Introducing Unit DY: Bristol’s scale-up space for growing deep tech businesses.
Our second facility, Unit DY, will open in 2021 and provide 30,000 sq ft of R&D, office and events spaces, located in Old Market, part of Bristol City Centre. The new facility will combine purpose-built laboratories, flexible offices, and cutting-edge instrumentation to create a workplace designed to support creative scientific ventures.
This project will allow for the expansion of Bristol’s deep tech ecosystem. More and more science companies are forming in Bristol and Unit DX is bursting at the seams. We all know that these companies need lab space to move their businesses forward, and rely on specialist equipment to undertake their important work.
The day the Science Minister visited, and we announced the partnership with University of Bristol and Research England to deliver a second building, was the day that Unit DY started to feel real. Since then it has been a slog, but as a team we have been committed and dedicated to get the project over the line.
The new site came up after a long search for suitable commercial property around the city centre. Over a period of two years and seven sites negotiations, we started to wonder if it was not meant to be. Then we learnt that Spicers, a stationary wholesaler based in a 1980s warehouse, were moving out of Old Market. We had often cycled past it and thought that it would be an ideal spot to convert into labs. Fast forward 12 months we have now secured the site, signed a contract and are about to begin construction.
Old Market is a part of town rich with history – the site of the city’s oldest market, and the world’s oldest court, the ‘pi poudre’. Formerly outside the city walls and jurisdiction at east gate, the area was inhabited by outlaws and squatters. A lot has changed since then, and today it has a strong community voice, is a conservation area with many architectural gems, and a vibrant community, all of which make it a uniquely vibrant and inclusive part of the city.
From the outset, we wanted to complement the community vision of the area, and took on board the Old Market Community Associations aspirations of opening up the midland road façade; a gigantic 80m windowless brick wall. We’ve put the front entrance there, facing the city with large windows and a social area to create an active street frontage. OMCA said: “We consider this to be an exemplary understanding of how the community-based plan can play a constructive role within shaping such a proposal and help meet some of the local aspirations”. We received planning in seven weeks and six days, which must be a world record, and showed that the city supports the idea of 250 scientists who work in synthetic biology, AI and quantum entanglement moving in.
The plan is to subdivide the three-bayed warehouses into 10,000sq ft of bio and engineering labs, 10,000 sq ft of office, and 5,000 sq ft of meeting space. On top of that, we have indoor and outdoor social areas, an event space and a dedicated outreach lab for schools. The location of table tennis arena is being finalised, but staff wellbeing is important, and I will ensure it is squeezed in!
Unit DY will add to Bristol’s abundant appeal and provide more reasons for scientists and innovators to either stay following university or to come to live and work here. The new building will increase the available commercial lab space in the wider Bristol area by 82%, and the city of Bristol by 160%. Jim Duvall, Non-Execuctive Director of the UK Science Park association told me: “The emergence and growth of central, city centre innovation locations like Unit DY is a trend that is providing exceptional opportunities for a new generation of entrepreneurs.”
About The Author:
Patrick Fallon, Lead Designer, Science Creates is an Architect by day, and rapper by night.
Pat is driven by the idea of shaping a future for Bristol that’s based on meaningful buildings that that benefit the local communities where they are based, and add the cultural history of the city.