University of Southampton Science Park

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from University of Southampton Science Park is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

CEO Peter Birkett
The University of
Southampton Science
Park provides support for
technology businesses from
start-ups to industry-leading
Spanning 72 acres of grounds and home to 100 science
and technology businesses, the University of Southampton
Science Park supports a variety of businesses, from start-
ups to industry leaders. Linked closely to the university, the team
there works to help to convert academic research and innovative
business concepts into commercial success, providing the
support necessary to bring innovations to the market. CEO Peter
Birkett tells
The Parliamentary Review
about the need to bridge
the gap between founding capital and full investment and how
the government can support innovative businesses through the
provision of early stage capital.
We are the south of England’s home to successful science and technology businesses.
Closely linked to the research-intensive University of Southampton, we empower
disruptive organisations, from start-ups to industry-leading multinationals, to prosper.
At the Science Park, we work to achieve this by fostering a visionary,
entrepreneurial culture and by nurturing and empowering growth. We supplement
and support this by providing premium-quality office, laboratory and meeting
facilities in an award-winning, healthy and inspiring environment and by facilitating
collaborative working at all levels. Our own success is a direct result of building
a dynamic and engaged community whose influence extends far beyond our
»CEO: Peter Birkett
»Established in 1983
»Based in Chilworth,
»Services: Office and laboratory
space and business support
for science and technology
»No. of employees: Science
park companies – 1,130 /
Science Park team – 12
»The Science Park is home to
100 innovative companies,
from start-ups to multinationals
University of Southampton
Science Park
Highlighting best practice
The role of science parks
I believe that science parks have a
powerful role to play in reinvigorating
and fast-tracking the UK’s economic
progress on the world stage. Unlike
business parks, they are differentiated
by the value-adding business support
services they provide and their
commitment to facilitating growth.
As a fully commercial business, we
are leaders in the regional property
market, maintaining high occupancy
and consistently growing revenue
and profit – basic measures of a
We focus on quality, not quantity. We
emphasise authenticity and building
a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem,
as well as finding ways to nurture
innovation to give it a global launchpad.
We support companies at all stages of
development and create networks that
intersect and spark off one another to
spin off in new, uncharted directions.
Three significant challenges
Amid such success, we must also
recognise three significant challenges
that technology businesses – and more
broadly, the UK’s innovation sector
First, we must find ways to rise above
the inherent risks associated with
innovative technologies to help early
stage businesses to secure critical
founding capital. While recognising
that there is always uncertainty
involved in any commercial setting,
we encourage controlled, measured
risk-taking and work hard to mitigate
investment risks by enabling investors
to make measured judgements.
In essence, we improve the odds
for success by fostering the right
environment – one that is dynamic,
collaborative and supportive
throughout the business lifecycle.
Second, we must rebalance the tension
between the push of technology and
the pull of the market. A huge amount
of research is conducted throughout
the UK’s world-renowned universities,
but this often does not translate into
commercial success. This is because
research outputs are frequently
technologies looking for markets, and
the academic community often finds
it hard to find ways to package these
into products or services that customers
want to buy: sometimes it is simply too
early to find compelling applications
for ground-breaking research.
This suggests that world-class research
is not synonymous with world-class
innovation. Just five per cent of a
successful business is the technology
– the rest is knowing how to
commercialise it. Therefore, allowing
businesses that understand market
needs to lead research endeavours
could fast-track the innovation and
commercialisation process and balance
technology push and market pull.
Third, although large and small
businesses have their individual
strengths, there is a culture gap
between them, which inhibits effective
collaboration. Bridging this gap by
facilitating open innovation allows the
rapid uptake of new technology and
access to global markets. In this context,
science parks fulfil an important role.
They connect small, agile companies
brimming with emerging technologies
and new ideas to established companies
that understand how to take products
to market. Indeed, helping start-ups to
A hotbed of innovation
and research excellence
Helping start-
ups to think
big from the
outset is a key
part of our
work here
think big from the outset is a key part
of our work here. Fledgling companies
joining our Catalyst accelerator
generally do not have an investable
business plan, nor any notion of the
management team they will need to
build or how they will fund the process.
By the end of the programme, they
have a plan and roadmap that they can
take to investors and customers.
Bridging the gap between
founding capital and full
institutional investment
Policymakers have a key role to play in
tackling these challenges. Alongside
greater engagement with the business
community, they should work to make
it easier for high-growth potential
businesses to bridge the gap between
founding capital and full institutional
investment. The government, through
organisations like Innovate UK, needs to
focus on assisting companies deemed
too risky for conventional investors by
providing the early stage capital required
to extend product and market research
and therefore reduce investment risk.
Not unlike the human body, which
requires multiple organs to work
in harmony, globally successful
commercialised innovation needs
a multifaceted ecosystem that
encourages a wide range of different
players to come together.
A high-functioning science park such as
ours offers this. It is home to SMEs with
fresh ideas, multinational companies
with established credentials and routes
to market, research excellence from
world-class universities, sources of
funding, a local talent pool, experienced
mentors and specialised professional
service providers who are familiar
with the challenges that high-growth
companies face.
Whatever the future challenges, I am
convinced that science parks will play a
vital role in releasing the UK’s potential
for economic growth.
needs a
»Promega, a global leader in life sciences, has chosen the University of Southampton Science Park as the location
for a new UK head office. Having had a presence here since 1989, rapid growth and a doubling of revenues
meant that more space was required to increase the UK team of scientists and administrative staff.
»Utonomy is an early stage business that joined our Catalyst accelerator programme in 2016 (a second business
venture established here by its founder and CEO). Revolutionising and optimising gas distribution networks, the
company has rapidly secured multimillion pound investment and worldwide contracts.
»Fresh Relevance, experts in online retailing, recently received six-figure funding to accelerate its expansion
across the USA, explore market opportunities in new territories and extend its development team. A former
SETsquared Southampton incubation company, a significant factor in its impressive growth is the rate at which
it brings new features to market.
»FortisNet is a unique, collaborative, interdisciplinary network that brings academics, clinicians and commercial
organisations together to develop innovative solutions for musculoskeletal health: a growing global health
challenge as a result of increased life expectancy. It is an emerging cluster that reflects a regional strength that
is capable of worldwide impact.
»Symetrica, now a global leader in radiation detection, started out here. Although the company has now moved
to larger premises a few miles away, their success has had a ripple effect throughout our local community as
much as it has in public safety globally.
Science parks play
an important role in
fostering collaborative

This article was sponsored by University of Southampton Science Park. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.