Cambridge office market shrugs off uncertainty to post busiest year since 2014

CGI of 30 Station Road, CB1

Take up in Cambridge’s office and labs market hit a five-year high in H2 2019 with science and tech occupiers shrugging off last year’s political and economic uncertainty in a race for space in Cambridge’s world class cluster.

Bidwells’ latest offices and labs research has confirmed the city was largely untouched by the uncertain economic outlook generated by Brexit and December’s General Election with take-up well ahead of the 10-year average for the city.

The largest deal of the year was a 79,500 sq ft October pre-let at 30 Station Road (picture attached) which means the world’s three largest global tech firms by market capitalisation have each now taken approximately 80,000 sq ft of R&D office space at Brookgate’s CB1.

Take up figures were at their highest level since AstraZeneca agreed to move its new global HQ and R&D centre to the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in 2014/15.

Prime rents rose 12% to an historic high of £46.50 psf with Bidwells now forecasting they will rise to £53 psf by 2024. Availability stands at 643,300 sq ft – well below the level of business space requirements which currently stand at 1.2m sq ft.

Max Bryan, Head of Laboratory and Office Agency at Bidwells, said: “The first half of the year was relatively strong but quickened after the summer with occupiers focussing on securing their long-term place in Cambridge’s world class science and tech cluster rather than dwelling on the wider economic outlook.

“The continued lack of supply of Grade A space in the market and sustained high levels of demand means activity here inevitably focusses on pre-lets with the global tech firms securing space near the station, and scaling up science and tech occupiers coming out of the University racing for the best space available. This is having a continued impact on rent levels and you could now justifiably put Cambridge in the same category as Zone 2 in London.”

Knowledge intensive business were responsible for over 81% of the letting activity in the year, almost evenly split between the life science and tech sectors.

Max added: “Cambridge has a unique research environment, built up over centuries, with a well-established occupier base that you just can’t replicate anywhere else. But to maintain its pre-eminence in what is a global market of top research clusters, Cambridge must continue delivering the new high-quality office and laboratory space it so badly needs to service our now world-famous science and tech sector.”

The second largest deal of the year was DisplayLink’s expansion and relocation to 61,000 sq ft offices at 22 Cambridge Science Park; Clovis Oncology took 11,805 sq ft in the Granta Centre at Granta Park in another notable H2 2019 deal.

The laboratory market was equally buoyant with CARA taking 11,055 sq ft at CPC4 at Capital Park and CN Bio Innovations moved to 332 Cambridge Science Park, taking 8,071 sq ft.