Published: 00:01, 08 July 2015
| Updated: 09:20, 08 July 2015
The room full of nutty professors and laboratory whizz kids proved the hypothesis of government officials and multinational companies – new science companies want to move to Kent.
“The taxes are low, the talent pool is wonderful and research and development credits are better here than the USA,” said Steve Schmidt, president and cofounder of Quvium, a Boston developer of respiratory monitoring equipment which opened an office in Discovery Park in Sandwich last year.
“This has all the advantages of Oxford but also the advantage that if I hire people they can afford to raise a family here. You have to invest in people and keep them happy. Kent has the ability to do that.”
The influx of scientific entrepreneurs prompted the launch of BioGateway, a network of 40 small companies across the county looking to work together to make discoveries and grab the attention of major players like Pfizer and GSK.
“The big guys are good at getting clinical trials to market but they are no good at drug discovery work,” said Simon Westbrook, acting chairman of BioGateway, which was launched at Discovery Park this month.
“They need small companies to do that, which is a huge opportunity and the idea of BioGateway.
“We want all science companies talking to one another and developing novel new therapies which the big companies desperately require.”
The major players agree. The very existence of Discovery Park was born out of Pfizer’s decision to cut its research budget and leave Sandwich in 2011, at a cost of 2,400 jobs.
Today its former base is home to more than 100 companies employing more than 2,000 people, although it eventually decided to stay in a smaller capacity.
Tommy Dolan, vice-president of Pfizer, said: “No single company can do all the drug development process alone. The need to partner is more than it ever was in the past.”
BioGateway is focused on life sciences, which develops products related to human health. There are 150 life science companies operating in Kent, employing more than 6,800 people.
Alex Watson, chief operating officer of BioGateway, said: “The best way to develop medicine now is cooperation and collaboration between small companies. Smaller companies are spot on at doing these sorts of things. This is an opportunity.”
It’s a chance not lost on Steve Schmidt, who has decided to move his entire operation to Kent. He will shut down his facility in Boston next year, the home of the company since it was founded in 2010, with plans to move manufacturing from New Hampshire to Ashford.
He said: “When Pfizer closed, they left a huge talent pool here so we have been able to find people who are usually hard to find. We will grow quickly from a five-person company into a 40 to 60 person company.”