Essex: The UK’s Optimal Location for Life Sciences and Health Technology Companies

Essex UK Health Technology Cluster

As a business location, Essex UK provides life sciences and health technology companies with significant 'value adding' advantages, combined with a substantially reduced cost base...

Life sciences is a 'high-value' industry sector, typically characterised by high levels of innovation, R&D, market growth and profitability, as well as competition. As a consequence, businesses in the sector considering locations for expansion often prioritise ‘value advantages’ over cost minimisation.

What do we mean by 'value advantages'?

Chesterford RPIn the context of business locations, 'value advantages' are factors that enable businesses to gain competitive edge, and maximise profitability, through innovation and differentiation rather than competing solely on cost.

For life sciences companies, this typically means being able to access the best research, service providers and highly skilled people, as well as specialised laboratory accommodation and funding solutions. In turn, this drives industry agglomeration (or 'clustering') in 'hub' locations, as people, businesses and R&D organisations co-locate to create and access value advantages.

The business benefits of life science hubs...

Astra Zeneca provides a recent example of agglomeration in the UK life sciences sector. In 2013, the company announced the relocation of its UK R&D operations to Cambridge from a lower cost UK location. Why? In the words of the company, "The move [provides] easier access to world-class talent and opportunities for collaboration and partnerships", creating "a more vibrant environment that puts science and the patient at the heart of everything the company does" [1]. In other words, more added value.

And the downside...

But there's a downside to industry agglomeration: as organisations and people concentrate at hubs like Cambridge and London, costs increase, sometimes astronomically. That's the point at which businesses must decide whether their optimal location is at the heart of the cluster, or, perhaps, in a 'hinterland' location that combines easy access to the hub with a reduced cost base.

The optimal UK life sciences business location...

Within the UK's 'Greater South East' life sciences cluster, the county of Essex is proving to be the optimal business location for an increasing number of life sciences companies. From Essex, both Cambridge and London can be reached in less than 1 hour, providing businesses with direct access to two of the world's top-ten ranked life sciences universities, and a specialist workforce of more than 40,000 people. [2]

Science Village BuildingEssex offers other, intrinsic benefits as a life sciences business location. The county's own industry cluster displays competencies across a breadth of life sciences and health technology areas, including medical technology, biotechnology, advanced electronics, pharmaceuticals and 'big data' analytics. And companies can find specialist accommodation at state-of-the art research and business parks, offering motorway and air connectivity that city locations typically can't match. 

But in Essex, these value-adding advantages are combined with a significantly reduced cost base – delivering potentially massive property and labour cost savings versus Cambridge, London and other leading UK and European life sciences and health technology locations. This means that companies can enjoy the advantages of a world-class business location without the high-cost downside. And it explains why leading companies, including CellCentric, Clement Clarke International, Olympus and Charles River Laboratories have chosen to locate, and expand, within Essex's life sciences and health technology cluster.


Contact INVEST Essex to find out more about the Essex UK Health Technology Cluster.

[1] Astra Zeneca 2013,
[2] LSCC Consortium, 2015

Dave Russell-Graham
Dave Russell-Graham

Inward Investment Manager (Life Sciences)

+44 (0) 7881 310776


With over 30 years’ experience in the life sciences and healthcare sector Dave has an extensive range of contacts in the industry as well as experience in pharmaceutical development through to facility refurbishment and fit out. Dave’s work has predominantly been with major pharmaceutical companies, and in 2011 he was a key player in the deal between Pfizer and Mylan for Pfizer’s respiratory technology platform. More recently he has worked as the Scientific Development Advisor for Harlow Science Park.