A ’Mega’ and ‘Giga’ Warwickshire
Warwickshire's renowned position at the forefront of innovation and technology has been further underlined by a series of recent developments which have triggered significant commercial property development in the county. Ian Flynn, WCC's Inward Investment Manager (Automotive, Advanced Engineering & Manufacturing Lead) explains...
The Warwickshire area continues to innovate and lead the way in new technologies and this is driving trends in commercial property development, carving out a unique niche for the county and its local area. July 2021 saw significant further significant developments.
Leamington Spa was chosen by the UK Government as the base for a new national large or ‘Megalab’ for testing. Officially opened in July, the new facility, known as the Rosalind Franklin laboratory, will use cutting-edge technology to process COVID-19 tests and detect new variants and new mutations, and is a centrepiece of the UK's NHS Test and Trace network.
The Megalab forms part of the new UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which will set out priorities to manage the virus, with technology including automation, robotics and LGC EndPoint PCR (EPCR) testing workflow, able to process up to 150,000 tests each day.
The Rosalind Franklin Laboratory also aims to create and upskill scientists with a programme of training, creating up to 1,500 jobs when fully staffed, and over half of the staff coming from within 30 miles of the site.
At the other end of Warwick District, July also saw the submission of a planning application for a new battery ‘gigafactory’ or ‘giant’ factory capable of manufacturing at a scale of one million watt-hours (a giga-watt) or more per annum . The plan was submitted by joint a venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport Limited and will ensure the site is ready for investment and can become operational quickly, making it significantly more attractive to potential investors.
The plans provide an analysis of the economic benefits of a Gigafactory to the West Midlands. The proposals could deliver 5.7m sq ft of space for both battery production and recycling, would add £434m in GVA to the regional economy each year, as well as create 6,000 new jobs and tens of thousands more in the supply chain. The proposals also confirm that the Gigafactory will be powered by 100% green energy,
The proposals, which were first announced in February this year, are set to be determined by Warwick District Council and Coventry City Council later in 2021.
July also saw the Prime Minister visit Coventry & Warwickshire for the official opening of the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) at Baginton, also in Warwick District on the edge of the city. The state-of-the-art national facility has been developed to support UK industry with development of battery technologies for future electrification. This will support the UK’s ambitious climate change targets, which includes achieving ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050 and, for the automotive sector, an end to the sale of petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.
The pioneering £130m 18,500sqm facility can be used by any organisation working on batteries for electric vehicles, rail, aerospace, industrial and domestic equipment and static energy storage, who can benefit from finding out whether their advanced technologies can be scaled up successfully before committing to the huge investment required for mass production. The facility employs more than 80 battery technicians, engineers, and support staff, with plans for that number to grow to support future project partnerships with industry and research organisations.
In addition to funding from the Faraday Battery Challenge through UK Research and Innovation, UKBIC is also part-funded through the West Midlands Combined Authority. The project has been delivered through a consortium of Coventry City Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and WMG, at the University of Warwick. UKBIC was created in 2018 following a competition led by the Advanced Propulsion Centre with support from Innovate UK.
These national centres of excellence follow on from a pre-pandemic £1bn pipeline of R&D focused commercial property in Coventry & Warwickshire, recently developed or under construction. This included the £500m Jaguar Land Rover Product Development Centre at Gaydon and Battery Assembly Centre at Hams Hall, Coleshill, and the new global HQ and development centre for aerospace giant Meggitt at Prospero Ansty.
Warwickshire has also benefited from the pandemic e-commerce bounce in the commercial property sector, which saw 16% more logistics space leased across Europe in 2020 over 2019, according to data from property consultancy JLL. Locally in the last 12 months we’ve seen major investments from Wincanton into Nuneaton, moving to the former Soak.com site; meal kit maker Hello Fresh opening a second UK site, the largest in the UK and third largest in Europe, at Bermuda Park, Nuneaton; ready-to-go food maker Glencore opening a further UK delivery hub at CORE 42 in Dordon, North Warwickshire; and an announcement from Chinese company Winit of a new 300,000sqft centre at St Modwen Park, on the border with Tamworth.
Since 2011, new business parks in Warwickshire such as Ansty Technology Park and Prospero Ansty, Birch Coppice and CORE 42 in North Warwickshire, Redditch Gateway and Tournament Fields in Warwick have brought new brands to the area and created over 10,000 new jobs. These have included major new logistics hubs for Ocado, Amazon and Euro Car Parts, the UK’s first purpose-built EV factory at Ansty and the announcement of the largest out of town office development during the pandemic by Cadent Gas with their new 90,000sqft consolidated HQ at Prospero opening in 2022.
Future growth will be delivered by new sites coming on stream at Stratford-upon-Avon (Stratford 46), MIRA Southern Manufacturing Site (North Warwickshire), Symmetry Park (Rugby), Faultlands Farm (Nuneaton) and SEGRO Coventry Gateway.
Coventry & Warwickshire enjoyed a strong year for FDI (foreign direct investment) in the year to 2021, bucking a UK fall of 12% with a local rise of 10% in successful projects. These included investments from Lotus and Rimac at Wellesbourne Innovation Centre, BSA/ Classic Legends which has established a design and development centre in Coventry, REE Automotive and Britishvolt at MIRA Technology Park, outside Nuneaton, and games developer Electric Square which has set up a studio in Leamington Spa.
The new megalab, UKBIC and the Gigafactory, once developed and opened, will provide new opportunities to create start-up businesses, as well as resilience and expansion in existing supply chain, and further inward investment from overseas.