6 questions for a successful biotech scaling strategy
We answer key questions on how a real estate strategy can help you attract talent and adapt quickly to your changing business needs
From biotech start-ups to global pharmaceutical giants, nearly every facet of the life sciences industry is experiencing unprecedented growth. But more so than any others, scaling biotechnology and biopharma companies are at a unique intersection of capital, opportunity and flexibility. And real estate is one of the key drivers that can power that business forward.
How? By allowing you to flex rapidly to answer growing or contracting business needs—and it can even help you attract talent. Having the right real estate, location and buildout strategy is essential to create life-saving therapies and make a positive clinical impact. Want to know more? Toggle through the questions and answers below.
We'll help you build a valuable real estate strategy that helps solve pressing human challenges, secure life sciences lab and manufacturing space that meets your organization’s needs while allowing for future flexibility, and build out an innovative space so your employees are most productive.
1. What can my company do to attract and retain the best and brightest talent?
Many scientists find the operating model of a scaling biotech company appealing, as they get to participate in breakthrough discoveries and share in the rewards. But in today’s hot talent market, it takes more to attract and retain the best and the brightest.
Real estate and facilities can help tremendously. Today’s top scientists and corporate talent want to work in an engaging environment with productivity enhancing features tailored to their needs—think next-gen life sciences lab space, dynamic office space, collaborative zones and shared conference rooms. Amenities such as fitness centers, cafés that serve healthy food, covered bike parking and even shower facilities can help support your employees’ wellbeing.
A lab space and R&D environment created for maximum scientist effectiveness can do more than help you attract and retain talent—it also can help create value and improve your bottom line. A 2020 study from Gallup found that highly engaged business units have more than double the odds of success compared to less-engaged counterparts.
And while the impacts of COVID-19 are still a reality, many scaling life sciences companies can benefit from real estate technologies that help connect talent regardless of location—telecommuting, workplace agility and continuity all go a long way to retain employees.
2. What should the top priority be when searching for a new space to fit my company's needs?
Whether you're seeking traditional life sciences space or non-traditional space to convert into life sciences space, you should consider, in order:
- Geographies/Markets: Established centres of research and innovation like Toronto’s Discovery District, and emerging markets like Mount Pleasant in Vancouver
- New areas within a single geography/market: If you wish to create a presence in the coveted GTA, finding a space within the Greater Golden Horseshoe rather than Downtown Toronto, such as Hamilton’s McMaster’s Innovation Park. This location may be more realistic while still offering attractive resources like university proximity and hub connectivity.
- Having the right foundation and renovation strategy. Life sciences employees such as scientists are especially discerning about their workspace, which means the space you expand into should heighten their experience and productivity so they can perform their best.
With demand for space growing and prices in these coveted markets continuing to soar, it’s important to think outside the box when finding space. For instance, larger biotech companies in these markets often sublease some of their space to generate revenue during uncertain economic times like today. For scaling biotechs, this is a valuable way to find Class A Space at a lower cost.
3. What location strategies should we consider for our R&D, office and manufacturing needs that take future workforce growth into account?
Overall location strategies that consider cost-effectiveness and innovative thinking are:
- Differentiating with unique amenities (e.g., fitness centers, green space, walkable neighborhoods, etc.), which helps improve recruitment efforts and, therefore, overall ROI of real estate investments in high-cost markets.
- Exploring locations in surrounding suburbs, which can prove to be more economical without abandoning the urban appeal of the most desirable markets. They also could be a suitable midway point for city-dwelling employees and those living much farther out from the city
- Widening their location search to include emerging markets such Vancouver, Montreal and the GGH, which typically provide access to less-costly space and experienced talent pools.
- Adapting your approach depending on the needs of your space, whether you are furthering R&D, prepping for manufacturing, collaboration, etc. Biomanufacturing location strategy will account for labor demographics and scalability. You may also want to consider proximity and mixed-use space to increase speed in your commercialization process.
4. How can we make our facilities and infrastructure adaptive and flexible to enhance value creation and efficiency?
Spaces should be flexible, easy to reconfigure, and allow for the cost-effective buildout of research facilities. This will help you strike a desired balance between changing lab schemes and the high-tech office space your data scientists need. Moreover, the ability to turn over lab facilities and configure multiple types of setups allows your scientists to transition quickly and seamlessly through the R&D and trial lifecycle.
5. How can we build out new—or renovate existing—spaces in a cost-effective manner?
Value and efficiency are key when building or renovating lab and office space. Productivity of scientists can be improved with flexible and adaptable spaces to account for changing research requirements and collaboration. Ensuring that the right equipment is planned for and placed appropriately can heighten operations and workflow for employees.
There are a few considerations when it comes to cost-effectiveness. When designing new spaces (or renovating existing ones), scaling biotechs need to be mindful of current and future zoning and compliance issues. What kind of science will you run? Which chemicals will you use? Having the right partner to help know what to scale back on and how to forecast cost for your investors is part of the process. You can catch potential issues that would require most investment and even include sustainable practices for long-term results.
6. What operational processes should I adopt now to support a future facilities management program?
Down the road, quality and safety standards, as well as best practices through a best-in-class facilities management program, are also important. They can alleviate any missteps or compliance issues that can arise from growth, thus keeping a therapy moving through the life cycle of real estate.
As your biotech company grows, you’ll want to have the right team in place to manage your growing real estate footprint. This will include people with a mix of skill sets who understand the intricacies of managing a life sciences facility. You can prepare in the early stages by setting the foundation for a team that will grow alongside your expanding business.
It’s important to be deliberate about your organizational structure, especially when it comes to which roles to keep in house and which ones to outsource to a trusted partner. For example, if you choose to work with a contract manufacturing or contract research organization, you’ll want to think about the impact that will have on staffing needs for your real estate and facilities management teams.
Want to ensure your company has the right space and solutions to grow where and when you need them? Download our guide to learn five strategies that will help scale your company faster.
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