Meet our partner: The Heath Business and Technical Park
Looking back at the amazing journey of SOG and the exciting future ahead for the award-winning business and technical park at The Heath in Runcorn
The Heath Business and Technical Park
The Heath, formerly chemical headquarters of ICI, is home to The Heath Business and Technical Park – acknowledged as one of the country’s leading business and science parks. Owned and operated by SOG Group, the Runcorn site accommodates around 120 individual businesses that between them support jobs for over 2,000 people.
As regeneration specialists, SOG Group also offers consultancy services to large organisations considering closing or down-sizing large sites, particularly in the science sector.
By retaining technical personnel inherited from ICI when SOG purchased the site in 2000 and preserving their skills, SOG created a flourishing scientific community with the ability to offer levels of technical support to cutting-edge businesses that you can’t find in the ‘Yellow Pages’.
Located in the heart of the North-West and with excellent transport links, The Heath provides a complete range of bespoke serviced office and laboratory space. Facilities include a purpose built-conference centre, 120-seat lecture theatre, licensed restaurant, business lounge, events hall, shops and a leisure centre including a gymnasium.
Specialist Support Services
From start-up and emerging businesses to established enterprises, SOG offers impressive facilities and specialist support services to meet every requirement – while providing its residents with affordable and flexible licensing arrangements. Residents can also choose from a wide selection of highly specialised support services including bespoke laboratory design, modification, construction and technical assistance along with precision engineering, high-pressure laboratories with skilled technical staff and health and safety services.
It is the reason that so many businesses from the technical and scientific sector, such as Cryoniss, have chosen The Heath as an ideal location for their operations. The Heath also offers businesses a remarkable range of conferencing and event facilities with on-site catering – both services catering for both business and private events.
It’s a recipe which has brought SOG national recognition with many high-profile visitors including Prime Ministers, Ministers and Royalty wanting to see the unique business model at first-hand. Numerous senior regional politicians have also visited including Andy Burnham, Metro Mayor of Greater Manchester, and Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region’s Metro Mayor.
During one of his visits to site, Andy Burnham (pictured) commented: “The Heath is a prime example of developing and retaining skills and expertise in the North West and adapting to suit the needs of changing industries and sectors. I have been impressed by this vibrant industrial base in Runcorn, housing a number of cutting-edge companies which are very obviously doing well.”
The SOG concept
SOG was originally created with an innovative plan to purchase The Heath and transform the location from a single-occupancy corporate site faced with closure into a thriving multi-occupancy business and technical park, safeguarding jobs and creating a sustainable regional asset in its wake.
Operating a science site where so many different business are conducting research and development alongside each other means health and safety is absolutely paramount. It is essential to ensure a safe environment for everyone who works on the site. SOG is renowned for its health and safety, and the extensive specialist support it can offer to businesses which its competitors cannot provide.
SOG also offer resident businesses a flexible licence system which allows companies the ability to grow or shrink their space requirements in line with their business needs, which can be difficult if they are tied down to a long-term lease agreement. This gives peace of mind to new companies and gives them confidence to take that first or early stage step to commercial premises.
As the 60-acre Heath site reached its capacity, SOG embarked on a new build-programme allowing existing fast-growing resident businesses to move out of multi-occupancy units into their own exclusive bespoke buildings – designed and built by SOG’s in-house team of specialists. This service is complemented by relocation assistance, facilities management and even an option to dispose of existing premises to ensure as smooth a transition as possible.
Londoneast-uk and the Fusion Factor
With The Heath going from strength to strength, SOG rolled its successful business model out in the form of a highly specialised regeneration consultancy service called ‘Fusion’. Fusion provides advice and support to other large organisations considering down-sizing or closing big locations, in an effort to find alternative uses that safeguard facilities and create new job opportunities.
One of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi, appointed SOG to spearhead the sale and regeneration of its global cancer drugs production plant in Dagenham, east London. SOG coordinated the entire regeneration process at the pharma site to ensure a positive legacy was left behind when Sanofi moved out in 2014. As part of the regeneration programme, Sanofi’s research, development and manufacturing buildings were retained and purchased by SOG Group who transformed them into a multi-occupancy science and business park, Londoneast-uk, which operated as a sister site to The Heath.
The remainder of the site was sold in a strategic process, co-ordinated by the SOG Fusion team, to bring even more new businesses and new jobs to the location. Today, Londoneast-uk sits at the heart of a site where a major new Hollywood-style film studio will be situated. Europe’s largest data centre is under construction along with a regional headquarters for the Trade Union, Unite. A hotel and pub/restaurant have been built on the site along with an educational campus for University Technical College, Elutec.
SOG also played a pivotal role in securing a deal with University College London to create a prestigious state-of-the-art research laboratory at Londoneast-uk for UCL’s PEARL (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory) – a unique facility that will explore the ways in which people interact with their environment. The investment involved is in the region of £500m.
Overall, the regeneration programme in Dagenham has seen SOG help to attract over £2billion of inward investment to the site.
In 2019 SOG sold Londoneast-uk Business and Technical Park to a company owned by the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. At the official handover ceremony, Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking & Dagenham Council, (pictured right with John Lewis) said the regeneration overseen by SOG had attracted £2b of investment.
He said: “This is a brilliant regeneration opportunity that we are investing in on behalf of the Borough. Londoneast-uk is a key element of the redevelopment of the overall former Sanofi site which will ultimately see thousands of jobs created over the next few years. This is the only location in the whole of London where you will have Media, the Arts, Data, Sciences and Engineering businesses operating from the same site.”
SOG Group Managing Director John Lewis MBE said the Dagenham regeneration story is an example to the rest of the country of how private and public sectors can work together successfully for the benefit of the whole community. He said SOG’s 10-year plan to rejuvenate the location had been achieved in just five years.
Heath Park and Vision of Future Living
The sale of its London operation provided SOG with the finance and the time to turn its focus back on its flagship business of The Heath. Mr Lewis set up a working party which is mapping out a strategy on how The Heath can be totally transformed over the next 20 to 30 years into ‘Heath Park’. The aim of Heath Park is to make the location fit for purpose for the future with a net carbon-free site being created where people can live, work and play over the next 20 years and beyond.
Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham describes SOG’s Heath Park vision as one of the City Region’s ‘Beacon Projects’. Mr Rotherham says: “Demand for access to affordable and environmentally friendly spaces in which to live and work is increasing in response to the unfolding climate emergency. As the Liverpool City Region, we are looking to support initiatives which help us meet our ambitious target to be net zero carbon by 2040. SOG has an exciting and innovative vision for a carbon free environment at The Heath Business and Technical Park and I see this as one of Liverpool City Region’s Beacon Projects.”
A critical part of the Heath Park process has involved SOG sponsoring a ‘Vision of Future Living’ competition in conjunction the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The objective of the competition was to generate conceptual ideas that might be adopted into the Heath Park project which seeks to transform The Heath into a futuristic version of Port Sunlight.
The competition attracted entries from architects, designers and forward thinkers from across the globe and was judged by some of the UK’s most prominent figures from the world of architecture and design. On October 12th Eco Responsive Environments, an emerging design and architectural practice based in London, was unveiled as the winner.
Mr Lewis said: “I’m delighted with the outcome of this fantastic competition, superbly coordinated by RIBA, which has generated amazing designs and ideas from across the world. All three of our finalists provided us with a fascinating insight to what The Heath could look like in the future.
“We’ve seen extraordinary ideas and designs which set the judges an enormous challenge to choose a winner, but ultimately the submission from Eco Responsive has offered us a breath-taking glimpse of the possibilities for The Heath. It will certainly help us to attract interest from global investors to turn our dreams into reality. Our next steps are now to embark on a feasibility study for the Heath Park programme, and the outcome from the RIBA competition will be key factor in this process.”
The 5-strong judges’ panel included some of the UK’s most influential architects and designers including Paul Monaghan, Professor Rachel Cooper OBE, Hugh Broughton along with Mr Lewis and his own consultant architect, Terry Rogan.
Mr Monaghan, Director of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, said: “The standard of final entries for this competition was extremely high. Each entry had followed a particular pursuit in great depth illustrated with excellent drawings. The competition winning entry for Heath Park will create a truly 21st century sustainable campus. I have rarely seen such a thorough presentation and I look forward to seeing this vision being built. SOG has a proven track record for delivering major regeneration projects and I feel this is the sort of scheme that must happen, and SOG is an organisation with the credentials to make it happen.”
Now SOG is embarking on a feasibility study which will incorporate the innovative ideas from the competition which promises to shape the future of The Heath in the next chapter of the amazing SOG story. For more information on ‘Heath Park’ visit: www.heathpark-uk.com
For more on SOG and The Heath Business and Technical Park visit: www.theheath.com