GMI Construction Group marks major milestone in Citylabs 4.0 Project with topping out ceremony


Libby Whitaker-Keating

Bruntwood SciTech – a joint venture between Bruntwood, Legal & General and Greater Manchester Pension Fund, and GMI Construction – has celebrated the topping out Citylabs 4.0, the latest innovative lab and workspace offering on the Citylabs development, located within Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust’s (MFT) Oxford Road Campus.

To celebrate this major milestone in the development process, Bruntwood SciTech hosted a two-part event, kicking off with a morning interactive session with patients at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, followed by the official afternoon ceremony with local partners.

The topping out ceremony began at Citylabs 1.0, with guests walking through the MFT campus to the Citylabs 4.0 site, to get a true understanding of the scale and vibrancy of the existing cluster which sits at the heart of the largest clinical academic campus in Europe. Guests received a full site tour co-hosted with GMI Construction, the lead contractor for the development, as well as hearing from Dr Kath Mackay, Chief Scientific Officer for Bruntwood SciTech, on the global importance of the work that goes on at Citylabs and the medical advancements that have been made there.

Alongside this, Bruntwood SciTech worked with Manchester Foundation Trust Charity to host a ‘skills sharing’ session with their Youth Zone situated within Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital which neighbours both Citylabs 2.0 and 4.0. Children and young people between 11 and 25, were given the opportunity to learn about the Citylabs campus and what a career in science or construction could look like.

Once complete, the £42m, 125,000 sq ft, seven storey lab and workspace will offer world-leading, highly specialist space specifically designed to support companies working in precision medicine, including those in diagnostic, genomics, biotech, medtech, health-related AI and digital health. It will also bolster the existing Citylabs cluster, strengthening the internationally significant health innovation campus – a joint venture partnership between Bruntwood SciTech and MFT.

Dr Kath Mackay, Chief Scientific Officer for Bruntwood SciTech, said: “To date, the Citylabs campus has helped to support hundreds of specialist healthcare businesses that are changing the face of medical science across the UK and beyond. By creating a cluster of like-minded businesses all centred around one of the country’s most eminent teaching hospital Trusts, we have seen first-hand how the ability to collaborate and knowledge-share will drive forward innovations in medicine and healthcare.

“To celebrate this important milestone, we knew we wanted to engage with those people who are benefiting first-hand from the work being undertaken at the campus and inspire future generations to work in those sectors or, indeed, those that enable this important work to happen. Future innovations will only happen if young people know that these opportunities are open to them and are engaged in finding the solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. We hope to have inspired a few future science or engineering stars of the future through this event and look forward to working with MFT further to showcase the opportunities for businesses at the Citylabs campus to collaborate directly with one of the country’s largest NHS Trusts.”

Citylabs 4.0 incorporates infrastructure to accommodate containment level 2 (CL2) biology and chemistry labs and specialist equipment, including increased floor loading, enhanced cooling systems and ventilation provisions, and a large platform lift. Businesses that locate here will also benefit from 100GB superfast connectivity, shared breakout spaces, an internally secure cycle storage with showers and kit drying room, and have access to the campus’ 150-person event space, multiple meeting rooms, cafes and supermarket.

As part of the support provided by the joint venture, businesses receive access to research, development, innovation, and funding support, as well as opportunities including joint clinical trials, sample supply, diagnostic collaborations and medtech adoption with MFT. They can also access the world-class talent and research capabilities of MFT, the University of Manchester, and Manchester Metropolitan University.

Citylabs is surrounded by some of the UK’s most eminent teaching hospitals including Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Saint Mary’s Hospital and the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital (all with emergency helipad access), and is located in the heart of the city’s knowledge quarter – the Oxford Road Corridor – home to 50% of the city’s life science businesses, generating around £3bn GVA each year. The campus is also a government-designated High Potential Opportunity Zone for Diagnostics and Healthy Ageing, and a named Enterprise Zone. Sitting at the heart of the city’s health and life science cluster, it is surrounded by world-class research centres including Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, The University of Manchester Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, and two of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility sites, and the Pankhurst Institute. It is also the operational home to the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

The development of Citylabs 4.0, the third phase in the Citylabs masterplan taking the campus from 192,000 sq ft to 327,000 sq ft, will build on and enhance the existing health innovation cluster at Citylabs, which is home to more than 20 life science and healthcare businesses including global molecular diagnostics company Qiagen who opened their Global Centre of Excellence for Precision Medicine at Citylabs 2.0 in November 2021, new generation molecular diagnostics business Apis Assay Technologies, ophthalmic instrument manufacturer Takagi, and one of Europe’s largest contract research organisations MAC Clinical Research.

Citylabs 4.0 is expected to achieve net zero carbon in construction and operation in its shared spaces and will be 100% electric. As a highly energy efficient building, it is targeted to be EPC A and include 208m2 of solar panels, enough to charge an average electric car approximately 1235 times. The building’s cladding system will be made from 75% recycled end-of-life aluminium (post-consumer scrap), meaning its content will have one of the smallest carbon dioxide footprints worldwide; seven times less than the global average for aluminium production.

The new lab and workspace is expected to be complete in Spring 2025.

Mark Cubbon, MFT Group Chief Executive, said: “Today’s ceremony marks a significant milestone in the Citylabs 4.0 development which will present new and exciting opportunities for us to co-design the future of healthcare with industry partners and transform scientific breakthroughs into a reality for our patients across Greater Manchester and beyond.

“The pioneering partnership between MFT and Bruntwood SciTech, starting with the first Citylabs development 10 years ago, is a legacy to the late and visionary Keith Chantler, our former Director of Innovation, who was instrumental in the creation of the Citylabs project.

“We are proud of the progress over the last decade and the real difference it has made in enabling us to tackle health inequalities in our communities and address some of the most pressing health challenges we face. We look forward to welcoming new partners from the life sciences industry to co-locate through Citylabs 4.0, along with the opportunity to develop our hosted research and innovation infrastructure at MFT.”

Contractor GMI Construction Group is leading the build of the Sheppard Robson-designed development and local teams also working on the development include Arup, Hilson Moran, Gardiner and Theobald, and Layers. The development of Citylabs 4.0 is supported by a £32m senior loan from the North West Evergreen Fund, managed by CBRE’s Investment Advisory team, which is part of CBRE Capital Advisors.

Anthony Judge, Regional Director, North West, at GMI Construction Group, said: “The topping out of Citylabs 4.0 marks a significant achievement for GMI and our delivery partners. This state-of-the-art facility is set to become a hub for innovation in precision medicine and life sciences and we are extremely proud to be part of a project that will drive advancements in healthcare diagnostics and treatments and foster collaboration between businesses and leading research institutions.

“GMI has a considerable track record in delivering much needed workspace for the research, science and technology sectors throughout the North and the Midlands and Citylabs 4.0 demonstrates our ability to deliver these in-demand developments.”