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Coworking comes to the lab

Coworking is set to become the latest trend in the life science and biotech sectors by coming to the lab, and its starting right here in the Bay Area.

August 08, 2019

Co-working, also known as flexible space, is one of the fastest growing sectors of the real estate economy. According to JLL, between 2010 and 2017, flexible space in the U.S. grew from around 12 million square feet to more than 51 million square feet, and the pace of growth doesn’t seem to have slowed with more than one thousand new coworking spaces opening in the U.S. alone last year.

While co-working began in response to the needs of entrepreneurs, start-ups and smaller companies who weren’t ready, or in a position, to sign long term offices leases, it has quickly spread to others segments of the real estate economy, including apartments and hotels. Now, co-working is set to become the latest trend in the life science and biotech sectors by coming to the lab -- and its starting right here in the Bay Area.

Why here?

The Bay Area’s reputation as a center for innovation, education and research has created one of the most widely known life science clusters in the world. Some of the largest Life Sciences companies in the world such as Genentech call the region ‘home’ while other such as Amgen and Merck have established a large West Coast presence in South San Francisco. There is also vastly strong and growing pipeline of start-ups and early-stage bio and pharma companies compounding year over year.

In 2018 alone, more than $3.6 billion was invested in life science companies in the Bay Area, almost double the prior year’s inflow of capital and more than almost any other region nationally.

Why now?

Despite the high levels of VC funding aimed at Bay Area life science companies, the early days of a life science venture are exceedingly capital intensive, especially research and development and as companies look to scale their operations.

The Bay Area real estate market is tight, particularly in terms of lab space where current vacancy is somewhere around 1.5 percent. This makes already costly high finish, interstitial lab space incredibly expensive in the Bay Area.

One of the primary benefits to start ups of lab co-working space is that it allows them to invest precious capital in talent and science, rather than physical space or equipment.

Bonneville Labs, a flexible lab space launched in Berkeley in April 2019, is one of the ventures leading the co-working trend in life science. The facility offers flexible rental workspaces, from single benches to dedicated suites, with all the trappings of modern co working, such as comfortable lounges and large rooms for meet-ups and other networking opportunities, all without any long term commitment.

Lab co-working delivers more than simply space

Members get office and lab space, access to lab equipment including set up and training as well as glass washing and autoclaving, purchasing assistance, lab operational services such as lab coat laundering and biohazardous waste pick up and access to a passionate community of scientists and researchers.   

As with the tech sector, there are other forms of flexible space for life science ventures. For the most part, ‘incubator’ or ‘accelerator’ space tends to appeal to start up ventures aligned with a particular research facility or company.

Flexible co-working space such as that being pioneered by Bonneville is likely to appeal to a far wider range of start up ventures looking to minimize overhead at a critical point in their early stage development and help them to work like larger ventures at a fraction of the cost in workspace.

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