With Sanofi’s tight schedule, the funds to prepare BEST for new occupants are needed soon. The local authority, Barking and Dagenham Council, last year applied on Sanofi’s behalf for a £12m investment from the London Growth Fund, a revolving loan scheme administered by the Greater London Authority. Mr Metson said: “A couple of companies have given us letters of intent to say that they are seriously interested in coming in if funding is approved.”
He added that some academic institutions had also expressed interest in the site, including the University of East London, Queen Mary University of London, and recently University College London.
Professor Neville Punchard, the dean of UEL’s School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, said: “Given the relentless march of London eastwards, BEST will naturally form part of the so-called Golden Triangle.
“We’ve had students from industries based on the site study at UEL when we were North East London Polytechnic, as well as having students on industrial placement here. We would look forward to similar sorts of opportunities with [incoming businesses] and are ideally placed to support industries and staff on the site, and form research and development partnerships.”
Although the LGF decision is yet to be made, all indications – including a written answer from the Mayor of London – are that the application will be approved. If so, the LGF will buy the BEST premises from Sanofi and invest revenue from its lease in regeneration elsewhere.
Science parks typically take five years to show that they are viable. After that happens at BEST, the LGF might consider selling to the private sector. Mr Metson said: “Specialist markets – and I would classify Businesseast as one of those – already have their appeals to certain sectors. But I think if you’re a pension company trying to spread the risk of your investments, getting into this type of market would be a wise approach, as yields on such facilities are good.
“A US real estate investment trust has recently purchased a science park elsewhere in the country. They recognised that putting their money into the UK was a good thing.
“And property offering flexible leases is becoming attractive to investors because void rates, a particular problem in the traditional property market, are lower.”
Politicians as well as business leaders are acknowledging the benefits of such developments. Jon Cruddas is MP for Dagenham and Rainham, the constituency in which Businesseast sits. He said: “Bringing new employers to the area and retaining jobs is very important for the local community. There should be some interesting opportunities for companies choosing Businesseast as a base, not least a pool of skilled and dedicated workers.”