In our latest ‘Leaders in Property and Technology’ blog, we spoke to Harry Pickering, Portfolio Director & Head of UK Investment at Pioneer Group, Europe’s leading vertically integrated platform that connects life sciences companies to lab space, offices, and business accelerator programmes.
PRODA: As the Portfolio Director & Head of UK Investment at Pioneer Group, you’re responsible for the existing UK Real Estate portfolio and investment expansion strategy. This is quite a change from your previous role managing retail and leisure portfolios and fund manager.
It certainly has been a change in direction but, surprisingly, there are some striking synergies. Similarly to when I was Head of Retail and Leisure, if you want to be an expert in this field, you need to understand what the occupiers do and whether they have the potential to grow in the future. Catering for the growth in Life Science businesses, especially in a campus environment, involves anticipating changes in their requirements depending on how the development of their research/products changes over time.
My aim is to build upon the great work the team has already done to provide occupiers with the best real estate platform for them to succeed in whatever they are doing, enabling the best-in-class knowledge sharing ecosystem, facilities, amenities and business support through our operational business.
The portfolio performance and the drivers behind those are very similar to those I experienced as Fund Manager, as running a fund wherever you are is similar in terms of what levers manipulate performance. In terms of our investment expansion, we are one of the largest life science real estate holders in the UK already, but we have some specific target locations, and this strategy evolves and morphs as we gain more regional partnerships with other institutional bodies.
PRODA: What attracted you to Pioneer Group’s mission to provide a platform for science businesses to deliver solutions to global health and human challenges?
Pioneer’s vertical link between the operating business, direct venture capital investment platform and real estate investment is wholly unique. I could only name one other Life Science group globally that has a similar programme/ethos.
Sadly, as I’ve got older and now have three children, my perception of what ‘we’ leave behind for the next generation plays on my mind. This opportunity with Pioneer has given me the ability to do my part and use my skill set to help. Pioneer’s mantra for human and planetary health advancement targets critical areas for ongoing investment at all levels across real estate and occupier businesses, which is a recipe for growth long into the future.
PRODA: Your move follows two years of heightened market activity for the life sciences sector, with record fundraising levels translating into demand for lab space. What are some of the big priorities for you right now?
My priorities are surprisingly linked directly with those of what the government is trying to achieve, which is retaining scientific talent for future growth. The big priority is the speed of facilities to the marketplace with future-proofed capabilities.
Many businesses are choosing to relocate to the US, partly due to the weight of venture capital investment, but also the opportunity for a much bigger market for real estate facilities.
The UK market is flooded with hypothetical potential life science opportunities, but the reality is that many of those will be substandard and will be superfluous to requirements as supply comes on stream. As the science requirements evolve for both existing and future tenant demand, an operating business that understands this ever-changing demand is crucial.
PRODA: With 15 years of experience in commercial real estate, what significant changes have you seen over the course of your career?
Specialising in a sector of the real estate market is powerful and, quite rightly, has become more attractive to investors. Within reason, anyone can develop real estate but delivering and executing accretive returns in specialist markets isn’t easy. A rising tide lifts all boats, which is well illustrated in the Life Science sector today, but providing best-in-case facilities in whichever sector you are in a matured marketplace is a true test of your ability.
Many thanks to Harry for taking the time to speak with us. We’ll be back soon with another post as we continue to speak to leaders across the industry.
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