympathetically refurbished. There is huge scope here to bring in health and science businesses requiring lab space alongside traditional office accommodation, the latter of which is sparse and difficult to retro-fit into traditional office environments.

Despite Leeds’ long-standing affiliations to the NHS there is not yet the scale and quality of bespoke accommodation as seen in Manchester’s Oxford Road Corridor which has seen in excess of 4.5m sq. ft. of commercial floorspace be delivered between 2008-2020 with a similar sized pipeline for potential future delivery. The success of this district is largely credited to partnerships between Manchester Science Partnerships, two Universities, NHS Foundation Trust and property partner Bruntwood. The designation of the Oxford Road corridor as an enterprise zone combined with the collaboration of key stakeholders has brought their ambition and visions to fruition and the area is now recognised as a world class, industry-leading innovation district.

Leeds’ Innovation District has the potential to follow suit and grasp the opportunity ahead. The desired clustering of hospitals, universities, public bodies, incubator space, SMEs and large corporate organisations is key to creating a thriving eco-system and ensuring maximum productivity, building on something that for the most part is already in-situ within the district. Nexus, a fantastic £40m purpose-built innovation hub connected to the University of Leeds has been delivered in response to increasing demand, providing office, lab and research space for business’ and an opportunity to utilise and partner with the talent of Leeds University. This district can capitalise on the anticipated growing demand within this sector and attract further inward investment, adding another feather in the cap of this fantastic city as it embarks on an exciting chapter of growth over the next five years.